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How to install MSIX and msixbundle

IT admins should know that one of the simplest ways to deploy Windows applications across a fleet of managed desktops is with an msixbundle and MSIX files.

Microsoft introduced MSIX packages to improve upon the existing AppX packages for deploying business applications, and Windows administrators should be familiar with these packages and how to install them.

While there are many methods that IT departments can use to deploy business applications, none of them have the simplicity, lack of bloat and level of control that MSIX packages provide. IT administrators need a firm understanding of what MSIX packages are and how to deploy them so they can manage applications across a fleet of Windows devices safely and effectively.

What is an MSIX package?

The MSIX package format provides a modern packaging format that IT can use to deploy basically any type of Windows app or framework. More importantly, it also allows IT to always stay up to date.

Compared to previous iterations, however, MSIX packages bring great installation reliability and decrease the load on the network bandwidth. It is also quite efficient with disk space, as there is no duplication of files.

One of the main strengths of an MSIX package is how it provides the IT administrator with different layers within the package. With that, it provides flexibility for IT. From a high-level perspective, a package contains two different layers:

  • The package payload. The application files themselves.
  • The footprint files. The payload files.

Together, these layers ensure that IT can easily validate, manage, deploy and update the package.

What is an MSIX bundle?

An MSIX bundle is essentially a bundle of multiple MSIX packages. The most common use for an MSIX bundle is when IT is working with multiple architectures -- x86 and x64 -- and managing a large array of applications. They can also be helpful when working with multiple languages as well.

In those cases, an MSIX bundle provides a smoother distribution of the packages and works better in combination with Windows. Windows can determine the required architecture for each app and will only download the required files for that architecture. This reduces unnecessary bloat from the underlying system, which was a problem with the previous MSI format.

An MSIX bundle often contains three different layers:

  • The architecture. The application files for the different architectures
  • The resource files. The aspects of that application that may require customization, such as the language files
  • The footprint files. The payload files.

These layers ensure the bundle facilitates faster uploads, publishing, and development, and ultimately reduce the number of MSIX packages that IT needs to deploy.

How to install MSIX bundles

Before installing an MSIX bundle, it's important to keep in mind that an MSIX package runs in its own container. Therefore, the payload of the package does not spread across the platform.

Before installing an MSIX bundle, it's important to keep in mind that an MSIX package runs in its own container. Therefore, the payload of the package does not spread across the platform. That provides a much easier method for the IT administrator to distribute those packages to Windows devices, as there is no direct effect on existing applications that run on the endpoint.

There are multiple methods that IT can use to deploy an MSIX bundle. IT administrators can manually install every machine by double-clicking the MSIX bundle and allowing the Windows App Installer to handle the installation process. That is, however, a time and resource-intensive operation.

Instead, admins should use their internal device management platform to simplify and automate that process. This example uses Microsoft Intune:

  1. Open the Microsoft Intune admin center portal and navigate to Apps > Windows
  2. On the Windows apps page, click Add and select Line-of-business app as app type.
  3. On the App information page, as shown in Figure 1, select the app to deploy (1); if needed, select the external dependencies of the app (2); and then click OK (3).
  4. After selecting the app, the App information page will show preconfigured information about the app that admins can customize to match company standards
  5. On the Assignments page, configure the users or devices that should receive the app, and click Next.
  6. On the Review + create page, verify the information, and click Create.
          The Microsoft Intune admin center showing how to deploy an msixbundle file.
          Figure 1. The MSIX utility within Microsoft Intune.

          After completing these steps, Intune will automatically distribute the MSIX bundle to the specified users or devices within the organization. This also lets IT keep track of the deployment status with a centralized view of the Windows fleet.

          Peter van der Woude works as a mobility consultant and knows the ins and outs of the Configuration Manager and Microsoft Intune tools. He is a Microsoft MVP and a Windows expert.

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