Last Friday, we had our lunch and learn on software extraction. One awesome benefit of these events are the tricks and tools we introduce to each other. Focus 25 IT admins on a single topic and you’ll have no choice but to learn something cool. The coolest thing I learned came from reader Kei Bi. When I first saw it, I couldn’t wait to share it with you!
The Problem with EXE Silent Switches
Most applications aren’t exactly standardized. Any silent switches that the EXE might support are dependent upon the packaging technology (ex: InstallShield) and the vendor. In our training, we spent a good bit of time talking about the different switches that might make an application install silently.
The issue with the above method is that you have to remember a bunch of useless information just to get your application to deploy. In the past, I’ve used two excellent websites to find installer switches: AppDeploy (now ITNinja) and Unattended Installers. While I prefer MSI deployments, sometimes you are stuck deploying an EXE. Finding silent switches for these apps can be time consuming. Like most things in IT, there is a better solution.
The Ultimate Silent Switch Finder (USSF)
First, grab USSF from our tools page. It is a standalone EXE within a ZIP so you will want to extract the contents. After launching USSF, select the “>” symbol next to File and browse to a setup file. I was working on a new deployment for a DYMO label maker and browsed to its setup file.
As you can see in the screenshot below, the DYMO setup is a NSIS package and it uses a /S for a silent switch.
I tried out a new application (Camtasia Studio). It turned out to be a Wise Installer than uses a /s for a silent install. Fun fact – these switches can be case sensitive!
Next, I tried out an InstallShield package. In the screenshot below, the /v”/qb” line indicates than an MSI is inside that EXE. We know this because /qb is an MSIEXEC command for a quiet+basic install.
I did run across one custom packaged EXE. Because it was a custom app, USSF couldn’t find a silent parameter. Hopefully, you won’t have too many custom apps like this. Overall, this tool should save you a good bit of time! Thanks again to Kei Bi for bringing it to my attention.
Sweet app! What language did you build this in?
Thanks, Jon! I actually did not write this but I did link to the original author. The original download appears to be inactive now.
my applications is showing /s as switch, but its not working.
Sometimes, applications want the switch in a capital letter. Let me know what you found out though and what application it is.
I am having a problem running the USSF on a Windows 7 Ent. VM. When it opens, everything is scrunched together and I cannot use it. It worked fine on my old version of VMWare Fusion but not the latest. I would send a screenshot but can’t attach it here. Any suggestions? Thank you.
I haven’t seen that one before. If you launch it and then press WINDOWSKEY + SHIFT + M, does it fix the text?
I just tried it and it does not help.
I built a new Windows 10 VM and it did show up fine for me. The VM is running off of Hyper-V from an existing Windows 10 box. Can you try to duplicate that?
I am using a Macbook Pro 15″ 2017. I use VMWare Fusion Professional Version 10.1.1 with a Windows 7 Pro SP1 VM. Would you happen to have USSF for OS X?
I don’t – sorry about that!
Looks like it doesn’t understand files created with “National Instruments”. Example is Lego Mindstorms EV3.
I found the silent install here: http://digital.ni.com/public.nsf/allkb/878FC4C374013ADF8625733D00688F67?OpenDocument
setup /qb /AcceptLicenses yes /r:n
Not sure if that is possible to detect in a future version. Regardless, great product!
Hey Sam – I didn’t develop this program but I do appreciate you leaving the silent switches for that file type.
This seems like a great tool, but I have one concern. Can it also find the uninstall switches?
It isn’t designed for uninstall switches. For that, you may want to use: https://finduninstallstring.codeplex.com/
Seems don’t work with the file “MPLABX-v3.30-windows-installer.exe” available from http://www.microchip.com/mplab/mplab-x-ide
Is it a special file ?
We use Setup Commander for this. Setup Commander tells me this was made with Bitrock InstallBuilder and that the silent switches are ‘–mode unattended’
That is a fantastic program! I was having issues deploying “mystery” .exe installers via SCCM. Saved me so much time. Thank you!
No problem Chuck!
Hi, Thanks for the tool! I’ll try it out for sure.
I often find myself struggling to find silent switches to “uninstall” apps from a big bunch of computers, especially old InstallShield (circa 1998-2005). Can this also help out in findind uninstall switches?
You will want to use the tool Find Uninstall string to get that information. https://finduninstallstring.codeplex.com/
Amazing! Thanks for sharing.
No problem! Thanks for commenting!
Dammmn man , joseph your good , this tool is really awesome man , keep going and make another utilities .
I actually didn’t make this tool but I am glad you like it so much!
hi i checked that tools..its working good only for msi..for .exe its mostly unable to find switches,,i tried adobe reader,,ccleaner and skype setup for .exe files but its not giving any information about file type and usage
I had a few not work but it has certainly helped a lot of the time.
is it possible to you that you write an article in detail about the exe installer, how much possible ways to find the exe installers silent switches.I need the maximum possible ways to find the installer switches.Unfortunately this utility doesn’t help in my case.i need your guidance.
Well – every EXE is different. One big thing is to determine if something packaged up the EXE (ex: InstallShield). You can then look up the default silent switches for that app.
A site that helps me quite a bit is appdeploy.com. You can often find silent switches and application deployment tips there.
Thanks for the explanation.But one thing which is still yet not cleared in my mind that how can i find installer packaging technology that which installer has packaged the .exe.i want to know the methods to find the packaging info(ex:innosetup,,installshied,,wise installers)
Normally, you can see the packager when you manually run the setup (look for an icon or packager name in the initial welcome window). You can also right click on the file and look in the properties tab.
I tried your utility against a exe produced with Advanced Installer. It tells me that it is a self extracting Microsoft CAB file – which it isn’t!
Hey Phil – this tool is an older product so it might mess up against some newer things.
SFXMaker – another application detect silent switch keys (uses Exeinfo PE – compressor detector) and create SFX archive – but I have not tested.
And I often use Universal Extractor special utility for extract exe – analogue 7-zip. I fan portable software 🙂
…ps for Universal Extractor: “Note that in order for Universal Extractor to operate on installers created using newer versions of InnoSetup, you should download the latest version of innounp, then extract innounp.exe and place it in the bin subfolder of Universal Extractor.”
PS: Apps use is simply. But it is better to learn and train, so in particular, I read your blog 😉
PPS: I’m sorry to translate into English me helped Google.
I forgot mentioning app – WSCC, not for silent install, but very cool ) If someone does not know.
Especially for those who use pstools.
PS: sorry if off topic
“WSCC is a free, portable program that allows you to install, update, execute and organize the utilities from various system utility suites. WSCC can install and update the supported utilities automatically. Alternatively, WSCC can use the http protocol to download and run the programs. WSCC is portable, installation is not required. Extract the content of the downloaded zip archive to any directory on your computer.
This edition of WSCC supports the following utility suites:
Windows Sysinternals Suite (including support for Sysinternals Live service)
The setup packages are downloaded from the author’s website!”
Thank you Kei Bi! I will check both of those apps out! Thank you for sharing!
very good song the truth a lot to learn from me leave some methods to reinforce the theme of the switches.
Hi Octavio – Not quite sure what to make of your comment but I will take it as a compliment. So thanks!