How can I publish an MSI file?

A. With Group Policies in Windows 2000 you can do far more than just restrict and set certain registry entries. You can set startup/shutdown/login/logoff scripts, redirect folders like My Documents and publish applications (and more). Its the last item that interests us and there are four main options:

  • Assign to a computer
  • Publish to a computer
  • Assign to a user
  • Publish to a user

When you assign an application to a user its icons are setup and the software installed on first usage, if you assign to a computer it will be installed the next time the computer starts up. If you publish an application the user has the option of installing the application via the Add/Remove Programs control panel applet.

Any deployed application cannot be uninstalled by the user. Published applications can be uninstalled as they are optional.

You can publish/assign applications to any group policy object which means you can assign applications on a per domain, per site or per Organizational Unit basis.

To assign an application to a GPO perform the following:

  1. Start the Active Directory Users and Computers MMC snap-in (Start - Programs - Administrative Tools - Active Directory Users and Computers)
  2. Right click on the domain, OU or site and select Properties
  3. Select the 'Group Policy' tab
  4. Select the GPO you wish to assign/publish the application with and click edit
  5. Select either 'Computer Configuration' or 'User Configuration' depending on if the application is for a user or computer assignment
  6. Select the Software Settings\Software installation branch
  7. Right click on 'Software installation' and select New - Package from the context menu
  8. Select the MSI file you wish to deploy, make sure you access via a network path or clients will be unable to install it, e.g. \\titanic\data\winzip\winzip.msi. Click Open
  9.  You will have the option to either publish/assign or advanced publish/assign. Click OK. If you select advance you have options to select an existing package that this one will upgrade and various other settings including Security
  10. The program will now be shown under the Software installation branch and will be assigned/published to any user/computer who has the GPO applied to them.

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