We need to kill the Windows Installer.  More specifically, Microsoft needs to kill it.  Why?  Because it’s a poor method of installing software.  Alternative operating systems to Windows such as Mac OS X and every Linux distribution do software installations the right way.  What makes their method for installing software the “right way” you ask?  It’s flat out easier, more intuitive, and less cumbersome.

As it stands now when you want to install a piece of software on Windows you are required to download an executable file and run it.  The executable then opens the Installer which prompts you for several things.  Some of which require clicking a checkbox, selecting particular options, and clicking buttons.  How many times do I have to click “Next” to install something on Windows?  It’s a tedious task.  One that I think can also be argued to be too complicated for many end users.

How about installing software on Mac OS X or Linux?  It’s very different.  In most cases on OS X to install a piece of software all you have to do is download the application, double click it (to either mount the DMG or unzip the file), and move the file that appears into the Applications folder.  That’s it.  No checkboxes, various options, or “Next” buttons – just drag and drop and it’s installed and ready to use.

What about on Linux distributions?  The fact that Linux distributions have something called package managers makes installing software a breeze.  These package managers often have front ends which provide a nice interface where you can simply select the software you want to install and click a button to install it.  The package manager will take care of the rest.  Super easy.  Even if you were using the terminal to install software from a package manager, it’s still less steps than using the Windows Installer.  In that case you would type a command (e.g. apt-get install softwarename) and it would ask you if you are sure you want to install the software to which you would answer Yes and it go on its way and be done.

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If there were one thing I would love to see change in Windows it would be the way we install software.  Right now it pales in comparison to other operating systems out there.  The Windows Installer method of installing software is old, outdated, and needs to change.

  • First off, well done. Great points made. But come on, DMG+Alias=WTF for anyone not used to the “Mac” way of doing things. Don’t get me wrong, OS X hits the nail on the head with its BSD roots and “userland” data placement for said apps.

    But the installation ceases to be simple once I am forced to do an Alias for the dock. Surely there is a trigger that developers can use to prompt people to create this automatically? Seems really dumb to me, considering I’d want things to be easier on the Mac.

    On Linux systems such as those using DPKG, yes, there is something awesome about being able to update, install and remove 500 apps at once or more if you so choose. GUI apps such as Ubuntu’s Software Center make this process VERY SEXY like we might find on the iPhone’s own App Store.

    But the reason why windows installers are so popular is they are brain dead simple to use. Yes, by the fifth next, you’re ready to start punching kittens in frustration…but it isn’t difficult though and that is what rules the roost I think.

    On the flip side, DMG’s have the opportunity to put an attractive face on software installs. All that is lacking is the Alias tie-in. Trust me on this, if I had a dollar for how many people are new to Mac and find it plain stupid that they have to go through the tedius process of creating Alias’, I’d be rich.

    If this has change recently, then I will gracefully put on my flame retardant jumpsuit and take my butt kicking. But we have all three platforms in the house, last I checked, the alias BS was still a problem. While simple for those in the know, it’s still not automatic.

  • No, I wasn’t drunk while typing this….just not proof reading apparently. Meant:

    “If this has changed recently,”

  • LOL!  Great article.  I myself don’t mind the ways of the Windows installers.  You’re absolutely right though.  The majority of end users who are not actively involved in technology don’t like the way Windows handles installations.  They’d rather have an easy 1, 2, 3 set-up.  Gotta love OS X for that!

  • I actually disagree with this Jeff. Where it keeps you prompting and running as admin is a good thing.
    Yes it is not for us where we are tech savvy it does warn the users that they maybe running malicious code on their achines and it does give them a chance to reject so called installs.

  • My problem with Windows has never been the installer, it has been the uninstaller.  I am never really sure that apps are totally gone when I uninstall.  Stupid apps on Windows always seem leave behind all kinds of little pieces that I have to manually get rid off.  With OS X, it’s click, drag to trash and it’s done.  Of course, preferences are still left behind, but that’s exactly the way I want it.  Self-contained apps are the future.  As far as the dock issue goes, I rarely ever use the thing–that’s what Spotlight is for.


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