Convert JAR Files to EXE for Easier Deployment to Windows Users

Written by Alex Marin · May 2nd, 2024

Java applications are compiled into JAR files, which require the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) to run. However, JAR files cannot be executed as standalone files.

While this is straightforward for Java developers and enthusiasts, it can pose a challenge for end users who are not familiar with Java.

Converting your JAR file into an executable (EXE) file can make your application more accessible and user-friendly for the Windows audience.

This guide will walk you through converting a JAR file to an EXE file, using various methods and tools.

Why convert JAR to EXE?

Converting JAR files to EXE enhances the user experience by simplifying the application launch process on Windows systems.

It removes the need for users to run Java commands manually or have detailed knowledge of Java. Additionally, an EXE file can be configured to include or find the required Java environment automatically, streamlining application deployment.

Prerequisites - What do you need before starting the conversion?

Before you begin, ensure you have the following:

  • The JAR file you wish to convert.
  • A JDK (Java Development Kit) installed on your system to test the JAR file.
  • Access to one of the conversion tools mentioned below.

Converting JAR files to EXE with Launch4j

Launch4j is a popular cross-platform tool that wraps JAR files in Windows executable files.

It allows you to specify a minimum Java version required to run the application. It can also be configured to use a bundled JRE or look for a specific Java installation on the system.

If the required Java version is not found, Launch4j can be configured to direct the user to download it. Therefore, whether Java needs to be installed depends on how you configure the EXE build process:

  • Bundled JRE: No external Java installation is required.
  • Specific/System JRE: Yes, Java needs to be installed.

Here are the steps to convert your JAR file to EXE with Launch4j:

1. Download and install Launch4j: Visit the Launch4j website and download the installer for Windows. Follow the installation instructions.

2. Configure your project: Open Launch4j and enter the basic details of your application, such as the output file (your desired EXE file name), the input JAR, and the icon file if you have one.

Launch4j tool GUI

3. Set JVM options: Under the "JRE" tab, specify the minimum and maximum Java version required for your application.

4. Build the executable: Click on the "Run" button. This process will generate your EXE file in the specified location.

Converting JAR files to EXE with JSmooth

JSmooth is another tool that can create Windows executables from JAR files. However, JSmooth has not been updated in a while and may only be used for legacy applications and on legacy OS versions.

JSmooth works similarly to Launch4j by checking for a Java installation on the user's system and using it to run the JAR file. It also offers the option to download and install Java automatically if it's not found, or you can bundle a JRE with the application. Thus, the necessity for Java installation depends on your configuration:

  • Bundled JRE: No need for an external Java installation.
  • Automatic Java Download or System JRE: Java may need to be installed if it's not already available on the system.

Here are the steps to convert your JAR file to EXE with JSmooth:

  1. Download and install JSmooth: Go to the JSmooth website, download the installer, and follow the setup process.
  2. Create a new project: Launch JSmooth and start a new project. Specify your project name and the location of your JAR file.
  3. Customize executable options: You can customize various settings such as executable icon, JVM version, and window type.
  4. Compile the executable: Once you've configured your settings, compile the project to create your EXE file.

Converting JAR files to EXE with WinRun4J

WinRun4J is a more technical option, offering extensive customization for creating and managing Windows services.

WinRun4J is more configurable and can be set up to include a JRE with the application or to check for and use an existing Java installation. It allows for very granular control over the Java environment used by the application.

Similar to other tools, whether a Java installation is necessary depends on your setup configuration:

  • Bundled JRE: No external Java installation is required.
  • System JRE: Java needs to be installed.

Here are the steps to convert your jar file to EXE with WinRun4J are as follows:

  1. Download WinRun4J: Visit the WinRun4J website, download the binary, and extract it.
  2. Create a configuration file: WinRun4J requires a configuration file (INI) where you specify details about the JAR file, VM arguments, and other options.
  3. Compile the EXE: Use the WinRun4J tool to compile your INI file and JAR into an EXE. This process may require command-line operations, detailed in the WinRun4J documentation.
WinRun4J tool

Do You Need Java Installed to Run the EXE?

Whether Java needs to be installed to run the resulting EXE file depends on how the executable is configured during the conversion process:

Bundled JRE: If the EXE is configured to include (bundle) a JRE, there's no need for any additional Java installation on the user's system. This approach is preferred for ease of use and compatibility but results in a larger executable file size.

System or Specific JRE: If the EXE is set up to use the system's Java installation or a specific Java version, then Java needs to be installed on the user's machine. Some tools can be configured to prompt the user to download and install Java if it's not found, easing the process.

Best practices for converting JAR to EXE

  • Test on multiple systems: Ensure your EXE runs correctly across different Windows versions and configurations by thorough testing.
  • Consider user experience: Choose a conversion approach that minimizes user effort, ideally by bundling a JRE with your application.
  • Keep security in mind: Regularly update the bundled JRE to protect users from potential security vulnerabilities.
  • Comply with licenses: If you bundle a JRE, ensure you comply with the Java license requirements.

Deploying your EXE application

With your EXE file ready, you can now distribute your application to users. Consider creating an installer package for a professional appearance and easier installation. If you don’t want to convert your JAR file to EXE, you can use Advanced Installer to streamline your Java Product Deployment.

Advanced Installer stands as an essential tool for developers, especially when it comes to deploying Java products.

Recognizing the unique needs of Java applications, Advanced Installer offers a predefined project tailored exclusively for Java products. Its intuitive interface is designed with ease of use in mind, allowing developers to quickly package Java applications without delving into complexities.

Start your 30-day free trial today!

This article provides a detailed example of how simply and efficiently Advanced Installer can package Java products.

If you prefer to use a different EXE launcher and not the one included in Advanced Installer, you can still use the Free solution offered by Advanced Installer.

Simply create an MSI package using the Free edition of Advanced Installer. Use its intuitive user interface and add your EXE and JAR files to the Files and Folders page. For more information check out our article here.

Conclusion

Converting a JAR file to an EXE makes your Java application more accessible to Windows users, improving its distribution and usability. Each of the mentioned tools offers unique features and levels of customization, so pick the one that suits your needs best. This guide helps you streamline your application distribution and deliver a superior user experience.

Written by
See author's page
Alex Marin

Application Packaging and SCCM Deployments specialist, solutions finder, Technical Writer at Advanced Installer.

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