Best Free Setup Builder

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Introduction

Developing own software is one thing, distributing it is another. Once the product is finished you have to think about how to get it to the end user. If it is just one executable file you might get away with zipping and providing it but as soon as more files like DLL's and other dependables are involved you need to have a setup routine for it. But simply for creating shortcuts on the end users PC a setup routing of some kind is required if you do not want to have your users do that manually.

Rated Products

InnoSetup

A powerful script based Windows setup builder


Platforms/Download: Windows (Desktop) |
Version reviewed: 5.5.5
Editor Rating: 3.5/5
3.5
User Rating: (Rate this product...)
3.166665
Average: 3.2 (6 votes)
Summary:
InnoSetup is a powerful script based Windows setup builder. User interface is a syntax highlighting script editor. There is excellent help and samples available for the many options possible, however, scripting your setup is less comfortable than having a GUI to do so. There are third party GUIs available though. All in all my top pick in this category.

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NSIS

Compile your own scripts with this powerful setup maker


Platforms/Download: Windows (Desktop) |
Version reviewed: 2.4.6
Editor Rating: 4.5/5
4.5
User Rating: (Rate this product...)
4.666665
Average: 4.7 (3 votes)
Summary:
If you can live with even less than a script editor but favor much advanced capabilities over a user interface then the NullSoft Installer System (NSIS) is the right choice for you. It is the most capable of the reviewed products here but lacks a user interface completely (not counting the compiler window). Like you create the HTML code for a webpage with a separate program and display it in your browser, you need to create the NSIS script with any editor of your liking and just compile it in the end with the NSIS compiler.

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Ghost Installer Free

Featureful XML based Windows setup builder


Platforms/Download: Windows (Desktop) |
Version reviewed: 4.7
Editor Rating: 4/5
4
User Rating: (Rate this product...)
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)
Summary:
If you want to have major control about your setup routine and are not afraid of just dealing with an XML configuration file, then Ghost Installer Free might be a good choice for you. While the commercial version comes with a GUI (Ghost Installer Studio), the free version just offers the so-called gEditor to edit the XML file that the compiler of the setup routine uses. This product requires a high learning curve but once you get a hang of it and know about all the settings you can use you have a mighty powerful tool here.

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CreateInstall Free

Simple and effective GUI for Windows setup creation


Platforms/Download: Windows (Desktop) |
Version reviewed: 6.1.1
Editor Rating: 3.5/5
3.5
User Rating: (Rate this product...)
4.375
Average: 4.4 (4 votes)
Summary:
CreateInstall Free is a treat for those who do not want to spend much time on sophisticated setup routines and text based editing. It presents itself in a simple and effective interface where you can quickly find and configure all important features of your setup project. You can configure six dialogs for the setup and also define a run-after program. Simple, quick and effective.

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Clickteam Install Creator

Fast and convenient Windows setup builder


Platforms/Download: Windows (Desktop) |
Version reviewed: 2.0
Editor Rating: 3/5
3
User Rating: (Rate this product...)
3.25
Average: 3.3 (2 votes)
Summary:
Probably the fastest and most convenient setup builder of the ones I reviewed. It has a basic yet very effective GUI and the wizard takes you through the major steps quickly. My first project was done in minutes and it worked like breeze. When the wizard finishes you still have all the options you picked available for change through the tabbed program interface.

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Advanced Installer

Quick and easy MSI setup builder


Platforms/Download: Windows (Desktop) |
Version reviewed: 10.8
Editor Rating: 2/5
2
User Rating: (Rate this product...)
0
No votes yet
Summary:
A good choice when you want to create a quick MSI based setup package. Caphyon offers this freeware version of its setup builder embedded in the commercial product. You can download and install the full product for free but only the "Basic" setup option works without purchase registration. But that's quite enough for a quick and simple MSI setup.

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Related Products and Links

A product that uses a different approach is INF-Tool. INF-Tool offers 6 setup methods which are based on Windows' INF technology. Thus, they are 100% Windows integrated and only need incredibly small overhead of just a few KB's. Check it out here.

Another install builder that came to my attention recently is InstallJammer. I have tested it on a 32Bit Windows system but was not very fond of it. It was very slow and stopped to respond. It seemed to be a bit complicated too. You might want give it a try though. Maybe it behaves better on your system.

If you are familiar with the Windows Installer details (*.msi) you might wanna give InstEd a try. It requires detailed knowledge about the Windows Installer and is primarily a table editor but offers many advanced features.

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Your rating: None
3.972975
Average: 4 (37 votes)

Comments

Can you tell me which installer allow me to create installer with the serial asking for free. (I like fully free)
please...

Hi DM I haven't had the chance to review InstallForge yet. But it claims to be absolsutely free and also obviously offer serial number creation as far as I can see from their screenshots: http://installforge.net/home/ Best regards, George
All the software listed in the review are free.

But all of them does not ask for the serial.
me too want to create the installer which can generate/add 50 - 100 serial and while installation it ask for the serial: if available in the listed serial the installer will go for further steps...

Hi there, sorry, we misunderstood your question. InnoSetup can actually be configured to ask for a serial number during setup. Here is a description how it can be done: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/10385319/custompage-for-serial-number... Best regards, George

Hi, very interesting article, as always...
I'm looking for a way to deploy/update some web apps on our servers, so I need something that can replace swf files as well as _edit_ xml configuration files to add some new nodes or change some values... All I can find is software that propose modification of ini files only, and would overwrite any other kind of files...
I'm afraid I'll have to write my own installer (e.g. in python), unless you know a setup builder that can modify ascii files?

thanks,
maguzo

Hi maguzo at this point I am not aware of a general setup builder for web applications. I also wrote my own for one of my web apps. Usually such setups consists of copying files to a web server, setting up a database and creating configuration files in the app directory. The environments are usually very different, thus it is difficult to create a general setup routine I guess. Best regards, George