Why Are Installers So Slow?

When I started with Windows programming back in 1990-something, Install Shield was de-facto standard. It wasn’t too bad; installations were reasonably easy to create and quick to execute.

Then Windows Installer entered the arena. All the CPU power that Moore’s Law gave us was consumed by Windows Installer.

Even the simplest program takes ages to install. But in most cases, the flow is straight-forward; accept Express installation, accept Terms & Conditions and GO!

Then Adobe entered the arena. Now installers aren’t installers anymore, they are self-extracting CD images!

(Probably created by some InstallEverywhere/InstallAnywhere/InstallNowhere animal that treats internet as some kind of removable CD drive!)

When you double-click the Acrobat Reader installer, it first takes 30-something seconds preparing itself and then launches Windows Installer which adds another 45-something seconds collecting information before finally asking where to install the stuff. Preparing for what and collecting what information? It’s just a PDF viewer for gods sake!

Compare this with Eclipse.

Eclipse doesn’t even have an installer!

Eclipse is distributed as a zip file. Unzip it to any location, send eclipse.exe as a short-cut to the desktop. Done helluvalot faster than the Acrobat Reader installer prepares itself and Windows Installer collects information.

Uninstall is even simpler: just nuke the Eclipse folder. Done.

Installation of multiple Eclipse versions side-by-side: Just unzip them to different folders. Done. No shared stuff that could collide. No dependency to C:WindowsSystem32. Self-contained, reliable.

It’s refreshing to see that installers can be that simple.

Side bar: While I wrote this, I tried the Acrobat Reader installation. It discovered that I had upgraded online, and refused to start. Q: What reasons prevent two different versions of Acrobat Reader in the same machine? A: accidental complexity.

One response on “Why Are Installers So Slow?

  1. You are so right – I share your pain! ūüôā

    BTW, try Foxit PDF reader on Windoze – it is much faster than Adobe.

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