6 best software package installers for Windows [2021 Guide]

Matthew Adams
by Matthew Adams
Windows & Software Expert
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Software either comes with an installer (setup wizard) or has a compressed Zip file. Most developers and programmers probably prefer to deliver their programs with an installer instead of just bundling them into a Zip or self-extracting archive.

So if you need to set up an installer for your latest software package, you’ll need a Windows installer application to parcel it together. There are a variety of Windows installer software packages, and these are some of the best ones compatible with Windows 10.

What are the best software package installers for Windows 10?

Actual Installer (recommended)

Actual Installer is a great tool for all types of software that needs to be wrapped up for deploying on different PCs. You must know from the start that Actual Installer works on Windows programs. Let’s see what this tool has to give:

  • Basic installation tools set
  • Support for x32-bit and x64-bit Windows applications
  • Multilingual installations
  • System Requirements check
  • Registry modifications
  • File associations
  • Font registrations
  • ActiveX components

This tool comes in a trial version so you can test it and the paid version with different feature packages.

Actual Installer

Actual Installer

Actual Installer works on Windows programs and offers support for x32-bit and x64-bit applications.

Check priceVisit website

InstallAware

InstallAware is one of the best alternatives to InstallShield. This Windows installer software has a much more extensive GUI than Inno Setup, drag-and-drop scripting commands, and plenty of visual wizards to guide novice programmers.

InstallAware also has five alternative versions that are Express, Developer, Studio and Studio Developer. One is a freeware version that has Visual Studio Integration, which you can add to Windows 10 by clicking the Download Now button on this page.

InstallAware makes the most of some of the latest technologies that elevate it above other Windows installer software. For example, it boasts InstantInstall Technology that enables users to set up the fastest installers. It has WebAware Installation Technology that reduces installer file sizes.

InstallAware also offers Hybird Installation Technology so that you can switch between Native Code setup engines and Windows Installer at runtime.

And it’s the first installer package to support the full Redstone ecosystem so that you can pin your apps to the Windows 10 Start menu and taskbar alongside the live tiles.

Download InstallAware


InstallShield

InstallShield is the industry standard Windows installer software that many of the larger development houses use. It comes with an Express, Professional and Premier version for MSI, EXE, UWP (Universal Windows Platform) and WSA installations.

The most basic InstallShield 2016 Express is pretty expensive, but it includes the most extensive set of options to build your installer with.

The software gives users an intuitive development UI to set up EXE and MSI installers as well as UWP and WSA packages. It enables you to virtualize applications with minimal scripting required.

It has comprehensive support for Windows 7, 8, and 10 and enables users to create installations for programs with Microsoft Visual Studio.

The latest edition of InstallShield enables you to set up custom Windows 10 Start screen tiles for your installers.

You can quickly scan your installer to check its compatibility with UWP and Windows Server App Packages. Furthermore, you can also create WSA and UWP app packages from existing InstallShield projects.


Inno Setup

Inno Setup is a great budget alternative to InstallShield which is one of the best established Windows installer programs.

This is a syntax highlighting script editor with a more limited GUI that you can script your installers with. With this you can set up customizable setup files, single EXE for Web distribution, INI entries, registry entries and Start menu icons.

Inno Setup has extensive file compression support. It has support for encrypted installs and disk spanning. Furthermore, you can set up digitally signed installs and uninstalls with the software. The software is also compatible with all Windows platforms back to Win 2000.

Download Inno Setup


Nullsoft Installer System (NSIS)

Nullsoft Installer System is one of the best budget Windows installer software packages. This software doesn’t have a GUI, but is instead a compiler for NSIS installer scripts. So you’ll need to set up the script with an alternative editor.

However,  you can set up some advanced installers with NSIS. It also has minimal system requirements compared with the other Windows installer programs.

The software boasts advanced compression methods. Users can choose between the Zlib, BZip2 and LZMA compression methods. LZMA is one of the most effective compression methods, and there’s no requirement for self-extracting archive models.

Another good thing about NSIS is its plug-in system. You can can extend NSIS with a number of C, C++ or Delphi plug-ins. Then you can enhance the installer’s UI with the plug-ins. Below is the WINAMP installer set up with NSIS.

Download Nullsoft Installer System


WiX Toolset

WiX is another Windows installer tool without a GUI. It’s a command-line utility that compiles source code to create EXE and MSI setup and installation packages.

This is not really software for novice developers, but there are extensive tutorials on its website. You can add it to Windows 10 from the WiX website.

WiX has an extensive toolset for developers to set up installers with. It enables developers to create setup bundles that install numerous runtime prerequisites. In addition, developers can also add SQL databases or generate IIS websites with the WiX compiler extensions.


Those are the best installer software packages for Windows 10. Those developers can set up some great installers for end-users to install programs with.

If you have better suggestions or additions don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section below.

FAQ: Read more about software package installers

  • How can I make my own installer?

We have created a special list with the best software installers that you can use to create your own installer.

  • How can I remove an installer?

Check out our list with the best software uninstallers for Windows 10.

  • How can I install software for free?

We have an excellent list with the best free software for Windows 10.


Editor's Note: This article was originally published in October 2016 and was revamped and updated in December 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

  • IMO WiX does not belong in a list of “best” anything. It’s absolutely horrible: temperamental, counterintuitive, and poorly documented for anything beyond the simplest of installations.

  • No mention of Advanced Installer? I’ve tried all the ones you mention here and ended up choosing Advanced Installer based on overall ease-of-use and feature set. So far (3 years) I couldn’t be more pleased with it.