I've developed some nice software, and now all I need is an installer for it.

The things I need in it are in the following:

  • Must be free (not free trial)
  • No or minimal branding
  • Ability to add licensing
  • Simple to use, not a huge learning curve
  • What did you use to develop the software? If it was Visual Studio, you can create your own (limited) installer.
    – rrirower
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 12:42
  • @rrirower I didn't use Visual Studio, my "software" is just a little bundle of portable software for my friends, but I need an installer for it.
    – Unixfy
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 13:40
  • Why do you need an installer at all? Could you simply use a zip file to package it all? Specially for portables, an installer is just the opposite.
    – Alejandro
    Commented May 9, 2015 at 11:44
  • If you only want to create Installers for Windows you could also use the WiX Toolset
    – Martin
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 18:17
  • Yes, I've heard about the WiX Toolset. I've also tried it, its very good, however I'd prefer (not require) a cross-platform installer. Thank you though!
    – Unixfy
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 19:52

3 Answers 3


If you would like a gratis but full fledged and easy to use installer creator you will not go far wrong with Inno Setup.

  • Mature
  • Support for every Windows release since 2006, including: Windows 10, Windows 10 on ARM, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Vista.
  • Custom installation
  • Script based so can be included in a make process, (.iss files).
  • Unicode Support
  • Custom Installer Icons & Splash Screens
  • Multistage Installs
  • Multi-directory installs
  • Multiple Language support
  • Add to start menu
  • Help/Manuals install
  • Prompted Installs with Advanced Settings

There is also a IDE/GUI available to get you started.

Setup Wizard IDE

  • Yeah, I know what Inno Setup is. It's a really good product that I've used before. I'll try it again soon, but it's been constantly feeding me errors for no apparent reason.
    – Unixfy
    Commented May 9, 2015 at 12:29
  • @user4673279 - it would help to know what the errors were but that is more a question for stackoverflow or the mailing list. When I have had a problem that wasn't clear from the error message I found RTFM and/or starting a new simple project, testing & then adding features till it broke normally isolated the problem quickly. Commented May 9, 2015 at 12:45
  • @SteveBarnes Yes I know that, I'll post it on Stackoverflow soon. But my issue is saying "Cannot compile file: File in use". Booting in safemode doesn't fix this either, so...
    – Unixfy
    Commented May 10, 2015 at 13:13
  • I would suggest using process explorer to make sure the referenced file isn't in use plus turn off any antiviral software. Commented May 10, 2015 at 17:33
  • If your app is written in Visual Studio there is an Inno Setup extension that allows you to write the setup directly in IDE without any editor.
    – Slappy
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 18:45

If you're going for maximum simplicity and ease of use, I might recommend just using WinRar to create what is known as a "Self-Extracting Archive" (SFX). This is basically a self-contained installer that will extract a bunch of files for you to a directory.

To do this, simply add the files you want to extract to a new archive and tick the "Create SFX archive" option.

You can then go in the "Advanced -> SFX Options..." menu, where you can very easily setup advanced features, like:

  • Adding a custom icon and initial info text
  • Adding a license agreement text
  • Setup custom actions to be performed before and/or after installation
  • Select the default path to which to extract the files, and set other options, like silent overwrite or fully silent installation if required

It's a very simple approach, and quite self-explanatory, you probably won't even need a tutorial to make it work. One hint that is not clear from the menu: you can use HTML in your info/license text if you want, and it will display correctly formatted.

  • 1
    This sounds very interesting. Didn't even know something easy like this exists. Do you know if this SFX-Function is also availably for free archive managers, such as 7-Zip?
    – Alex
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 8:30
  • 1
    There is, but it's very limited, it will only present the user with an option to chose the extraction path, but no infotext, license, etc. - On the other end, note that even SFX archives created with a "trial" version of WinRar will have full and unlimited functionality (and as is well known WinRar never really "expires", besides a nag screen when you start it up)
    – Master_T
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 9:00

WinRAR is commercial: "You can try WinRAR before buy, its trial version is available".

A similar (self-extracting packer) free-to-use tool is already installed with every Windows, but quite unknown, because not featured:


(just type it in your command line)

Here are some links with more info:


How To Make An Installer With IExpress


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