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Transform Install Only Applications into Portable Applications

While there are a myriad of useful applications and utilities which are available via portable distributions, many tools still remain in their “install only” format. This limitation, however, should not discourage you from using the respective program as a portable application. With a few tricks we are going to show you here, you may be able to add these programs to your collection of portable tools yet.

Extracting Files from the Installer

The first trick you can try is to extract the application files directly from the installer program. By using the 7-Zip file compression utility, you can attempt to open the setup file as a compressed archive via the right click context menu.

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Depending on the compression format of the installer, you may or may not be able to open it as a readable archive.

For our example, we are going to demonstrate this technique using the Quickbooks Network Diagnostic Tool which is available as an installation only program. This is a great example because typically you would only use this program one time to resolve your issue and no longer need it, making it ideal for a portable application.

By opening the install file in 7-Zip, you can see and extract the files used by the application directly into a folder.

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Then simply run the application from the extracted files.

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The utility works exactly the same as if you had installed using the setup program.

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Install then Copy-Paste

For applications where you cannot use the above method, you can try installing the application on one computer and then copying the installed files to another system.

To demonstrate this method, we are going to use the VHD Resizer utility which we have written about before. When you open the installer, an MSI file, using 7-Zip you can see the file names are garbled so extracting the files would do no good.

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After running the installer, open the folder the program was installed to and copy the files to another computer.

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Once again, the program runs on the system where the files were simply pasted with no issue.

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Limitations

While these methods will work a good bit of the time, by no means is correct functionality guaranteed. If, for example, an installer copies files to multiple locations, registers DLL’s or creates registry entries required for operation, these steps will obviously not be completed using the above methods.

For mission critical applications it is always recommended you use the program as distributed, but for everything else these methods are a great way to increase your toolbox of portable applications.

Links

Download 7-Zip

Jason Faulkner is a developer and IT professional who never has a hot cup of coffee far away. Interact with him on Google+

  • Published 08/19/10

Comments (4)

  1. Wil

    You can get the files out of an msi by doing the following:

    msiexec /a TARGETDIR= /qb!

  2. Wil

    It cut the bits i put tags around out.

    It should have been:
    msiexec /a (msi file) TARGETDIR=(path to extract to) /qb!

  3. Jason Faulkner

    Awesome trick… I had no idea you could do that.

  4. Der

    That’s not portability, since most of the programs will create registry keys and temp files in user profile folder when you first launch them even without using installer. You can take a system state snapshot before running to make sure whether programm is really portable and most of them not. That’s the main reasons such things as thinstall or portabbleapps suite exist.

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