We have some old patches that we want to get the files from but don't wish to spend the time installing them to a machine.

Can anyone advise a way to extract files from an MSI installation package?

  • Can you provide more information on what exact MSI installation package you want to extract, your OS details etc.
    – Firee
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 13:03
  • Huh, I thought you could just rename it to a .zip extension and extract directly?
    – Arctiic
    Commented Jul 1, 2022 at 22:25

16 Answers 16


First, to access a command prompt, do this:

  1. Click the Start button.

  2. Click All Programs.

  3. Go into Accessories.

  4. Left-click on Command Prompt.

Once you have your command prompt, input the following:

msiexec /a drive:\filepath\to\MSI\file /qb TARGETDIR=drive:\filepath\to\target\folder

using the desired locations to fill the above mentioned filepaths. Example:

msiexec /a c:\testfile.msi /qb TARGETDIR=c:\temp\test
  • 7
    another quick Google turned up this: legroom.net/software/uniextract I would prefer to use built-ins but it looks like an acceptable utility.
    – neoice
    Commented Feb 14, 2009 at 13:36
  • 7
    As far as I understand (from msiexec /?), this command will actually install the program to that location; I don't think this is what the original requestor had in mind.
    – user6738
    Commented Aug 9, 2010 at 7:07
  • 10
    @user6738 I've tested this and it does not install the software. The software is neither found in the appwiz nor can it be uninstalled via the msi and reports that it is not installed. It truly extracts the files from my test. Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 15:43
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    I ran this on a locked-down Win8.1 computer (work laptop) and it should be noted that Admin rights are NOT needed to extract .msi files.
    – MattDMo
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 17:24
  • 10
    Great answer! I put this into a extractMSI.cmd file: msiexec /a %1 /qb TARGETDIR="%~d1%~p1%~n1" || pause and added it to the msi-file's "Open with..." options Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 11:28

Use 7Zip.
It will unpack MSI , CAB, some EXE, and a lot more packages for you .There is no need for admin privileges to run this either.


And its open source, so no nagging messages begging you to buy the stuff

  • 23
    and after trying it, msiexec does a better job (preserving the directories, naming files correctly, etc.) Commented May 23, 2012 at 15:44
  • This didn't seem to work for me on win7 x64 with 32-bit 7-Zip. Is there a particular way (not drag-drop) you have to tell it to open the file?
    – ebyrob
    Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 14:47
  • There should be an option of 7zip in the context menu when you right click the file - it will give you the option to extract the files
    – Shekhar
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 19:48
  • 8
    I see lots of stuff with an exclamation sign in front instead of actual files. I guess either something has changed or I have an odd msi file. I tried 7-Zip 9.20.
    – mlt
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 23:08
  • 1
    msiexec will properly modify the msi file's media table to use the extracted files and not the internal cabs. Always prefer using the admin install feature rather than this hacky unzipping approach. See my post below for more details. Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 15:10

There is also lessmsi which is completely free and open source.

There are no advertisements or nagging messages, it will preserve directory structure and file names correctly, has a sophisticated command line interface, as well as a graphical user interface that allows browsing through the files as well as viewing internal MSI tables and other MSI attributes.

  • 8
    Thanks! This one helped me to extract from an MSI which wouldn't extract with the msiexec command saying "admin install is not supported" for <installation package name>
    – axk
    Commented Jan 17, 2011 at 17:39
  • 1
    this one helped.. msiexec didnt extract for some reason.. Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 10:02
  • It does not work in command-line mode, throwing Error: System.FormatException: Index (zero based) must be greater than or equal to zero and less than the size of the argument list. Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 14:26
  • @AndrewKravchuk Sorry to hear that. Please create an issue at github.com/activescott/lessmsi/issues with steps to reproduce the error you encountered and I'll take a look. Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 5:34
  • This works, unlike 7-zip. Commented Jun 11 at 9:23

There is built-in MSI support for file extraction (admin install)

MSI or Windows Installer has built-in support for this - the extraction of files from an MSI file. This is called an administrative installation. It is basically intended as a way to create a network installation point from which the install can be run on many target computers. This ensures that the source files are always available for any repair operations.

Note that running an admin install versus using a zip tool to extract the files is very different! The latter will not adjust the media layout of the media table so that the package is set to use external source files - which is the correct way. Always prefer to run the actual admin install over any hacky zip extractions. As to compression, there are actually three different compression algorithms used for the cab files inside the MSI file format: MSZip, LZX, and Storing (uncompressed). All of these are handled correctly by doing an admin install.

Admin-installs have many uses

It is recommended to read more about admin-installs since it is a useful concept, and I have written a post on stackoverflow: What is the purpose of administrative installation initiated using msiexec /a?.

In essence the admin install is important for:

  • Extracting and inspecting the installer files
  • Deployment via systems management software for example SCCM (avoids huge, cached MSI files in C:\Windows\Installer since files are extracted from internal cabs)
  • Corporate application repackaging
  • Repair, modify and self-repair operations
  • Patching & upgrades
  • MSI advertisement (the "run from source" feature)
  • A number of other smaller details

Please read the stackoverflow post linked above for more details. It is quite an important concept for system administrators, application packagers, setup developers, release managers, and even the average user to see what they are installing etc...

Admin-install, practical how-to

You can perform an admin-install in a few different ways depending on how the installer is delivered. Essentially it is either delivered as an MSI file or wrapped in an setup.exe file.

