How to target 32bit and 64bit a .NET applications with WiX and separate MSI packages

Target 32bit and 64bit .NET applications

This post will explain how you can build msi packages using WiX for both 32bit and 64bit platforms.  The goal is to create 2 different msi packages. One for 64bit systems, which will install the program in to c:\Program Files on 64bit, and another msi package that will install the program in to c:\Program Files on 32 bit systems. The .NET application itself will be compiled with CPU target Any, which results in that it will run in 64bit mode on 64bit systems and 32bit mode on 32bit systems. Of course, you could also install the 32bit msi package on 64bit systems, which will end up being installed in c:\Program Files (x86).


Microsoft Visual Studio 2008

In my environment, I used 64bit Windows7, so I installed the 64bit version of WiX build 3.0.5419.0-x64-setup

Create a simple .NET application

We will create a simple .NET Winforms application that will show some platform information, like this:



We will also create a WiX setup project and configure a new platform type in Visual Studio for the 64bit target.

Fire up Visual Studio and create a new Windows Forms project:


Add 3 labels to the form:


Add code in the Form Load event to fill the labels with info:


using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Data;
using System.Drawing;
using System.Linq;
using System.Text;
using System.Windows.Forms;
using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
using System.Diagnostics;
namespace WindowsSetupTest
public partial class Form1 : Form
public Form1()
private void Form1_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
label1.Text = "Platform: " + System.Environment.OSVersion.Platform.ToString();
label2.Text = "Is 64bit OS: " + Is64Bit().ToString();
label3.Text = "Is 32bit process on 64bit OS: " + Is32BitProcessOn64BitProcessor().ToString();
[DllImport("kernel32.dll", SetLastError = true, CallingConvention = CallingConvention.Winapi)]
[return: MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.Bool)]
public static extern bool IsWow64Process([In] IntPtr hProcess, [Out] out bool lpSystemInfo);
private bool Is64Bit()
if (IntPtr.Size == 8 || (IntPtr.Size == 4 && Is32BitProcessOn64BitProcessor()))
return true;
return false;
private bool Is32BitProcessOn64BitProcessor()
bool retVal;
IsWow64Process(Process.GetCurrentProcess().Handle, out retVal);
return retVal;


Create a Wix project

Add a new project to the solution, a WiX Setup project:


