Windows service NOT shown in add remove programs under control panel

InstallUtil.exe: As others have stated, InstallUtil.exe is intended for development use only, not for final distribution of your service.

MSI: The normal way to deploy services in the fashion you describe (with a proper entry in add/remove programs) would be to use an MSI installer created using a tool designed to help you do so (it is not advisable to “roll your own” tool to do this).

Ad-Hoc: The ad-hoc description of deployment tools below was written in a hurry, and has sort of been re-purposed as a general description of
such tools. Not too relevant for the question asked, but it sort of “happened” and here it is.

Free MSI Tools / Viewers

How can I compare the content of two (or more) MSI files? (towards bottom) – (most of) these are not full-featured tools to make setups, but great to inspect MSI files and to create transforms.

MSI Tools: Short-List

There are many tools you can use for MSI-creation, for example (arbitrary order – links to Stefan Kruger’s below will show further tools, these are just the most common ones):

WiXquick download

  • Free, open source framework – excellent, but with a learning curve, hence a few more links.

    • WiX quick-start tips (a bit chaotic, strangely upvoted, must be helpful).
    • WiX’s commercial branch FireGiant has a WiX expansion pack (which costs money).
    • Windows Installer and the creation of WiX (what is the idea behind WiX?).
    • How to install and start a Windows Service using WiX.
    • Documentation: ServiceInstall, ServiceControl.
    • Untested: How to create a Windows Service MSI Installer Using WiX.
  • IsWiXquick download

    • Deployment and MSI expert Chris Painter has his own, free WiX-based tool called IsWiX
    • It can help with WiX’s learning curve and manage WiX source files.
    • Also see his IsWiX Tutorials.
  • The various ways used (and abused) to install Windows Services.

Advanced Installerquick download

  • Great commercial tool with lots of smarts to help you deliver packages quickly and reliably.
  • Some free features.
  • Here is a great gateway to all things Advanced Installer.
  • installing services, how-to.

InstallShieldquick download

  • The old and established market leader tool Installshield features a very rich set of functionality capable of delivering advanced setup requirements.
  • There used to be a Lite version which cost money at one point. Not sure if it is available now.
  • There is an InstallShield Limited Edition version. Unsure of its feature set and cost (if any). Does not work with Visual Studio Community editions.
  • Installing, Controlling, and Configuring Windows Services.

PACE suitequick download


Visual Studio Installer project type

  • There is also the Visual Studio Installer project type in Visual Studio (VS 2017 sample).
  • I would not really recommend this – especially if you have advanced deployment or automation requirements.
  • It is very basic, and there are many severe limitations.
  • Install the Visual Studio setup and deployment project template.

Auto-Update?: Various ways to create auto-updating packages.

MSI Tools: Comparisons and Descriptions

What are the above tools like in actual use? Here are some pragmatic observations and summaries:

  • How to create windows installer (recommended overview).
  • What installation product to use? InstallShield, WiX, Wise, Advanced Installer, etc (an aging, detailed comparison of these major MSI tools – very detailed and “pragmatic”).

Deployment Tools (General)

There are many further tools available to create create installers / setup.exe files of various kinds (not just MSI tools, but general purpose, legacy tools, multi-platform tools, etc…):

Stefan Kruger’s Comprehensive Lists:

  • Non-MSI installer tools:
  • Windows installer tools:
  • Sys-admin tools:

Other Links:

  • Cross-Platform Installers: Does an universal cross-platform installer exists? (non-MSI tools).

  • dotNetInstaller: There is also the dotNetInstaller Setup Bootstrapper – which I have never used.

  • Here it is on (source).

  • Just a bootstrapper (runs things in sequence for you, and then some), not a development tool as such. I find this tool “a bit weird”.

Some General Links: And there are various other ways to deploy – for example with self-extracting zip archives and stuff like that. Not recommended, but some links:

  • Error Creating a 7-zip installer package (7-Zip, iExpress and other self-extractor creators)
  • Combine exe and msi file in one installer (recommended)
  • Visual Studio 2017 Installer Project – include VC++ 2015 Redistributable (WiX Burn Quick Start)
  • Additional Setup in Visual Studio Installer Projects

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