Deploy single EXE applications without installers

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Shaun Vermaak
My name is Shaun Vermaak and I have always been fascinated with technology and how we use it to enhance our lives and business.
This article runs through the process of deploying a single EXE application selectively to a group of user.
Suppose we have the following requirement:
  • "DummyTest" application is a single EXE application with a configuration file
  • "DummyTest" application should be installed for all users in Group "Some Group 1", "Some Group 2" and "Some Group 3"
  • Group "Some Group 1", "Some Group 2" and "Some Group 3" have different configuration files
  • Users must have a desktop icon to access "DummyTest" application


First thing is to copy the EXE file and config file to a network location.
In this article I use the domain Netlogon DFS share because the application is small and because the share is highly available and distributed.
After this duplicates are create for configuration file so that we have three, each with different configuration


1) Deploying the EXE

a) Create a GPO Add the EXE into User Configuration > Preferences > Windows Settings > Files.
Note that when you specify the source file location, ensure you use the network location for the file
select-file1.pngb) Specify the destination file. This will be the location on the target user’s profiles. You can press F3 to get a neat list of all the variables available.
select-file2.pngc) In this case the file will be deployed in %AppDataDir%\Dummy with name Dummy.exe.
Note this is the path that we need to point shortcut to in a later step
select-file3.pngd) Select the Common tab and tick “Remove this item when it is no longer applied” and “Item-level targeting". The EXE must be deployed when use is member of any of the three groups.
This is done by changing the item filtering to OR

2) Deploying the configuration file

The deploying of the configuration file is similar to the deploying of the EXE except that depending on the group membership, you will get one of three files and the destination file will always have the same name

3) Deploying the shortcut

a) Add the shortcut into User Configuration > Preferences > Windows Settings > Shortcuts.
Note that the “Target Path” is the destination file from the EXE deploy task
shortcut-1.pngb) The shortcut should be deployed to users that are members of any of the three groups
shortcut-2.pngThe end result is that when a user is added to any of the three groups, they will get an EXE, configuration file and a shortcut. The configuration file is different for the three groups.

Also, if you remove user from group, the EXE, configuration file and shortcut will be removed

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Expert Comment

by:Jamie Garroch
As a developer of PowerPoint templates and add-ins, this article is a great find as clients often do not know how to deploy these types of deliverables centrally. Thanks for taking the time to write it. Is there a way to test this is local mode i.e. when you don't have access to a corporate infrastructure. I see that Win10 has a "Local Group Policy Editor":
Local Group Policy Editor
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Author Comment

by:Shaun Vermaak
Hi Jamie. Thank you for the comment.

Unfortunately not. In fact, you cannot see preferences even in RSOP.msc, only in GPRESULT.

May I recommend you build a testing DC with a trial account?

Something that you might like is that these preferences are XML and you can variablize it.

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