Ready for MSIX Sparse Packages - Keeping non-UWP desktop apps relevant to new Windows APIs & features

Written by Alexandra Stoienescu · June 3rd, 2022


Many popular Windows features like Notifications, File Explorer Context Menu or Shares cannot be used by non-(MSIX)-packaged Win32 applications.

This happens because non-packaged applications don’t adhere to the Windows Application Model.

For example, using a traditional installer (MSI) to install your application works perfectly fine, but it won't have any package identity since the application hasn't been installed from an MSIX package.

Having an application that doesn’t have a package identity means a lack of integration with the modern features of Windows 10 and Windows 11.

It doesn’t seem like a big hassle until you realize it’s a blocker for delivering relevant, up-to-date applications to your users.

Can I grant a package identity without rewriting my code?

Yes, you don’t have to necessarily shift to MSIX to grant package identity for your non-UWP applications.

While there are some methods to assign an identity to a non-packaged app, some Windows features can only be configured from MSIX, for example, the Windows 11 context menu.

Packaging your application as an MSIX might not be the go-to solution since it requires some time and preparation before adopting it, as well as some hard choices like dropping Windows 7 support.

Now, what?

The good news is that starting with the 19.5 version of Advanced Installer, you can begin granting package identity for non-UWP apps by using MSIX Sparse Packages.

This new feature is helpful if you cannot switch entirely to MSIX technology but still want to leverage the new Windows features & APIs.

NoteTry Advanced Installer through our 30-day full-feature trial or run Advanced Installer 19.5 side-by-side with your current version without upgrading your current project.

Here are some cons and pros of using the Registry, Custom actions, or Sparse packages when accessing and configuring Windows features for Win32 applications:

Windows configuration for Win32 application

If you are new to MSIX technology and want to understand its concepts, read our introductory article: MSIX Introduction.

If you want to go straight to the creation of MSIX sparse packages, follow this how-to tutorial and learn how to:

  • Add an MSIX sparse package to your Win32 project
  • Sign your MSIX sparse package (it is mandatory)
  • Configure the sparse package
  • Register the sparse package
  • Unregister the sparse package

NoteTo create MSIX sparse packages, you need a Professional license or higher. If you don’t have an Advanced Installer license, you can still try this feature through the 30-day full-feature trial.

Are MSIX sparse packages the go-to solution for your non-UWP desktop application's package identity? Let us know your thoughts.

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