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Microsoft Installer Database Reader

, 22 Nov 2006
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An MSI database file reader, helps to get insights into the .msi DB structure.


There are many tools, such as Orca, for tampering with the Microsoft Installer Database .msi files. This sample shows how to build a MSI database file reader. Though it does not allow to modify it, it will be helpful to those who want to get some insights in to the structure of an MSI.

Using the code

Create the project

  1. File -> New -> New project

    Create a new MsiDbReader Visual Basic Windows Application.

Add the Windows components

  1. Click View -> Toolbox (Ctrl+Alt+X).

  2. Drag an OpenFileDialog, an ImageList, and a MainMenu into the form.

  3. Right click the OpenFileDialog1 in the form designer -> Properties. Set the Filter property to "Microsoft Installer DB (*.msi)|*.msi|All files (*.*)|*.*".

  4. Right click the ImageList1 in the form designer -> Properties.

  5. Click the button next to the Image Collection property. Add an icon image.

  6. Right click MainMenu1 -> Edit menu. Type &Open.

  7. From the Toolbox, drag a ListView into the form.

  8. Right click the ListView1 -> Properties. Set the Dock property to Left. Set SmallImageList and StateImageList properties to ImageList1. Set MultiSelect property to False. Set View property to SmallIcon.

  9. From the Toolbox, drag a Splitter into the form.

  10. From the Toolbox, drag a DataGrid into the form.

  11. From the Toolbox Data tab, drag a DataView into the form.

  12. Right click DataGrid1 -> Properties. Set Dock property to Fill. Set DataSource property to DataView1.

Add the code:

Right click Form1 -> View Code. Add the following variable declarations to the Form1 class:

Dim Installer
Dim Database
Dim View
Dim Record

Add the following MenuItem1_Click event method:

Private Sub MenuItem1_Click(ByVal sender As System.Object, _
        ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles MenuItem1.Click

    If OpenFileDialog1.ShowDialog() = DialogResult.OK Then


        Installer = CreateObject("WindowsInstaller.Installer")

        Database = Installer.OpenDatabase(OpenFileDialog1.FileName, 0)
        ' 0 = read only; 1 = read/write

        ' _Tables stores all database table names 
        View = Database.OpenView("SELECT 'Name' FROM '_Tables'")

        Record = View.Fetch()
        While Not Record Is Nothing

            ListView1.Items.Add(Record.StringData(1), 0)

            Record = View.Fetch()

        End While

    End If
End Sub

Add the following ListView1_SelectedIndexChanged event method:s

Private Sub ListView1_SelectedIndexChanged(ByVal sender As _
        System.Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) _
        Handles ListView1.SelectedIndexChanged

    If ListView1.SelectedItems.Count = 0 Then
        Exit Sub
    End If

    Installer = CreateObject("WindowsInstaller.Installer")

    ' _Columns stores all database table Column names.
    View = Database.OpenView("SELECT 'Name' FROM '_Columns'" & _ 
           " WHERE 'Table' = '" & _
           ListView1.SelectedItems(0).Text & "' ")


    Dim DbColumns As String = ""
    Record = View.Fetch()
    While Not Record Is Nothing
        DbColumns = DbColumns & "'" & Record.StringData(1) & "'"
        Record = View.Fetch()
        If Not Record Is Nothing Then
            DbColumns = DbColumns & ", "
        End If
    End While

    View = Database.OpenView("SELECT " & DbColumns & _
           " FROM '" & ListView1.SelectedItems(0).Text & "' ")

    Dim ColumnsAR() As String = Split(DbColumns, "', '")

    ColumnsAR(0) = ColumnsAR(0).TrimStart("'")

    ColumnsAR(ColumnsAR.Length - 1) = _
       ColumnsAR((ColumnsAR.Length - 1)).TrimEnd("'"c)

    DataView1.Table = New DataTable(ListView1.SelectedItems(0).Text)

    For Each TableColumn As String In ColumnsAR

        DataView1.Table.Columns.Add(TableColumn, _

    Next TableColumn

    Dim NewRow As DataRow

    Record = View.Fetch()
    While Not Record Is Nothing

        NewRow = DataView1.Table.NewRow()
        For I As Integer = 0 To ColumnsAR.Length - 1
                NewRow(ColumnsAR(I)) = Record.StringData(I + 1)
            Catch ex As Exception
                NewRow(ColumnsAR(I)) = "(Binary)"
            End Try


        Record = View.Fetch()

    End While

End Sub

Build and run the application.


  • 21 Nov. 2006 - Intial release.


This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here


About the Author

Software Developer CIMEX S.A.
Cuba Cuba
Rodolfo Ortega is a Cuban Computer Scientist. He works as IT Auditor for the CIMEX S.A. subsidiary in Holguin, Cuba. He lives and works in Holguin, in the eastern part of the island of Cuba.

You can contact him at rodolfom[] for any personal message: Ideas on new articles, bibliography about new APIs, questions, are wellcome.

Submit questions related with current article to the article forum.

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralThanks Pin
Ilíon22-Nov-06 10:33
memberIlíon22-Nov-06 10:33 
A year or more ago I wanted (and needed) to be able to extract some information from the several .MSI packages which install various components of my total project. Specifically, I wanted the program I'd written to install the application and its components to be able to compare the ProductVersion value (from the Property table) of the current .MSI(s) against the value(s) recorded in the Windows Registry.

I'd read some articles at various sources; I *thought* I was doing what I'd read to do, but I never could get anything from my efforts. Clearly, I was missing or misunderstanding something. Finally, I had to shelve the idea due to more pressing concerns.

But, after just a few minutes tweaking your code, I have what I want. Now I'll be able to further automate the installation process.

I just want you to know how much I appreciate your article.

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