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Whenever I install a new application, I always archive the installer. This is for a number of reasons, including

  • I like knowing I can update and go back to any version I prefer
  • On occasion, I've tinkered with a script and had to re-install it
  • I've been known to enjoy applications that lose their best features or capabilities (too often to DMCA threats)
  • I keep getting fed up with x64 and going back to x86, only to give the 64-bit environment another chance a few months later
  • Regular clean installs restore speed and force me to maintain storage discipline — C:/ for system files and applications; dedicated external drives for video, installation files, and other data

Anyway, my problem is this: more and more installers are just dummy files that download real installers to hidden temp folders. I'm guessing the temp files are usually erased immediately after installation, because I'm having a hard time tracking them down.

Here are my questions:

  • What are the most common locations for the temporary folders where the real installer files are being downloaded?
  • In case some of these downloaders write to uncommon locations, what utilities can I use to keep track of the activity of these pseudo-installers?

I appreciate that it can be convenient to set up a single link that always points to the most recent version; that aggregators sometimes have file size restrictions that necessitate further downloading; and that some apps that have complex dependencies that are best met by downloading them as a group. None of these are recent developments, and in each case I would still like to know where the real, local installer file is. ProcessExplorer generates too much information for me to use it effectively as a filter.

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Since users have become too stupid to select the correct variant of the installer themselves and require software to do it for them. Others want users to not nstall ancient versions and ask support why there are bugs that have been fixed long ago. That part of your question is also subjective, you should edit (Why is this?) or remove your first question. Also, don't cross-post. It's off topic for SO AFAICT. – Daniel Beck Sep 2 '11 at 5:22
The OP also posted this question on Stack Overflow, here. The SO version of the question has been closed as off-topic. – Pops Sep 2 '11 at 6:44
As one of the authors of such installers, let me point out a few things: 1, those "real installer files" may not be sufficient by themselves. 2, how are you going to deal with incremental updates? The 1.0-to-1.1-update.EXE often is smaller because it only includes changed files. 3, most of our updates are mandatory anyway because our servers don't support the last 23 versions of our client software. – MSalters Sep 8 '11 at 13:57

At the end of the day, it depends on the particular installer. Most installers will go to your user folder, Local Settings, and Temp (on Windows XP, I think this is under AppData in Windows 7). The folder name will usually be some random string of characters (depending on the installer it uses), so you might have to do some digging (or alternatively, clear your temporary files before running the installer).

Another option involves using Process Explorer, and running the installer. When your real installer finally launches, use Process Explorer to find the executable's path (just find the process, right click it, and it will show up when you click Properties).

Lastly, you could also use a monitoring tool, like Revo Uninstaller to keep track of the registry/file changes made to your computer pre and post installation.

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