Building setup and deployment packages in VS 2010

Developing and refining your code is an important part of building your application.  Once it’s built, you need to deploy that before your customers can start seeing the benefits of using the application.  For many applications, the most reliable way to deploy is to build a setup project that packages your application’s components into an easily installable package with a familiar interface for your customers.


Today you can use the Visual Studio Installer project template to create a setup project; however, we have heard from our customers that they need more.  They need capabilities such as the ability to build using Team Foundation Server, a simpler, more modern developer experience and most importantly a runway to advanced deployment capabilities that scale along with their applications.


To address this feedback, we have partnered with Flexera, makers of InstallShield to create, just for Visual Studio 2010 customers, InstallShield Limited Edition 2010.  This is a Visual Studio extension you can download and use today to build Windows installer-based deployment packages for your application that can be deployed on the Windows platform.  It provides comparable functionality to the Visual Studio Installer project but in addition, you get the easy to use, modern, graphical development environment of InstallShield, as well as the ability to build your deployment projects using Team Foundation Server.  When your application grows beyond InstallShield Limited Edition 2010 you can preserve the investment you have made by importing it into more advanced versions of InstallShield.


How to Get It

To download a copy of the InstallShield Limited Edition, click on the File | New | Project… menu within Visual Studio 2010, browse to the Other Project Types | Setup and Deployment node, and select the InstallShield 2010 node that contains a project template called “Enable InstallShield Limited Edition”. 


New Project 


After creating the project, the template will direct you to the InstallShield registration page in order to continue.  When you have registered, the page will direct you to download the product from the partner website.


Download InstallShield 


How to Use It

Once you have installed the product, the New Project dialog will provide an option to create an InstallShield Limited Edition Project.  Create a new project using the File | New | Project… menu to bring up the New Project dialog and select “InstallShield Limited Edition Project” template under the Other Project Types | Setup and Deployment | InstallShield 2010 node.


Enable InstallShield 


Visual Studio 2010 with InstallShield Limited Edition 2010 offers new options for deployment that can ease the effort of building deployment solutions for your applications, integrate deployment into your automated build process, and provide an upgrade path to bigger and better solutions as your application grows.



Comments (41)

  1. davidacoder says:

    Lame, you should have stuck to the original plan and included WIX instead of plastering VS with ad-ware.

  2. Gavin Greig says:

    WiX would have been preferable, and I’m disappointed that the plan to include it was dropped. I won’t be using InstallShield – spent too many years fighting it already.

  3. Sacha says:

    I don’t understand… please explain us why you didn’t use WiX?

  4. I can only add to the others: why drop WiX? Its your chance to finally add a real DSL for building installers. We don’t need another easy-to-use GUI, we need something that stands the test of an enterprise.

  5. Val says:

    I think that nobody should be disappointed about WiX not included in the VS 2010:

    Just install and use it.

  6. John says:

    How much is Flexera paying Microsoft to have their trialware bundled with Visual Studio?

  7. danieldsmith says:

    Add me to the long list of disappointed users re the dropping of WiX from VS2010.  I think the VS team really dropped the ball with this.

    I’m still not entirely clear why it was dropped from the product.  If jQuery can be included, why can’t WiX?

  8. SG says:

    We have used install shield in the past and our experience with it was horrible. So, VS 2010 ships with another horrible add-in.. we don’t need options for deployment, we just need one tool that does the job without me spending hours trying to learn workarounds with bugs in products such as install shield.

  9. I’ve been using WiX for the last 4.5 years building solid setup packages for enterprises and was really disappointed that WiX was dropped from VS 2010! I will stay with WiX anyway and never look at InstallShield!

  10. Phong Hoang says:

    I agee with others.  Please reconsider dropping InstallShield from VS.

  11. Dave Moyle says:

    WIX has been a revelation to me in the past 12 months.

    I am sorely disappointed that the VS team has chosen not to support it.

  12. Gary Lang says:

    As Val pointed out, Rob Mensching wrote about this back in April – see . If you want WiX we continue to work on it hard as ever, and you can easily get it.

    We currently have the same people finishing the work for each shipping milestone of WiX tools that we had when we were going to put it in the box. We’ve just removed the overhead of putting it in the box, choosing to focus the work on the product itself.  

    The VS team still supports WiX. Many of the code contributors to WiX are members of the WiX community. Close to two dozen VS FTE are working on components of WiX today that we’re using internally – around half of them full time. We are making sure that those contributions will be available to the community.

    Finally WiX is in posted our Gallery by one of our Program Managers – shown here:

    We do think that InstallShield Limited Edition is a great product for our Dev10 customers who prefer a designer-based approach over a language-based approach to deployment and want the new features that aren’t in Visual Studio Installer Project. One of our goals was to let users of the latter migrate to ISLE, and the feature set certainly allows for that.

