WiX Toolset

Introduction to Windows Installer XML (WiX) toolset

What is WiX?

WiX is a set of tools that allows you to create Windows Installer-based deployment packages for your application. The WiX toolset is based on a declarative XML authoring model. You can use WiX on the command line by using the WiX tools or MSBuild. In addition, there is also a WiX Visual Studio plug-in that supports VS2005, VS2008, and VS2010. The WiX toolset supports building the following types of Windows Installer files:

  • Installer (.msi)
  • Patches (.msp)
  • Merge Modules (.msm)
  • Transforms (.mst)

WiX supports a broad spectrum of Windows Installer features. In addition, WiX also offers a set of built-in custom actions that can be used and incorporated in Windows Installer packages. The custom actions are offered in a set of WiX extensions. Some common WiX extensions include support for Internet Information System (IIS), Structured Query Language (SQL), the .NET Framework, Visual Studio, and Windows etc.

How does WiX work?

The WiX source code is written in XML format with a .wxs file extension. The WiX tools follow the traditional compile and link model used to create executables from source code. At build time, the WiX source files are validated against the core WiX schema, then processed by a preprocessor, compiler, and linker to create the final result. There are a set of WiX tools that can be used to produce different output types. For a complete list of file types and tools in WiX, see the File Types and the List of Tools sections.

See the following topics for more detailed information:

WiX system requirements

WiX supports both .NET 3.5 and 4.0 and later. WiX's MSBuild supports requires .NET 3.5, which is not installed by default on Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 and later. To install the .NET 3.5 feature, go to Control Panel, open Programs and Features, and choose Turn Windows features on or off. In the list of features, choose .NET Framework 3.5 (includes .NET 2.0 and 3.0) and then choose OK.

In the next version of WiX (v3.11), .NET 4.0 will be required; building using .NET 3.5 will no longer be supported.