How to fix the "This package can only be run from a bootstrapper" error?

Written by Alex Marin · July 7th, 2023

To repackage a setup, we first need to understand how that setup was originally built. You can find a brief explanation of this in our free MSI Packaging eBook.

In some cases, where the setup is an MSI (which requires the creation of a transform file) or an EXE (and a repackaging operation must be performed), a vendor's MSI might be hidden within the setup.

There are multiple methods for extracting the MSI from a setup. However, at times, you may encounter an error message stating, "this package can only be run from a bootstrapper".

In this article, we’ll address and resolve this issue. But first, let's discuss when this error typically appears.

When do we encounter the "this package can only be run from a bootstrapper" error?

We have a few methods for extracting the MSI from a setup:

  1. You can use an archive manager, like 7-Zip, to open the EXE file and directly extract the MSI.
  2. When the setup process starts, the MSI is extracted to a temporary location. This can be either %temp% or %programdata%\packagecache. Each vendor can customize the extraction location. You can use Process Monitor to find the exact location where the MSI is extracted
  3. If the setup is compiled with WiX, you can use the Dark.exe utility to extract the MSI:
Dark.exe <path_to_the_exe_installer> -x <output_folder>

After performing one of these actions, you might encounter an error: “this package can only be run from a bootstrapper” if you try to install the MSI directly.

Let's figure out what our options are to bypass this roadblock.

Fixing the error with Multi-Language Setup

If you get this error while attempting to uninstall or update a package with an EXE file, it may be because you're using a multilingual package with a display language selection dialog (for multi-language packages) in the Languages Tab. This is a known issue that occurs when your different language installations have different Product Codes.

As a solution, you should use the same Product Code for all of your installation languages:

  1. Go to the Product Details page;
  2. Then, to the Product IDs tab;
  3. And, set the same Product Code GUID for all of your installation languages.
Product Code GUID

Fixing the bootstrapper error with ISSETUPDRIVEN

If your setup.exe is created with InstallShield and you extract the MSI but encounter the bootstrapper error, you can:

- Use the ISSETUPDRIVEN=1 property. The property can be passed via the following command line:

Msiexec /i YourMSI.msi ISSETUPDRIVEN=1

- Or you can simply create a transform file and add the property inside the MST file. This way, you can run the MSI without any issues and without using the setup.exe file.

What are other root causes for this error?

Although rare, there are cases where the methods above may not fix the "this package can only be run from a bootstrapper" error. This usually depends on the packaging tool used to create the installations.

For such situations, the recommended solution is to install the MSI using the logging option.

To get the best log results, the verbose mode is recommended in this case:

Msiexec /i YourMSI.MSI /l*v pathtolog\setup.log

Analyzing the log file is not an easy task and generally requires an IT professional to debug these logs. A good approach is to search for return value 3, which indicates a fatal error in the installation and shows where the installation stops.

NoteFor a comprehensive guide on how to read a Windows Installer verbose log file, check out our Windows Installer Log File - How to read, analyze and debug it article.

You could also search for the exact message in the log and see if a specific property needs to be changed to remove the message.


Errors can often occur while performing daily tasks. If you encounter the "this package can only be run from a bootstrapper" error, you now know how to identify and fix the issue.

We hope you found this article helpful.

Written by
See author's page
Alex Marin

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