Possible to create an install file from an installed program?
May 19, 2011 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Can I create an install file from an installed program? Windows.

I need to reformat my hard drive and reinstall everything. There's one program I use a ton for which I no longer have the install disk. The program is version 6.0, released probably 8-10 years ago, of a title that is up around version 14 now, and not really even the same software anymore. I don't want the new version, the vendor refuses to provide me the old version, and I can't find it in the usual torrent sites or "old version" sites. It's paid software, not open source.

Is there something that can grab all the necessary files, registry writes, etc. and create an install file for me so I can continue to use this software on my new build?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You could reverse engineer it by comparing the filesystem immediately before and immediately after the install, but that window is long gone now. You could hope that the program's registry entries are all in one, super easy to find place and it's only files are in C:\Program Files\Name of Program\.

I'm not familiar enough with Windows debugging to reccomend a tool, but you could monitor the program as it runs to see what registry keys it looks at and what files it accesses.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:44 AM on May 19, 2011

you could monitor the program as it runs to see what registry keys it looks at and what files it accesses

posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:49 AM on May 19, 2011

This just... isn't really going to work. Windows program installs are notoriously messy, and programs can and will scatter files and registry entries to the four winds. On purpose. Recreating that post-hoc is almost impossible. I don't know that anyone even tries to do this.

You might be better off telling us what the program is so we can recommend alternatives.
posted by valkyryn at 8:49 AM on May 19, 2011

There's no good way to do this. Your best bet would be to virtualize your current system and run it as a VM in the re-installed environment.
posted by odinsdream at 8:51 AM on May 19, 2011

Probably not. Only the program itself will know exactly where all of its files and settings are located.

An installer-creator program such as you're talking about could make a reasonable guess - package up all the files from the main installation folder, scan the registry to look for for references to that folder, and copy those and neighbouring registry entries to the installer. But much beyond that, it's guesswork. There may be data folders in the ProgramData or Documents folders (or their equivalents in older Windows versions).

There used to be (and probably still are) installers that do exactly what Brian Puccio is talking about, namely watch an installation and create a new installation script to emulate it. But that's no help here.

Furthermore, folder names are somewhat different in Windows 7 than they were in older versions, and that's likely to add complications.

My approach would be to back everything up, then try to locate any license keys from when the software was first purchased, then maybe search some torrent sites for an installer for the old version. Not strictly legit, but fairly defensible if you bought the original software.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:51 AM on May 19, 2011

If it's that old it might be a 16 bit program that doesn't have any registry entries and runs self-contained from one directory. Have you tried to copy the folder over to another machine and run the executable?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:52 AM on May 19, 2011

(sorry, missed the bit about having tried torrent sites)
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:53 AM on May 19, 2011

There aren't great ways to do this, but going on the concept of looking for modifications:

- Backup the system
- Run the uninstaller (either executable or from Add/Remove Programs)
- Compare the old system state to the new
posted by bfranklin at 8:54 AM on May 19, 2011

Before reformatting you could copy all of the files that think are related to the program on to a different machine and see if it runs with the files you think it needs.
posted by dgeiser13 at 8:55 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

By any chance, does the program in question rhyme with Bloat-o-Slop? If so, I can verify that, with version 6, the serial info is stored within the program directory and not within the registry. So you can just copy the program's install directory to a new computer and run it without issue: So backing up the directory C:\Program Files\Agobi\Bloat-o-Slop and just copying it back to the new system will work a-ok.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:22 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can watch registry access with regmon. There is no gaurentee you will catch all the registry keys though.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:25 AM on May 19, 2011

Should have linked to the correct place, the new program is Processmon.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:26 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it's a legal copy, calling the company with your serial# can usually result in new media being sent to you.
posted by rhizome at 10:48 AM on May 19, 2011

Revert to eBay for another copy?
posted by kenchie at 11:45 AM on May 19, 2011

I would try copying the "program files" folder to the new pc as mentioned above, run the .exe & see if any
error messages are displayed. They may give info as what else needs to be transferred.
posted by canoehead at 2:29 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can you post the name of the software? Somebody here may have a copy you can install from, for which you could use your license key etc.
posted by defcom1 at 12:14 AM on May 20, 2011

Yes, it's ulead photoimpact v6.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:54 AM on May 20, 2011

another possibility might be to create an image of your hard drive, re-image your drive, and run the old image in a virtual machine. Space might be an issue; I like to buy a new drive, get it running, then I can take my time transferring old stuff over. Another issue might be that the old image runs slowly/is infected, etc. You can make a copy of the image file, run anti-malware programs, de-crapifyers, and delete startup processes nily-wily with impunity since you have the ISO to roll back to.

What OS you running?
posted by at at 5:58 AM on May 21, 2011

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