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MSI Installer for 2003 Server

I'm working with a Windows 2003 server that I didn't set up (and don't know specifics about the setup options used).  It was built specifically for our group on a VMWare server.  We've used this setup before with no problems, but haven't tried this particular pathway before.  

We can't seem to install .msi files.  They aren't recognized in explorer as a known filetype, and when we open them, Windows complains that it can't find an application to run.  

I've tried downloading various incarnations of the Windows Installer, but the installation quits early on, saying that the specified patch is already installed.

I've also tried installing .Net Framework 2.0, after reading that MSI installation was included in that package.  No change.

I tried clicking "let Windows access the web to determine an action for this filetype", but, bizarrely, Microsoft hasn't heard of .msi files.  

There is an msi.dll in \winnt\system32 that reports version 3.1.4000.1830, and is dated 3/25/06.  

Any ideas?  Thanks in advance...

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