In the Product.wxs file, enter the following code:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<Wix xmlns="">
<?define InstallName  = InsomniacGeek ?>
<!-- Product name as you want it to appear in Add/Remove Programs-->
<?if $(var.Platform) = x64 ?>
<?define ProductName = "InsomniacGeek: Windows Setup Test (64 bit)" ?>
<?define Win64 = "yes" ?>
<?define PlatformProgramFilesFolder = "ProgramFiles64Folder" ?>
<?else ?>
<?define ProductName = "InsomniacGeek: Windows Setup Test" ?>
<?define Win64 = "no" ?>
<?define PlatformProgramFilesFolder = "ProgramFilesFolder" ?>
<?endif ?>
<Product Id="*" Name="$(var.ProductName)"
Language="1033" Version="1.0.1"
<Package Id="CC76D2EF-6A0A-468e-89D6-6953AAEFCD06" Keywords="Installer"
InstallerVersion="200" Compressed="yes"
<Upgrade Id="2551D901-A700-484b-B35C-B8E3D358FE73">
<UpgradeVersion Minimum="1.0.0" IncludeMinimum="yes" Maximum="1.0.1" Property="OLDERVERSIONBEINGUPGRADED"/>
<UpgradeVersion Minimum="1.0.1" OnlyDetect="yes" Property="NEWERVERSIONDETECTED"/>
<Media Id="1" Cabinet="" EmbedCab="yes" />
<Condition Message="A later version of [ProductName] is already installed. Setup will now exit">
<!-- Program Files \ App \  -->
<Directory Id="TARGETDIR" Name="SourceDir">
<Directory Id="$(var.PlatformProgramFilesFolder)">
<Directory Id="INSTALLLOCATION" Name="InsomniacGeek">
<Directory Id="APPLICATIONROOTDIRECTORY" Name="Windows Setup Test"/>
<!-- Start Program menu -->
<Directory Id="ProgramMenuFolder">
<Directory Id="ApplicationProgramsFolder" Name="InsomniacGeek Windows Setup Test"/>
<!-- Files in app path -->
<Component Id='MainApp' Guid='9D181A16-5383-45b8-9D13-A0781060CA16'>
<File Id='MainApp' Name='WindowsSetupTest.exe'
DiskId='1' Source='..\WindowsSetupTest\bin\Debug\WindowsSetupTest.exe'/>
<!-- Shortcut -->
<DirectoryRef Id="ApplicationProgramsFolder">
<Component Id="ApplicationShortcut" Guid="953BEB35-E0BB-40ae-A1C8-F8A88E1E2529">
<Shortcut Id="ApplicationStartMenuShortcut" Name="Windows Setup Test" Description="Application for testing"
<Shortcut Id="UninstallProduct"
Name="Uninstall the InsomniacGeek Windows Setup Test"
Arguments="/x [ProductCode]"
Description="Uninstalls InsomniacGeek Windows Setup Test" />
<RemoveFolder Id="ApplicationProgramsFolder" On="uninstall"/>
<RegistryValue Root="HKCU" Key="Software\InsomniacGeek\WindowsSetupTest" Name="installed" Type="integer" Value="1"
<!-- Features -->
<Feature Id="Complete" Title="Windows Setup Test" Level="1"
Description="The complete package"
Display="expand" ConfigurableDirectory="APPLICATIONROOTDIRECTORY" >
<Feature Id="MainProgram" Title="Program" Description="The main executable" Level="1">
<ComponentRef Id="MainApp"/>
<ComponentRef Id="ApplicationShortcut"/>
<RemoveExistingProducts After="InstallInitialize"/>
<!-- UI -->
<UIRef Id="WixUI_Mondo"/>
<UIRef Id="WixUI_ErrorProgressText" />
<!-- End UI -->


And add references to WixUIExtension.dll and WixUtilExtension.dll.

What you will notice now is that you have 3 targets in your configuration:


The value you choose here will be transferred to the Platform variable in WiX. Unfortunately, the 64bit option is missing, so we must create that one.

Create a x64 configuration entry

Select the Configuration Manager.


Select  <New…>



Select the x64 option and click Ok.


When you now build the Wix project, the output will be created in a new x64 folder. In the Product.wxs code, we also have a title that indicates that is runs in 64bit mode:



When installed, it will end up in c:\Program Files, just as we wanted.

The 32bit version of the msi is built when you select the x86 platform target




Hope this shed some light on how to deploy .NET applications for multiple targets.

Download the complete solution here.

DEBUG: Error 2769: Custom Action install did not close 1 MSIHANDLEs.

You may have seen this strange error when trying to install your MSI when you have developed a managed custom action DLL in Visual Studio 2005 / 2008?

If you execute the MSI with detailed logging, like this:
MSIEXEC /i "<YOURMSI>.msi" /L*v "InstallLog.txt"

You end up with an error message that is similar to this in the log file:
DEBUG: Error 2769:  Custom Action _E3EBB591_EA21_438E_AEB9_4442A5A8C483.install did not close 1 MSIHANDLEs.
The installer has encountered an unexpected error installing this package. This may indicate a problem with this package. The error code is 2769. The arguments are: _E3EBB591_EA21_438E_AEB9_4442A5A8C483.install, 1,
Action ended 16:09:12: InstallExecute. Return value 3.

The thing is that you probably have set the Custom Action Data as follows:
The solution to the problem is to add a trailing backslash:

This is actually described in this MSDN article:

How to debug Custom Actions in a MSI setup package

So you have come to the conclusion that you will need to debug custom actions in a MSI setup package?. How do you do it? Well, it’s very simple, just add the following line in your custom action code:


And now when you launch the MSI package, it will break and prompt you with the following dialog:

Choose debugger

Just select the desired debugging environment and start debugging. It’s as simple as that!