Finding Windows Installer help documentation (AKA where did MSI.chm go?)

I received an email yesterday from an individual who had just installed the latest Windows Installer Platform SDK and had read a previous blog post that I wrote about using msi.chm for Windows Installer help information, but was unable to find msi.chm on his system.  I took a look on our internal products server and couldn’t find msi.chm there either, so I decided to go to the Platform SDK site and figure out what was going on.  What I found is that I was basing the information in that blog entry about msi.chm on what appears to be an older version of the Platform SDK that I had downloaded a while ago and then just copied msi.chm off to a separate location.

I tried out a new download of the Windows Installer part of the Platform SDK, and it appears they have re-organized the help documentation for the entire SDK.  Instead of having standalone CHM files for each product in the SDK, there is now a unified Platform SDK help collection and each individual product plugs in and registers an HXS (compiled help) file.

So what I had to do was launch the Platform SDK Documentation link on the Start menu after installation of the SDK.  From there I was able to use the index and search that I normally use in my old copy of msi.chm, and as an added bonus there are updated topics for Windows Installer 3.0 and some of the incorrect info in my old version of msi.chm have been fixed.

Sorry for any confusion I created in my original post….


Comments (20)

  1. Jeff Prince says:

    Fantastic info. Thanks a lot.

  2. Ralph says:

    I was trying to install Quicktime 7.0 on my computer and half-way through the installation it posted a warning, "ERROR: -1603 FATAL ERROR DURING INSTALLATION".  Consult Windows Installer Help (MSI.CHM) or MSDN for more information.

    Can you help me?

  3. astebner says:

    Hi Ralph – Error code 1603 is a generic "setup failed" error that comes from Windows Installer.  You can use the steps listed at to gather a verbose log file for the installation that will hopefully help narrow this down.  I can’t promise to be able to help, but I can try to take a look if you want to contact me via with the verbose log information.

  4. Marc says:

    what’s: Error 1305.error reading from file (:/progam files/fixaris games/civilization 3/sounds/build/middle ages/MidORfull.mp3.

    verify that the file exists and that you can acces it.

    can you help me?

  5. astebner says:

    Hi Marc – Error 1305 means exactly what you said in your comment – there is an error reading from the specified file.  Can you check and see if that file exists in that folder location and also whether or not you have the necessary permissions to create/edit/delete files in that location?  The steps listed at can also be used to reset file and registry permissions, and that might be useful in this scenario.

  6. jane says:

    aka what does it mean; error-1603 fatal error during instalation

  7. astebner says:

    Hi Jane – Error 1603 is a generic error that means "fatal error during installation" according to the Windows Installer help files.  This error can be caused by a lot of different issues.  Most commonly, it means that one of the custom actions that runs during the installation has failed.  You can use steps similar to the ones listed at to narrow down the root cause of this type of error.

  8. torchbearer2 says:

    I was trying to install a PC game Generals Zero Hour when its almost done, it showed "Internal Error 2350" and was not installed. Look up to my PC for MSI.chm as at times after numerous attempts to install the game program but no MSI.chm is found.

    Where can I find this "MSI.chm" and how can I install it to my PC? I am not very well versed with using the PC. Please help. Thanks.

  9. astebner says:

    Hi Torchbearer2 – According to the documentation at, error code 2350 means "FDI server error"

    I haven’t personally seen that error before so I’m not really sure what would cause this.  You may want to search for troubleshooting suggestions on the website for the manufacturer of this game.

  10. Lann says:

    I am currently trying to install Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends. There are 4 different disks. I recieved all of them from Microsoft, so they are "not for retail or oem distribution". I hope you know what I am talking about. Well anyway, I always successfully install disk one, then I insert disk two when prompted. After a few moments I get error 1305. It seems as if the disk cannot read the file "Exp_sml_1_dist.wav". I checked and it is there, but after a couple of tries i decieded to just put in another wave file and name it "Exp_sml_1_dist". It worked! The file was skipped over and it seemed fine! Then another error occured (still on disk 2). It was "Internal error 2349". I did some research and installed "windows installer 3.1", but it still fails at that point. The disks are brand new and have no scratches, dust or even smudges on them. What is wrong? I cant figure it out. Please help me.

  11. astebner says:

    Hi Lann – The errors that you mention indicate a problem finding source files during installation.  When installing from a CD/DVD, that could mean that the installation disc is damaged.  Even if there are no visible flaws, there could be something wrong with the media.  I would suggest trying to clean the disc with soap and water (gently) and see if that helps.  If not, I would suggest contacting the technical support number provided with your product and asking for replacement media.

  12. Lann says:

    Thank you, I have contacted microsoft.

  13. As noted earlier this week , the final versions of the Windows Installer 4.5 redistributable and Windows

  14. A standalone Windows Installer 4.5 SDK has been released to the Download Center. This Windows Installer

  15. Julius says:

    Install the software on administrator's right and it will allow access for installation.

  16. john says:

    I have installed far cry the frist game and received error code 1603 my computer has windows 7 and I have played this game on my old comp with xp with no problems. the game loades but the video runs incomplete, no grass or paths show, but buildings and people are complete and action is normal, because of this 1603 error message I cant uninstall the far cry program to reinstall

  17. astebner says:

    Hi John – You can use steps like the ones at…/487096.aspx to manually uninstall a product that fails to uninstall normally.

    If you uninstall and re-install and still see a 1603 error during installation, then you'll likely need to search on the web site for the manufacturer of the game to see if they have any known issues or workarounds to help you install the game.

  18. Queven Santiago says:

    Amigos nao consigo instalar o jogo far cry 1 quando to acabando a instalaçao ele dar o erro 1603 fatal error during installation

    consult windows installer help (Msi.chm) or MSDN for more information. e galera o que eu faço? me ajudem :(

  19. astebner says:

    Hi Queven Santiago – You can use steps like the ones listed at…/help-me-help-you-if-you-have-setup-bugs.aspx to create a verbose log file for the failing install, zip it and post it to a file server.  If you do that and send me a link, I can download it and take a look to try to figure out what is causing the installation to fail.

  20. naesten says:

    It is curious that the type library embedded in Windows 7's amd64 binary for msi.dll still references msi.chm.  (Honestly, I rather miss the chm files.  (The viewer did leave something to be desired, though — multiple tabs, say, and a few more toolbar items without the help or application authors having to ask for them …)