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Convert EXE to MSIX: MSIX Packaging Done Right

How to convert EXE to MSIX

MSIX is the latest packaging format from Microsoft. It brings modern packaging experience to Windows apps and makes the packaging process easier and more streamlined. Use this guide if you want to convert any Win32 application to MSIX.

Why use PACE Suite to convert EXE to MSIX?

PACE Suite offers a number of unique features that make MSIX packaging easier, faster, and more accessible for anyone who is new to packaging:
  • Review and modify package logo, application root folder at any time.
  • Manage MSIX apps and their appearance settings at any time.
  • Generate a self-signed certificate to sign the package/bundle.
  • Generate the ‘modification’ package at any time, from the existing project.
  • Easily manage supported platforms and versions directly in the interface. No knowledge of editing manifest files required!
  • Generate separate packages for all of the specified processor architectures at once.
  • Combine the generated packages to bundle, which also could be signed automatically. No need to open the command line!
  • Generate the AppInstaller file in one click for the non-Store distribution and auto-update of your app
  • Leverage lots of validation rules that allow detect and fix issues before package creation and deployment.
MSIX is a great modern packaging format, and these PACE Suite features just compliment its advantages.

Convert EXE to MSIX

Repackage your source installation (EXE, MSI, VBS, CMD, etc.) into MSIX package using MSI Generator (a part of PACE Suite).To try everything from this guide, download a free PACE Suite trial. Launch MSI Generator and click Capture installation.

convert exe to msix

Review the issues, which were detected on your system, and try to resolve them by closing the non-essential applications and stopping services. Thereafter, click Next >.

review issues

Select the Monitoring method for the quicker capturing (or use the Snapshotting one if you need to continue capturing after the system restart) and click Next >.

select monitoring

Here you can review and update package name, disable needless exclusion filters and scanning areas. Click Next > to start the capturing.

review msix package name

Click Select and run… to choose source installation for repackaging.

choose source installation

Select the installer file (e.g. Firefox Setup.exe) and click Open.

select exe to convert to msix

Follow the installation dialogs of the launched source installation to complete it. Now you can make any changes to the file system and registry, which you want to capture and include to the package. For instance, you can create new or copy-paste existing files, import REG file to the system registry, changes permission settings, or launch the installed application in order to capture the necessary application configurations, like disabling updates and so on. Finaly, to complete the capturing, select I have finished the installation and click Next >.

complete capturing

Wait a little, while the capturing process is finishing, filtering captured data and creating the project.

finishing convert exe to msix

Leave selected the Customize project in editor and Copy all captured files to the project folder now options are selected and click Finish..

copy all captured files

The following dialog displays captured files, which could not be copied to the project folder because they do not exist anymore or locked by the system or by an application. Try to resolve these issues and then click Retry. Click Finish to skip copying the missing and locked files and mark them as Excluded resources.

captured files, which could not be copied

Once the project is opened in the project editor, review the captured resources at the Files, Registry, System resources, Permissions, and Shortcuts and FTAs tabs and exclude unnecessary ones from the project. Unnecessary resources are files, registry entries, which are usually created or modified in the result of operating system work, and such resources could not be a part of your captured application. Unfortunately, there is no universal rule to discover which of captured files or registry entries should be excluded, so exclude only those ones, which almost 100% do not refer to your captured application (e.g. NOD32 antivirus files couldn’t be a part of Firefox application). In order to review and exclude unnecessary files or folders, go to the Files tab, and select Exclude from the context menu of an item, which is located in the left ‘Files Included’ pane.

exclude files from msix

In order to review and exclude unnecessary registry keys or values, go to the Registry tab, and select Exclude from the context menu of an item, which is located in the left ‘Registry Included’ pane.

exclude registry from msix

In order to review and exclude unnecessary MSIX apps (shortcuts), go to the Shortcuts\Apps -> UWP tab and uncheck the checkbox, located before the app name in the list, for those apps, which you want to exclude. Using the details pane, you can update the app display name, logos and so on.

edit appx

Finaly, to build MSIX package from the project, navigate to the Package -> UWP tab, choose MSIX in the package folder drop-down menu, review and update (if necessary) Capabilities, Dependencies, Identity information, choose the digital signing option (please refer to Section 3.8.7 of our Getting Started Guide) and click Build UWP. Find description of the MSIX settings below in the table.

create msix

Display Properties

Display name. A friendly name of the package that can be displayed to users.
Publisher display name. A friendly name for the publisher of the package that can be displayed to users.
Description. A friendly description that can be displayed to users.
Logo (50×50). A logo image of the package that can be displayed to users.

MSIX settings

Here are the highlights of what you can do with MSIX in PACE Suite:
  • Create main and modification packages
  • Declare the app capabilities
  • Select the package supported platforms
  • Generate packages for all of the specified processor architectures at once
  • Combine the generated packages into the bundle
  • Manage the signature settings for packages and bundle
  • Generate the AppInstaller file for the non-Store distribution and auto-update of your app

Package Identity

Name. Describes the contents of the package.
Version. The version number of the package.
Publisher. Describes the publisher information. The Publisher attribute must match the publisher subject information of the certificate used to sign a package.

Click Go to…, located next to the Project folder field, to open the package containing folder in Windows Explorer.

find msix

That is all you need to do to convert EXE to MSIX package using PACE Suite. Download a free PACE Suite trial now to try creating MSIX packages yourself and contact our support in case you have any questions.