    Let me know what you think. Please send more feedback to me at glang, here at

  13. Simon Murrell says:

    I don’t know why you guys went with InstallShield.

    I have used Installaware for the last four years and

    I will never go back to InstallShield. It was difficult

    to use number one and the installers took too long to

    build with InstallShield. The most irritating thing

    with InstallShield is you would replace a few files

    and it would suddenly re-install itself.

  14. Basant says:

    Will give it a try…mainly Azure

  15. Will says:

    Mmmm…  VS2010 + InstallShield…

    There hasn’t been a combination so good since the Vista-compatible version of Microsoft Bob was released.

    A real crowd-pleaser this one.

  16. rostrat says:

    I have spent many years fighting with Installshield and I seriously think that its a waste of effort to put Installshield on.  Installshield is another added major overhead because it is another company external to MS.  Once Installshield is put in place it will be much harder to remove it because of status quo.  Do it once and do it right.

  17. Rico says:

    I was happy when VS came with reasonably easy to use installation builders allowing me to discard my Installshield packages; I am unhappy and surprised to see the return of this application and will resist using it.

  18. Mike Douglas says:

    I think this is a great addition to Visual Studio.  The UX is more intuitive and easier to for those who haven’t created MSIs before. I found you can almost do everything in IS LE that you can do with the setup projects.  In addition, with IS LE you can build the MSIs in TFS Team Build which you can’t easily do with the standard setup projects.  IS LE also works within Visual Studio 2008.

    If you haven’t had a chance to try out InstallShield Limited, I did a walkthrough of the features with some screenshots.


  19. Shubham says:

    thanks for the tutorial..will give it a try..the deployment is easy and understandable..thanks.

  20. xiaopywsp says:

    the  Visual Studio are usefuly.

    you can almost do everything in IS LE that you can do with the setup projects .

  21. xiaopywsp says:

    Personally speaking, it can substitute for Visual Studio. But I think the setup also has a long way to go. Whatelse can you do with the setup? Anyway, I can benefit a lot from your blog and I am delighted to share with you at

  22. this is a great addition to Visual Studio.  The UX is more intuitive and easier to for those who haven’t created MSIs before

  23. I’ve decided to try it, rather than the typical things that I’ve tried.  Always used click-once before, but had trouble this time.

  24. David Glienna says:

    Registration problem.  Anyone else try?

    Called tech support in Schaumburg, IL, who said that nobody can help!

    Suggested that I go to the community forum.  🙁

  25. Candy Chiang says:

    Thank you for reporting the issue. The registration problem has been fixed by Flexera Software. You should be able to register now. If you encounter further issues, please raise them on the InstallShield community forum directly. The forum is monitored by Flexera support engineers. They should be able to respond to any issues you have around the InstallShield Limited Edition product.

  26. maranite says:

    I too can only add to this long list of Visual Studio fans who are bitterly dissappointed that InstallShield is included and WiX is not.

    Bad, bad, bad bad bad move!!!!

  27. Dwayne says:

    I can hardly believe this – passing up WiX, which is only serious option for windows setups, for a "light" version of InstallShield?  What a joke.  Setup already sucks for Windows, and this shows how little Microsoft cares about improving it.

  28. Worf634 says:

    Well, I do like Install Shield.  However, the LE does not work.  When you add it to a project, the IDE will crash when you open up any part of your program.  Looking around for a solution, we were to find a hot fix at this link:

    However, that link is invalid.

    Personally, I do not understand why we don't have a proper installer for Visual Studio (now how many years in the making?).  We shouldn't have to be relying on a third party for all the money we put out in programming languages.  We should have a UI version of an installer, as part of the programming process.  (I feal the same way about reporting as well).  

  29. Candy Chiang says:

    In order to access the link, you need to register as a member of the InstallShield support forum, otherwise the page will not display. When you download InstallShieldLE, there is a checkbox for registering for support forum and it is checked by default. If you missed that, there is a link in the email that was sent to you with the InstallShieldLE serial number. You should be able to register through that link.

    As for the crash you're experiencing, at what point did you get the crash and what project type are you using?

  30. Candy Chiang says:

    If you are still experiencing the same issue, please raise them on the InstallShieldLE community forum directly. The forum is monitored by Flexera support engineers. They should be able to respond to any issues you have around the InstallShield Limited Edition product. The forum is located here: You'll need to register as a member before you can access the forum.

  31. Alan Lowe says:

    Here's how InstallShield works:

    The wizard will now guide you through the setup process

    – Fine, why didn't you just start there? Am I going to say, "No I dont want to be guided through the process" and cancel? "Next"

    Choose where you want to install it

    – Ok, I can go with that "Next"

    Setup is now ready to install bla bla

    – Yeah, I kind of expected that. Why didn't you just do it instead of making me click "next" again? "Next"

    Setup has installed bla bla

    – Yeah that was the plan. There are no other options here. Why don't you just finish instead of mjaking me click "Next" yet AGAIN???

