Bypassing Windows installers
May 28, 2011
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Many installers from the second half of the 90s on are just self-extracting archives with a setup utility and a cab file. Usually you can open the archive and the cab file in WinRAR. Do not start a program directly out of the cab file if it contains Visual Basic 5 or 6 runtimes. Some of these files need to be registered, and having them accessed in a temporary location will screw up the registration.
Many games of the Windows 3.x era come as a setup utility and all the necessary files in compressed format, with the last letter of the extension replaced by an underscore. These can be expanded with Microsoft’s EXPAND utility, which has been part of every Windows distribution at least since 3.1. EXPAND is somewhere in the path, usually in the Windows directory I think, so you can access it from anywhere. But you have to know what the missing letter is, which is in some cases not obvious. There is usually a SETUP.INI or similar file with a complete file list.
As for the InstallShield installers, I know of no way to bypass them and don’t know if it’s possible at all.