How to make an installer

How to make an installer with NSIS

Code updated to work on Windows 10 properly.

Many people may have a finished product but lacking an installer for the product. There are lots of installer creating software, but some of them are very expensive. NSIS is a free installer scripting system from Nullsoft. I used to use it in my products. In this blog I present my example script that gets beginners started.

At first NSIS may seem complicated, but fortunately it has many macros, that make creating an installer an easy task. The picture below shows one page of the built example script presented at the end of this blog post.


Now, let’s get on with NSIS.

An NSIS installer has one ore more pages. The pages are created with macros in the script (in our example).

Furthermore, every script is build up with sections. Each section except the uninstaller section is shown in the ”Choose Components” page as shown in the picture above.

In our example script we are using the modern user interface, MUI in short. First there’s defined some constants, that make life easier later in the script and make the script easily re-usable. The example script installs for all users. The line

SetShellVarContext all

means all the users. And in the registry key registration HKLM is related to all users.

Enough, let’s see the commented example script (name it as myscript.nsi or something):

; We are using the Modern User Interface
!include "MUI2.nsh"

; Put you own information here
!define MUI_PRODUCT "Your Product"
!define MUI_VERSION "1.00"
!define MUI_PUBLISHER "Your Company"

; The name of the installer

; The filename of the installer
OutFile "${MUI_PRODUCT} installer.exe"

RequestExecutionLevel admin

; The directory where the files will be installed
; The installer let's the user change this

; Registry key for the install dir
InstallDirRegKey HKLM "Software${MUI_PRODUCT}" ""

;Interface Settings

; Installer pages
!insertmacro MUI_PAGE_WELCOME

; The path on line below is relative to nsi-file you have created
!insertmacro MUI_PAGE_LICENSE "docLicense.rtf"
!define MUI_FINISHPAGE_RUN_FUNCTION LaunchApplication
!insertmacro MUI_PAGE_FINISH

; Uninstaller pages
!insertmacro MUI_UNPAGE_FINISH

; Language 
!insertmacro MUI_LANGUAGE "English"
Section "${MUI_PRODUCT} (required)" SecProduct

  ; Read only section
  ; This section can't be unchecked from the interface
  SectionIn RO
  SetOutPath "$INSTDIR" ; files will be installed here

  ; Recursively add all the files from "publish" directory
  ; The path of the "publish" is relative to the path
  ; of the nsi-file you have created
  File /r "publish*.*"
  ; The following creates the uninstaller
  WriteUninstaller "$INSTDIRUninstall.exe"

  ; Registry key for the installed product
  WriteRegStr HKLM "Software${MUI_PRODUCT}" "$INSTDIR" ""


Section "Start Menu Shortcuts" secStartMenuShortcuts

  ; Install for the current user
  SetShellVarContext all

  CreateDirectory "$SMPROGRAMS${MUI_PRODUCT}"
  CreateShortCut "$SMPROGRAMS${MUI_PRODUCT}Uninstall.lnk" "$INSTDIRUninstall.exe"


Section "Desktop shortcut" secDesktopShortcut

  SetShellVarContext all

  CreateShortCut "$DESKTOP${MUI_PRODUCT}.lnk" "$INSTDIR${MUI_PRODUCT}.exe"


; Descriptions for installing
  LangString DESC_SecProduct ${LANG_ENGLISH} "${MUI_PRODUCT} files and uninstaller"
  LangString DESC_SecStartMenuShortcuts ${LANG_ENGLISH} "Creates Start Menu Folder"
  LangString DESC_SecDesktopShortcut ${LANG_ENGLISH} "Creates desktop icon"

; Put the descriptions
    !insertmacro MUI_DESCRIPTION_TEXT ${SecProduct} $(DESC_SecProduct)
    !insertmacro MUI_DESCRIPTION_TEXT ${SecStartMenuShortcuts} $(DESC_SecStartMenuShortcuts)
    !insertmacro MUI_DESCRIPTION_TEXT ${SecDesktopShortcut} $(DESC_SecDesktopShortcut)
Section "Uninstall"
  SetShellVarContext all

  ; Delete files and directories
  ; An unempty directory cannot be deleted

  Delete "$INSTDIR*.*"
  Delete "$DESKTOP${MUI_PRODUCT}.lnk"

  ; If the reg key has no subkeys,
  ; it will be deleted
  DeleteRegKey /ifempty HKLM "Software${MUI_PRODUCT}"
  DeleteRegKey /ifempty HKLM "SoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionUninstall${MUI_PRODUCT}"


Function .onInstSuccess

  ; Registry key information for the Control Add/Remove Programs of Windows
  WriteRegStr HKLM "SoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionUninstall${MUI_PRODUCT}" "DisplayName" "${MUI_PRODUCT}"
  WriteRegStr HKLM "SoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionUninstall${MUI_PRODUCT}" "InstallLocation" "$INSTDIR"

  WriteRegStr HKLM "SoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionUninstall${MUI_PRODUCT}" "Publisher" "${MUI_PUBLISHER}"
  WriteRegStr HKLM "SoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionUninstall${MUI_PRODUCT}" "RegOwner" "${MUI_PUBLISHER}"
  WriteRegStr HKLM "SoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionUninstall${MUI_PRODUCT}" "DisplayVersion" "${MUI_VERSION}"
  WriteRegStr HKLM "SoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionUninstall${MUI_PRODUCT}" "UninstallString" "$INSTDIRUninstall.exe"


; Function to launch the application,
; when the installing is finished
Function LaunchApplication
  ; If needed, change the filename
  ExecShell "" "$INSTDIR${MUI_PRODUCT}.exe"

Other environment variables that often are needed, when creating an installer are $APPDATA and $DOCUMENTS for the %AppData% folder and Documents folder respectively.


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