  32. xB says:

    I can also only agree to the previous comments. Install shield totally did not full fill my expecations. While the standard installer included with visual studio is somewhat complicated it was still working much better for me than installshield which can not even build MSI packages in the limited edition. Further more after installing it the whole IDE kept crashing when i tried to open any source file of my C# project. Just horrible. After I wasted about 1.5 hours of restarting VS 2010 the problem suddenly resolved by itself, yet im not sure how I did it. Anyway, in the end i sticked with VS internal tools and just created a simple msi file.

    Another horrible thing is that you need to register to get a product key, for something that is supposed to be a free version.

  33. Akhil Gupta says:


    How do we use it?

    First of all, we have to select the ‘Other Project Types’ option from the New Project. Then, we get some options:

    1)Setup Project: Creates a Windows Installer project to which files can be added. This project type is the most general of all.

    2)Web Setup Project: The deployment tools in Visual Studio .NET also support deployment to a Web server. Using deployment to install files on a Web server provides an advantage over simply copying files, in that deployment handles any issues with registration and configuration automatically.

    3)Merge Module Project: Most commonly, merge modules are used for files that are installed to a common location (such as the System folders) and/or shared by multiple applications. For example, many ActiveX and .NET controls that are sold by third-party tool vendors come with their own merge modules so that the developer can simply merge the installation logic of the control into their setup without worrying about having to manually specify the file’s information and setup logic.

    4)Setup Wizard: Creates a Windows Installer project with the aid of a wizard.

    5)Cab Project: The CAB project is a Setup and Deployment project, which is used to create a .cab file containing a set of files in a compressed archive. This .cab file is used to package ActiveX controls that can be downloaded from a Web server. The CAB project reduces the size of a distribution package. Using CAB project, developers can implement Authenticode signing and specify the display name, version, level of compression, and location of dependent files.

    You can have a look at the Video Tutorial @

    to see that how do we use Setup And Deployment Wizard.

  34. Anastas Hadjieff says:

    I thought the plan was to include Wix in 2010. Why didn't they include it? I have worked in 5 different companies and I haven't heard one person praise Install Shield. People try to avoid this product like the plague.

    Including InstallShield smells like a corporate boondogle to me akin to Crystal Reports. No developer wants to use Crystal or Install Shield except for the guys making the product decisions. It's a shame.

  35. asanford says:

    I am also very disappointed Microsoft has chosen to depricate VS setup projects, especially without replacing such functionality with something better.  Some of the bigger problems I see so far are:

    1) While ISLE does support easier integration with TFS (than VS setup projects do), they seem to currently force you to run your TFS build account as an admin!

    2) From a quick look, going from VS-setup to ISLE you lose the ability to have assembly-based custom actions.

    3) It seems there are problems (perhaps due to the long history of IS) where in some cases project reference names within the ISLE project get truncated, which causes the ISLE project builds to work in VS, but not in msbuild cmdline and not from TFS build.  I've also seen other problems relating to builds working differently in VS vs. msbuild/tfsbuild (such as treatment of web projects' bin folder.)

    4) Perhaps most importantly, it seems ISLE 2011 does not support creating installers for x64!!!

    I am extremely disappointed that ISLE 2011 does not support creating installers for 64 bit platforms. While that may make sense from Flexera's business perspective, it leaves Visual Studio 2010 users in a troubling position, where now the only tool that comes with VS2010 that supports creating 64 bit installers (Visual Studio setup & deployment projects) Microsoft cautions users will not exist in future VS versions, and they say ISLE "replaces" such projects in VS2010.

    This is all very concerning because as you know, win server 2008R2 and future winservers will only be available in x64, no 32bit. While they do support Wow64, it hardly seems wise, if Microsoft wants developers to support their new OSs natively, to remove support for tools that support such things.  

    If MS is going to drop support for VS setups, IMO they should provide something that can at least build on their current platform, for the their current platform – which means both TFS and x64.

  36. square says:

    horrible choice, full of bugs, huge mess of code, and worst customer support than a cell phone company.

    Partnering w/Flexara = Epic Fail for Devs

    Thx MS :/

  37. Luke says:

    Doesn't even work. They keep asking me to register. I do then they send me another code. Activate that code and then they ask me to register again and thus get a new code. If it is this complicated to do this part then I'm not going to touch the actual product.

  38. Rickard says:

    Totally fails to work for me, when directed to the register page, that page does not exist anymore ( it tries to direct me here:…/register.aspx )

  39. Jeremy says:

    That page fails for me as well.

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