Installing on Windows Vista or Later


In general installs and applications designed for Windows XP are highly compatible with Windows Vista or later given its file, folder and registry virtualization features. Many of Windows XP's existing features have been enhanced and new features added. While there is a high compatibility, new features and the tightening of security require developers to be aware of certain changes that affect both application development and distribution.

Important Vista Features

User Account Control (UAC)

By default, in Windows XP all user accounts were created as local administrators. This meant that many users ran as administrators with full access privileges leaving the security of the system open to attacks. A design goal of the UAC was to prevent installations from being executed without the user's knowledge. While user accounts and restricted tokens have been around in previous versions of Windows, Windows Vista and later contains security protection for the administrator account as well. When an administrator logs in, two different tokens are created. The first token grants all the permissions and privileges of the administrator, while the second token is a restricted token (filtered token), offering virtually the same privileges of a standard user. With UAC (User Account Control) enabled, members of the administrators group run with the same access token as standard users. Only when the user gives approval will the program be granted the full access token.

Note: Features of UAC can be enabled and disabled, so developers should not rely on its features for elevation.

Application Manifests

While application manifests are not new to Windows Vista or later, a new section has been added for the UAC to mark applications with a requested execution level. This information notifies the operating system of the privileges that the application requires so it can perform any necessary elevation. All UAC compliant applications should have the requested execution level added to its application manifest. Applications that are not run elevated or are not detected by Windows Vista's installer detection, may be run with file and registry virtualization (see next section). In future releases of Windows, the only way to run an application elevated will to have a signed manifest identifying the required privilege level.

File/Registry Virtualization

In an attempt to provide compatibility for applications that are not UAC compliant, Windows Vista or later contains a new virtualization technology for files, folders and the registry. When a non-UAC compliant application tries to write to a protected directory such as Program Files, or a global portion of the registry such as HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software, the application is provided with a virtualized copy that is stored under the user's profile. Developers are not to rely on this technology being present in the future.

Virtualization (file/registry) is turned OFF for any applications:

Setup Factory Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8/Windows 8.1/Windows 10 Runtime Features

Several features have been added to aid in the installation process on Windows Vista or later. Additional features will be added in future service releases.

Changing the "Requested User Privilege Level" Setting

The Requested User Privilege Level setting specifies which requested execution level to include in the install/uninstall's application manifest for distribution on Windows Vista or later. When the installation is run, the operating system reads this information to identify what privileges the installation requires. The default setting in Setup Factory is "Require administrator" and should generally never be changed. If for some reason you do not want to require administrator privileges to run the setup given the content of your install, you should be aware of the following information and required changes:

Important Note: The "Requested User Privilege Level" setting is only effective if the user has UAC enabled. Each user's UAC settings can also be configured differently, so you should not rely solely on this feature. When performing administrative tasks, you should always include administrator checks using the System.GetUserInfo action's "IsAdmin" and "IsVistaAdminLimitedToken" table return values. Windows Vista or later operating system detection can also be achieved using the System.GetOSName and System.GetOSVersionInfo actions.

Changing to "As invoker"

Using the "As invoker" setting means that your setup does not require any system access other than the current user's profile areas. Many of these issues exist for previous versions of Windows when running the setup as a standard user.

Important information requiring attention:

Running Programs

User Account Control (UAC) On

Problem: File.Run actions will fail for both standard users and Administrator users if Windows Vista or later identifies the target file as requiring elevation. This will happen for files containing marked application manifests requiring elevation, or detected by Windows Vista's installer detection.

Solutions: If the target file contains a proper manifest, and contains its own Administrator detection and notification, or is an install/patch/update that Vista or later will detect with its installer detection feature, use the Shell.Execute action instead. This will allow Vista or later to prompt for approval or login credentials. The second solution is to mark your setup as "Require administrator". In addition, you should always perform any required Administrator detection using the System.GetUserInfo action. This will enable you to determine if the user is an administrator running with full privileges, or if they are part of the administrators group, but running with limited privileges.

User Account Control (UAC) Off

When User Account Control (UAC) has been disabled on the system, the permission rules for running programs are the same as they are on other NT based operating systems such as Windows XP. Both the File.Run and Shell.Execute actions will succeed, however the target application will be subject to the privileges of the current user. Again, you should always perform any required Administrator detection using the System.GetUserInfo action and respond appropriately.

File system modifications

Certain locations are only accessible to users with administrative privileges such as:  C:\Windows, C:\Windows\System32, Program Files and any files that are part of the Windows Resource Protection (WRP). Windows Vista or later also prevents files from being written to the root of the C:. When UAC is On, both standard user accounts and users that are members of the Administrators group will fail. When UAC is Off, only members of the Administrators group will succeed. This affects actions such as File.Copy, File.Install, System.RegisterActiveX etc.

Log File (install/uninstall)

By default, the setup log file is created in the Windows folder. This folder generally cannot be accessed by a user (all users initially) assigned the standard user access token. Therefore this path must be changed to a per-user writable location such as the user's Documents folder, or Application Data.


By default, the uninstall executable is written to the non-accessible Windows folder. This must be changed to a writable per-user location such as Application Data.

Note: The uninstall control panel entry is written to a location under the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE registry key and will fail when attempted as a user with the standard user access token. This feature must be disabled if you choose to change the manifest to "As Invoker."

Registry modifications

Generally standard users only contain write access to locations under HKEY_CURRENT_USER. When UAC is On, both standard user accounts and users that are members of the Administrators group will fail if you try to write to another location. When UAC is Off, only members of the Administrators group will succeed.

Changing to "Highest available"

Using the "Highest available" setting means that your setup is designed to be run by all users. The setup runs with the same access token as the parent process. This means that if the setup is run by a member of the Administrators group, their privileges will be elevated to the Administrator's full access token when given their consent. However, this also means that if a standard user ran the setup, they would only have their highest privileges, those being a standard user. Therefore all issues mentioned above for "As invoker" would exist using this setting resulting in possible application failure. Again, if your setup performs administrator tasks, the "Require administrator" option should be used in addition to the usual administrator detection and conditions.

Previously Created Setups

Setup Factory's Vista compatibility was implemented in the service release. Setups are now properly manifested using the Requested User Privilege Level setting. Installs created using a previous service release may encounter some compatibility problems. However, Windows Vista contains a new "Installer Detection" feature that automatically detects unmanifested Setup Factory setups as installations. This will automatically prompt the user for elevation or logon credentials.

Note: While the Windows Vista "Detect application installation and prompt for elevation" setting is enabled by default, it can be turned off. If this setting was disabled, the setup would be subject to file, folder and registry virtualization when writing to protected areas that may cause application failure. While this feature was designed to increase application compatibility, the possibility for error does exist. If you wish for your setups to be Windows Vista compliant, we strongly recommend publishing the setup again using in the current version of Setup Factory.

Authenticode Signing

The goal of Authenticode signing is to ensure both the integrity and authenticity of the program. If you plan to distribute on Windows Vista or later, another point of consideration beyond user experience, is the fact that it has the ability to prevent any unsigned application from launching with full privileges. This may impact both the install and application functionality. It is recommended that all application and setup files be signed when distributed on Windows Vista or later.

Note: For more information, see Authenticode Code Signing.