Run these commands from an elevated command prompt, and follow the instructions in the GUI for the interactive command lines:

  • MSI files:

    msiexec /a File.msi

    that's to run with GUI, you can do it silently too:

    msiexec /a File.msi TARGETDIR=C:\MyInstallPoint /qn
  • setup.exe files:

    setup.exe /a

A setup.exe file can also be a legacy style setup (non-MSI) or the dreaded Installscript MSI file type - a well known buggy Installshield project type with hybrid non-standards-compliant MSI format. It is essentially an MSI with a custom, more advanced GUI, but it is also full of bugs.

For legacy setup.exe files the /a will do nothing, but you can try the /extract_all:[path] switch as explained in this pdf. It is a good reference for silent installation and other things as well. Another resource is this list of Installshield setup.exe command line parameters.

MSI patch files (*.MSP) can be applied to an admin image to properly extract its files. 7Zip will also be able to extract the files, but they will not be properly formatted.

Finally, if no other way works, you can get hold of extracted setup files by cleaning out the temp folder on your system, launch the setup.exe interactively and then wait for the first dialog to show up. In most cases the installer will have extracted a bunch of files to a temp folder. Sometimes the files are plain, other times in CAB format, but Winzip, 7Zip or even Universal Extractor (haven't tested this product) - may be able to open these.

  • Also see this answer: superuser.com/questions/307678/… Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 21:32
  • The same post on stackoverflow: stackoverflow.com/a/24987512/129130 (I should delete one, but both are upvoted and they were merged recently). Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 21:33
  • Admin installs are useful if the msi doesn't have some crap/bugged install scripts that no longer work on a modern system, for example. If it tries to run those, the admin install will fail as well. And if you somehow need the files inside anyhow... the 'hack' approach like lessmsi is better. Commented Jun 11 at 9:26

I would recommend UniExtract for making neoice's solution even easier. It does the same thing, just is more automated and allows several methods for extracting MSI files, not just an administrative install (as his solution is using).

UniExtract can also handle exe's packaged with WISE or InstallShield, as well as a variety of other compressed formats. Oh, and its free.

Universal Extractor is a program do to exactly what it says: extract files from any type of archive, whether it's a simple zip file, an installation program, or even a Windows Installer (.msi) package.


If you add these registry keys, you will have an option "Extract here" when you will right click on a MSI file :

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

@="Extract here"

@="msiexec.exe /a \"%1\" TARGETDIR=\"%1_extracted\" /qb"

Save the content in a notepad file, rename the extension ".txt" to ".reg" and double-click on the file to add the keys in your registry


If you install Total Commander, there is a plugin to open and extract MSI files.

  • Right. But unfortunately only for 32-bit TC
    – Timores
    Commented Nov 5, 2013 at 9:42

you can use Orca this app is a part of Platform SDK, but you can also download it from here http://astebner.sts.winisp.net/Tools/Orca.zip

  • 3
    Orca is better for extracting meta-data like file, folder, and registry tables. It’s generally not very useful for extracting the actual files (completely useless if the files are not stored in the binary table).
    – Synetech
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 19:53

lessmsi is really the best choice here, as it offers you to choose exactly what files to extract and where they should go. In addition it can be easily installed using the apt-get framework for windows, called Choclatey. The above lessmsi website has moved and it can also be found/downloaded at GitHub. In addition you can find many other tools and MSI related information HERE. :(Sorry, I can't post more than 2 links!)


You can also try Heath Stewart's MSI Extractor.


Just download Universal Extractor. It extracts all types of files, including .exe,.msi,.rar,.zip,.kgb and more.


Try MSITOOLS.EXE hosted on InstallSite for a GUI extractor.


Installshield .exe setups (as you call them) come in many flavors, and it is generally possible to extract files from them.

An Installshield setup.exe can contain old, legacy non-msi installers or new msi installers.

If the setup.exe is wrapping an MSI setup, you can specify setup.exe /a and the MSI's admin install will run, allowing you to specify and output location for the files.

If the setup.exe is a legacy Installshield setup, it may or may not support extracting files via the /extract_all:[path] switch. Please see here (updated July 2011, Acresso link was no longer valid, updated again February 2014 - pointing to itninja now).

Also note that another way to get hold of these files is to clean out the temp folder on your system, launch the setup.exe interactively and then wait for the first dialog to show up. In most cases the installer will have extracted a bunch of files to a temp folder. Sometimes the files are plain, other times in CAB format, but Winzip, 7Zip or even Universal Extractor (haven't tested this product) - may be able to open these.

  • My requirements for doing this have passed now - but I will try what you suggest at some point to see if it would have worked. Thanks for responding.
    – Martin
    Commented Jul 1, 2009 at 9:54

Add PeaZip to the list. Worked like a champ

  • 1
    Please read How do I recommend software for some tips as to how you should go about recommending software. At the very least you should provide more than just a link, for example some additional information about the software itself, for example how it can be used to solve the problem in the question.
    – DavidPostill
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 22:01
  • PeaZip uses 7-zip under the hood Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 13:41

If you want to extract an MSI file, you can call the MsiInstallProductW function. I wrote an implementation in Go, just a single file 50 lines.

It is smaller than LessMsi, and its only a single Exe. Example usage:

msi-extract test.msi
  • Dead github link
    – not2qubit
    Commented Apr 12 at 12:57

You can use Total Commander https://www.ghisler.com/ with plugin Total Observer https://wincmd.ru/plugring/totalobserver.html Or 7zip Or Far with Multiarc Or Universal Unpacker

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