The more that we automate, the harder our problems become. Take application management as an example. We now deploy applications with SCCM or Group Policy. We configure first-run settings, user customizations, and license information in order to make applications easier to use. These settings, normally deployed after the application installs, may not always apply and might lead to an inconsistent environment.
By adding file, registry, and short changes to your deployments, your customizations apply while the application installs. This simplifies your deployments by allowing you to use one technology instead of two. In this guide, we are going to cover ways you can modify your MSI to meet your needs.
Adding Files and Registry Changes to Your MSI
Example 1: kill the auto-update feature in Adobe Flash Player by editing their MSI. You are probably currently doing this through Group Policy Preferences with a mms.cfg file. If not, you can read more about that process here.
Start by downloading Smart Packager, import your MSI, and launch the Package Editor. Under the Files tab, expand System Folder and navigate to Flash. This folder should be empty. In the blank space under Name, right click and choose Add. Select Add Files (in the top right). Browse to your mms.cfg file and add it. Your Flash folder should now look like the screen shot above.
Press Ok to save your MSI change and to exit the Package Editor. For a trial run, run your MSI silently on a test machine. Your modified Adobe Flash Player MSI will now have auto-update disabled when the install finishes!
This means end users will never be prompted for an update because GPP didn’t copy the file. Registry changes are made in the exact same way as a file change. If you have license keys that should be inserted into HKLM, this method provides a simple way of doing so.
Adding Shortcut Changes to Your MSI
I hate applications that spam shortcuts everywhere! Before deploying an application, we can clean up unnecessary shortcuts and add some structure to our start menu. Open the Package Editor, add a MSI that creates extra shortcuts, and select the Shortcuts tab. Remove any unneeded shortcut. In the screenshot below, I am removing the Uninstall Shortcut and the Desktop shortcut.
This application is part of a suite of software named Kuta. For my users, it will be easier to find if the Start Menu shortcuts are organized under a folder named Kuta. By editing the two remaining shortcuts, I can change their Start Menu location. Notice their new location in the screenshot below:
These are the most common reasons why I edit my MSIs with Smart Packager. Our applications used to install with SCCM/Group Policy and our changes were then applied with Group Policy Preferences. Now, our applications and changes are applied at once! This may not be the most exciting of work but take the time to simplify your installations. Your users will be happier, your desktops cleaner, your problems easier.