Troubleshooting Windows Installer Self Heal Issues

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While there are plenty of benefits to vendors using the Windows Installer, if you've used Windows long enough, and you've installed enough applications, you've probably been plagued by messages such as these:

Windows Installer Self Heal - Prompt for File Windows Installer Self Heal Dialog Box

In this post I'm going to talk about why this happens, and steps you can take to resolve it.

The primary reason this happens when launching an application is that a key file or registry key is missing, and Windows Installer wants to repair this problem before launching. Many MSI (the extension/format of Windows Installer install files) developers will use this as a method of making sure that a file or registry key gets setup in the users profile each time a new user launches the application. Seeing these dialogs would be normal in this instance.

Next up on our list of reasons is that something was broken. It happens, it's Windows. If the progress bar moved across the screen, completed, and doesn't come up repeatedly, Windows Installer has done its job, and you can move on. If you're prompted for the location of the installer, that means that it hasn't been found in your local cache and the original MSI could not be found, either. Your options here are going to be to either manually fix the problem (read on), find the original installer used (must be the exact MSI Product & Version), or uninstall & reinstall the product.

And finally, the fun part. Manually identifying and fixing the issue. When Windows Installer detects a missing file or registry key, it writes that event to the application log. You can find the application log by launching your Windows Event Viewer (eventvwr.msc, or using the Search in newer versions of Windows) and clicking Application. You'll need to find the event with the source "MsiInstaller" around the time you had the problem. There could be a few, so check them all out. One of them will almost always point right at the problem...

Windows Installer Event Viewer Application Error

And there it is, Windows Installer cannot find the MindManager.exe in the specified folder. Taking a look, I realized that someone mistakenly moved the file to the Desktop - so I go ahead and move it back and the problem is resolved.

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