I'm using windows installer for a client's app, and they are complaining that sometimes multiple instances of an app appear on the computers they are using for testing. This problem has gone away since I hid the option install for "just me" and "everybody", and just set it to install for everybody. New versions are downloaded and installed about once a week and over a period the multiple versions have appeared, even though each installer supposedly removes older versions.

Is there something wrong with this? Am I likely to run into problems down the line?

Why would someone want to install for "Just me" anyway?


"Just for me" should mean that the application installs into a user directory and only creates shortcuts for the current user. This could be useful e.g. when the user does not have admin rights (and therefore can't write into %PROGRAMFILES%, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, and other interesting places).

If you force "install for everybody", you may be limiting the application, as only users with admin rights will be able to install it.

To clarify: if you specify "for everybody", it's a hint for the installer to install the program into global locations (e.g. %PROGRAMFILES% or HKLM, as opposed to %APPDATA% and HKCU). If you're the one creating the installer, of course you have ways to subvert this convention, but in general this is the case.

  • Good point about it being restricted to admin rights if it's true – Shahin Dec 8 '08 at 14:30
  • @Shahin: it's more of a hint from the user to the installer: "I don't have admin rights, don't bother trying to write to %SYSTEM32%" – Piskvor left the building Aug 26 '10 at 20:01

I believe it stems from home users that may have a "family PC". Kids don't want "Family Tree Maker" and parents don't want "Spongebob Squarepants - the Video Game" on their respective start menus.


Well, I think the answer depends on how the application you're installing has been developed.

  • Does it correctly place all user-created data into appropriate folders under a user's profile, or is it designed to run universally (and store user-created data in a common folder structure such as all users)?
  • Does it rely on registry keys in a user's profile (HKCU) or does it rely on a common registry (e.g. HKLM).
  • Does it require admistrative permissions to execute? (might be a good reason for the "Just for me" option, if non-admins shouldn't see the application).
  • These are just a couple of questions worth answering.

    In general, will it be a problem if "Just for me" is disabled?

    Depending on the answers to the other questions (assuming the application will run fine for any user) I'd think it's probably safe, but it also depends which operating system you're installing on too.

    Some of the more recent OSes such as Vista frown on certain designs (such as requiring UAC for certain functionality) or not allowing modifications to HKLM in the registry. IN other words, you'd better check the application will run nicely for all users (including non-administrators).

    • 1
      Note: this was the accepted answer on Stack Overflow before being migrated. – Gnoupi Feb 12 '10 at 9:37

    In this case all the shortcuts will be created in user's start menu/desktop as opposed to common users start menu/desktop. Also, user might choose the folder under her profile to install the app and she won't need admin rights to do that.


    I agree it's a confusing option. Others have pointed out the reason it's there, but I usually just remove it and force "for everyone". I've never had a customer complain about that.


    Sometimes the others users don't use the programs you install. You don't want shortcuts to be placed on the desktops of the other users or the program to be started when the others users logs in.


    This concept seems to make a bit more sense on Mac OS X, where you can keep plug-ins, fonts, applications etc all separate for each user.

    So I for example may choose "just me" for a bit of software that adds some advanced features, whereas I would not want other users of the machine seeing it.

    • This can be done (well, except fonts, afaik) in Windows, too... it's just not very well supported by many installers/apps :-(. – SamB Dec 10 '10 at 22:44

    Depending on the program you should be able install if using "just for me" in each users account without much more space being used. In theory all customizations should then be stored in your individual "Profile", either in the registry or some personal area.

    Several effects come to mind.

    • A person who does not have their registry polluted with installation stuff tghey don't need, generally runs faster.
    • People who are using different applications which may require different system settings ( for example the default "find.exe" in WIndows vs cygwins ) don't step on each others toes.
    • People who require different settings on their applications don't step on each others toes.

    Note: "Different" people here can actually be the same person wearing different hats. For example, building vs developing vs testing.

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