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A good tool for repackaging an exe app to an .msi for group policy in 2014

looking to update our tools for repackaging a .exe to a .msi so that we can use group policy to deploy it.  We don't do a lot of them and we don't create our own apps, but we get a lot of apps from vendors that don't offer the .msi version.

Thanks,
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bashtonmcse
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bashtonmcse
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2 Solutions
 
Joseph MoodyBlogger and wearer of all hats.Commented:
There are a handful that you can use. AppDeploy has a free repackager. I use Smart Packager (formally WinInstalle LE)
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bashtonmcseIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
Do you use the Smart Packager CE or the Pro version?
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Joseph MoodyBlogger and wearer of all hats.Commented:
CE
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Vadim RappCommented:
There's number of tools that claim to do repackaging, but in fact they don't. What they do is, they wrap setup.exe in the msi, so the whole installation is unpacking setup.exe and launching it. It's OK, but (1) it's missing all the benefits of MSI installation, and (2) it does not make much sense because you can publish setup.exe in group policy directly by using little-known zap files - see https://support.microsoft.com/kb/231747 for details.

The tools for true repackaging are very expensive (Wise Package Studio, for instance), and in most cases the result requires additional work of someone with quite nontrivial qualification. Those tools work by taking and then comparing snapshots of the system before and after installation, and then creating native MSI installation that incorporates those changes.
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bashtonmcseIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
If I understand the Microsoft documentation for zap files the program will only install to users and the users would have to be admins on their machines in order for it to work.  Our normal users are not admins.  Am I mistaken in this understanding?
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Vadim RappCommented:
The decision to install per-user or per-machine will depend on the installation itself in any case, zap file only launches it. Re. necessity of the users being local admins, it probably depends on the original setup.exe that is either wrapped into the msi, or launched by .zap. I don't think just launching .zap would require admin, but maybe I'm wrong. It's quite old technology, but still available. The best is to try it out and see if it works for you.
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bashtonmcseIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
I will try a couple of different options listed here and report back.  Thanks.
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bashtonmcseIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
I used Smart Packager by Scalable.  It worked well.  I did have to add the network shares as a local intranet location using AD.  I then had to set .msi files in the Local Sites to moderate Risk so that I was not getting warnings about unsigned applications.  I also found that I had to install Smart Packager on both a 32 bit machine and a 64 bit machine to create msi's for both platforms since this a snapshot type of application repackager.  Lastly I found it works well on Windows 7, but not so well on XP.
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bashtonmcseIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
This solution was easy to implement.  The comment I posted at the end was to help with the deployment.  I did use the CE version which as of 2014 is free.
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