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I am looking for a utility / method to install 3rd part applications, such has embedded compilers, into its own isolated environment, including registry. On Mac OS X I use homebrew to achieve this. Being a Mac convert I realize that the two OS are dramatically different, however seeing how useful this would be I hoped that it is achievable in Windows as well. I am on the verge of a new computer, so I will have a fresh clean install that I would like to take advantage.

Current Thoughts
I have looked into two solutions so far:

  • buildout: which is predominantly used to manage Python installations, doesn't apply in general.

  • Sandboxie: which is targeted to use as a malware deterrent, but it disallows me to install two versions of the same application. So I need it to be an isolated environment as well as a work-environment to switch between.

I gave Cameyo a shot and would like to report that it does work pretty well for normal applications. I tried it out on ST Visual Develop and Ride 7 (STM8 compatible IDEs) and they opened and ran well. I packaged them on Visa 32bit and ran them on Win 7 64bit with no trouble at all. However, the command line tools such as the compilers did not play so well. I suspect because the CLI(command line interface) tools are embedded in the virtual exe, so far, I am unable to point to their location within the IDE. Without the IDE being able to call the compilers, they are about useless.

I will continue to research this and report any changes.

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+1 Feel free to remove your comment; it's added to the question. Oh, and welcome to Super User! :) – Tom Wijsman Aug 26 '11 at 21:31
up vote 8 down vote accepted

You could virtualize the applications themselves with a program such as ThinApp (formerly Thinstall). It wraps the executable in a VM so that all file and registry access is done to a virtual file-system and registry that is stored in a folder. Of course it requires a little bit of work to analyze and wrap each program, but once that’s done, you can then deploy them to the clients as you would any other program.

Similarly, you could portableize the programs, but that is not as secure as virtualizing them.

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+1 This looks awesome. I had not thought about it in this way. – Adam Lewis Aug 28 '11 at 5:32
Holly crow... $6k for the basic package... Seeing that I am afraid to try it and like it. Do you know of an opensource alternative? – Adam Lewis Aug 28 '11 at 5:39
Meant to say Holy. Anyway, I did some digging and found cameyo. It looks promising and free. I will give this a try. Thanks again. – Adam Lewis Aug 28 '11 at 15:31
No problem. I’m sure you can download a trial of ThinApp to see if it suits your needs (overall, it would probably be cheaper to get a single copy to use than licensing each guest OS). And thanks for the tip about Cameyo. – Synetech Aug 29 '11 at 1:10

If you have the OS install disc, you could look into using a virtual machine like VirtualBox.

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The issue would be licensing each and every VM would be very costly. – Adam Lewis Aug 26 '11 at 21:29
@Adam: Touche. I'll have to do some more research to give you something else. – chandsie Aug 26 '11 at 21:32
@Adam, if you don't need windows 7 and just need a windows-like environment, look at ReactOS for the virtual machines - it is fully binary compatible with Windows without the need for licensing. – MaQleod Aug 26 '11 at 22:54
@MaQleod: I look forward to reviewing the ReactOS. Long term it would still be an issue to have a separate VM just to have an isolated environment. Thanks for the input! – Adam Lewis Aug 28 '11 at 5:29

No one has mentioned it so I will: Windows 7 includes Virtual PC & Windows XP Mode in all editions as a free download from Microsoft (found here). You can run pretty much any OS in VPC and, to get you started, Microsoft includes XP to get you started. Best of all, no additional license required.

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I do plan on using XP mode on my next Win 7 install, however this still doesn't solve the issue of an isolated environment to install things to. – Adam Lewis Aug 30 '11 at 2:07

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