Free Setup Utilities (Installers / Uninstallers)

Distribute your application with an Installer and Uninstaller (Setup)

Free Setup Utilities (Installers)

One way to make your application more user-friendly is to bundle it with a setup utility (or installer) to automate its installation on your users' computers. Some of these installers also provide an uninstaller so that users can remove your program when they do not want to use it anymore. The setup wizards here typically create a self-extracting installer with all your files bundled into the installer itself, as is the norm these days.

Note: if you are distributing your applications by CD or DVD, you may also be interested in the Free Autorun/Autoplay DVD and CD Menu Creation Software, which allows your program CD/DVD to automatically start when your users place them in the DVD drive. Alternatively, you may prefer to create a website so that you can distribute the software over the Internet.

For those who have arrived at this page looking for a general purpose software uninstaller to cleanly remove programs you've installed on your computer, please see the Free Uninstallers page instead. This page that you're looking at is meant for programmers packaging their software for distribution.

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Free Setup Utilities / Install Wizards

WiX Toolset (Windows)

The WiX Toolset (short for Windows Installer XML Toolset) creates installers for Windows systems using the Windows Installer (the installation engine that is used by Microsoft products). Apart from making installers, it can also generate patch files, handle prerequisites that your software requires (for example, it can do things like install the Visual C++ runtime or NET framework on systems that don't already have it installed), register exceptions in the Windows Firewall, create SQL Server databases, etc. This is open source software, licensed under the Microsoft Reciprocal License. It started its life as a Microsoft project, before being made open source. It is currently maintained by the .NET Foundation. The toolset is apparently used to package various Microsoft products (including Office, Visual Studio, SQL Server, etc).

Inno Setup (Windows)

Inno Setup is a well-known Windows installer that can create self-extracting SETUP executables. It can also install an uninstaller for your application files. One nice feature about this program is that you can generate your distribution files from either a GUI IDE or from the command line (useful for those using makefiles to automate development). The Setup file created is extremely small. The program also supports disk-spanning. Source code for the installer is available. Development is ongoing, and there is support for other languages. You may use the installer for both commercial and non-commercial programs, free of charge. The installer is apparently used by Delphi and Microsoft Visual Studio Code.

Nullsoft Install System (Scriptable) (Windows)

Nullsoft provides a free scriptable installer that you can use to package your applications. The installer only adds 20-40k of overhead to your distributable file. It can compress your files with zip or bzip2, register ActiveX controls (and deregister them as well), run another executable, call DLLs, create shortcuts, set registry entries, find windows that are open (for example, to detect whether an existing version of your application is currently running), flow control, etc.

AppImage (Linux)

This is not strictly an installer in the Windows sense of the word, but a means of packaging your Linux binaries so that it can be executed on any Linux distribution. All the shared libraries required by your application is bundled together into one file and compressed. Your end-user does not need to install anything. In fact, they can even run your package as a non-root user, or execute it from a USB drive. When run, the image is transparently mounted with FUSE (Filesystem in Userspace), and the appropriate program executed with the bundled shared libraries. Your end-user's system libraries and preferences are not altered. You can choose to either store your application's preferences and data in the usual place (eg, in the user's home directory) or in the appimage itself (useful if you want the program to run from a USB drive). With this program, you can finally create a single bundle for your application that can be used on any Linux distribution, the way Windows and Mac OS X programs can, without the headache of packaging for a zillion distributions, each with their own versions of shared libraries and the like.

Spoon Installer (Windows)

Spoon Installer is an open source Windows setup utility released under the BSD licence. It creates a single compressed setup executable file for your applications. Update: it doesn't appear as though this program is still being maintained, since the last update is in 2005.

QuickInstall (Windows)

[Update: this program does not seem to be available any more.] A Win32 installer that allows you to add keys to the registry and supports more than one language. It is only for Windows 95, 98 and NT.

HJ-Install (Windows)

[Update: this program is no longer maintained, and the site does not appear to be be available any more.] This is a Win32 installer without an uninstaller. Documentation for the version I checked suggests that it cannot create self-extracting executables.

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