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It's hard to say why or how Windows installer might stop running, but some simple steps ought to get you back in service.

I ran into a problem with my Windows Installer. It was gone. I was told by Dell to reinstall my Windows Vista to get everything back to normal. I did that and everything ran fine for about a month. Now, it's back to the way it was. Windows Installer is not running right again. What do you suppose is creating this problem? To let you know, this is the third time that I've reinstalled my Windows Vista plus I'm reinstalling from the original disc that came with the computer. Thank you.

In this excerpt from Answercast #39, I go through the steps necessary to troubleshoot Windows Installer and (hopefully) turn it back on.

Windows installer not running

Well, first of all good on you for even having an original disc that came with your computer! You're in the minority and I'm very glad to hear that.

First, I want to clarify something – Windows Installer being "gone" and Windows Installer "not running" are two completely different things.

Now, it's kind of unclear as to which it is you're referring to so I'm going to go to the most common scenario where the Windows Installer is actually present on your machine, all of the files are there, but the Windows Installer service is simply not running.

Why it might get stopped can vary.

Update and backup

I want to have you do at least a couple important things.

  • One, I want to make sure that you get Windows as up to date as possible.

Make sure you're visiting Windows Update; make sure you're taking all of the updates that are offered by Windows Update and get your system as up to date as possible.

Do this immediately after a reinstall. Then I actually suggest, at that point, that you take a system image of your machine with all of those updates. That way, if you need to reinstall yet again, you don't have to; you can simply restore this one image and it will contain:

  • Not only the original Windows that you reinstalled

  • But all of the updates that you took before you took the image.

Anti-virus and anti-spyware

Now, having made sure that Windows is up to date, I would then also make sure that you have good anti-malware tools, both anti-spyware and anti-virus.

Make sure that they are up to date, that their databases are as up to date as possible, and that you are running complete scans on your machine.

Their tool is technically an anti-spyware tool, but it's really a more general purpose anti-malware tool that will often catch things that traditional anti-malware tools do not.

Suspected malware

Needless to say, you can probably guess from some of the suggestions that I'm making that one of the biggest concerns I have is that you're facing a side effect of malware of some sort.

Malware can step on the Windows Installer in such a way that it stops working.

Manually restart Windows installer

One of the other things that you can do (if we set the whole malware issue aside for a moment)...

I'm going to recommend that when you encounter this problem as a data point (and potentially as a work around), you see if you can manually start the Installer Service.

The way to do that is to:

  • Right-click on Computer (or My Computer if you're running Windows XP).

  • Click on Manage.

  • That will bring up another dialog box. In that dialog is an item called Services with a little plus next to it. Click on the + to expand Services.

  • Underneath that will be another item also called Services or something similar. Click on that.

  • That then will give you (in the right pane of this dialog box) a list of the services that are currently running on your system – and the services that are installed and not running on your system.

  • Scroll through that list and you should find the Windows Installer Service. My guess is it will have a status of stopped.

That means it's not running. That would confirm what you're experiencing.

  • Right-click on that item in the list and click on Start.

That will cause the Windows Installer Service to attempt to start. If it's successful, that's actually good news in the sense that you actually should be able to now run whatever install you're attempting to install.

If it doesn't start

If it doesn't start, the data from that will tell you something. Pay very close attention to the error message that might be coming up. That should tell you at least something about why the Installer isn't running.

If it does start

If the Installer starts up normally and you've been able to complete whatever install it is you're attempting to perform, then what I would recommend you do is:

  • Back in the Services dialog box, right-click on Windows Installer; click on Properties.

That will bring up a Property box, a box of various settings related to the Windows Installer Service.

  • In there, should be an option that says, "Start automatically." Go ahead and turn that on.

  • Save all those settings.

That should cause Windows Installer to start automatically when Windows is started. That should resolve the problem.

It is possible that it is simply a matter of this setting having been reset by someone. Why or how I honestly don't know. Normally, the most common scenarios that I see are unfortunately malware related, which is why I had you begin with all of that.

But these are other things to take a look at. Good luck.

Article C5638 - July 29, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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2 Comments
Robert Regner
August 1, 2012 12:44 AM

When my Windows Installer ceased to install programs I searched the forums for several days trying everything including all the suggestions by Leo, but with no success. In frustration I re-installed SP3 and now the Installer works again...

GREG JACKSON
August 2, 2012 12:14 PM

Funny thing. I too experienced my Windows Installer not running. Even more funny, 3 other people I know have experienced the same.....all in the last few weeks.
So.... coincidence or a side effect of malware?
Hmm...

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