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March 18, 1996

How to make a handy Install tab in Control Panel

If you commonly install software to several PCs in your company, save yourself some shoe leather. Windows 95 allows you to add a new dialog box to the Control Panel so you or individual users can easily install new applications across a network at the click of a mouse.

Unfortunately, the documentation distributed by Microsoft Corp. with Windows 95 explains this feature so poorly that the technique doesn't work if you follow Microsoft's directions. Permit me to correct their errors, here and now, so you can start taking advantage of this gem yourself.

Let's assume you have a site license to distribute software within your company to all users, or a license to distribute it to a certain number of users.

The technique I'm about to describe adds a Network Install tab to the Add/Remove Programs dialog box of the Control Panel. This allows an entire application to be installed from another PC -- without diskettes or a CD. (The other PC is usually a network server, but it could be any other PC in a peer-to-peer network.)

To make the Network Install tab appear, you must create two short text files. These are shown in the box below.

In NETINST.REG, you need to specify an "AppInstallPath." This pinpoints the location of a text file called APPS.INI. In this example, the location is \\Server1\Win95\Apps.ini.

Notice that you must use two backslashes in the "AppInstallPath" line for every real one in the file name.

You must merge NETINST.REG into the Windows 95 Registry. To do this, right-click your NETINST.REG file, then click Merge. This adds to the Registry the two lines below the REGEDIT4 heading.

The APPS.INI file is a plain text file that points to the setup routines for any applications. It should be in a read-only directory.

The sample APPS.INI in the box shows lines for the Microsoft Internet Explorer and a mapped, dummy application. Notice that the mapped application, Dumsetup.exe, has an asterisk (*) before the double backslash in \\Server1. This indicates that Dumsetup.exe cannot handle the Universal Naming Convention for server names.

The setup routine requires a drive letter, such as an X:, instead of \\Server1. Because of the asterisk, Windows 95 will map a drive letter for this server and replace \\Server1 with an X: when it runs Dumsetup.exe.

That's it. Once you have these two files in place and restart Windows, you will see a new Network Install tab in the Add/Remove Programs dialog box.

You can get more information about this technique by running the \Admin\Reskit\Helpfile\Win95rk.hlp file on the Windows 95 CD-ROM. Search on "Creating an APPS.INI File." Remember to follow my corrections to the documentation.

Adding a Network Install tab

Sample contents of NETINST.REG




Sample contents of APPS.INI


Microsoft Internet Explorer=\\Server1\Apps

Mapped Application=*\\Server1\Dummy\

Brian Livingston is the coauthor of the new Windows 95 Secrets and author of three other Windows books (IDG Books). Send tips to or fax: (206) 282-1248.

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