Orca MSI Editor Crashes When Deleting Rows from a Transform


Orca is Microsoft's database table editor for directly creating and editing Windows Installer (previously Microsoft Installer) packages and merge modules. You are most likely familiar with these installation packages as MSI files.


You may have noticed, though, that Orca would freeze when you dropped a row at times. This is because the version that comes with the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 SDK (and Vista Platform SDK as well, I believe) would crash if you deleted some rows from a transform, such as registry entries. The newer versions of Orca seem to fix this, beginning with the version from the Windows SDK for Windows Server 2008. Last I checked, there's an even newer version - version 5.0 - included in the Windows 7 SDK.


Well, that's the answer to your crashing issue, but there are more questions that now arise:

  1. The Windows 7 SDK is huge. Where exactly can I find the Orca.exe program in it?
  2. How do I go about downloading just the portion of the SDK that contains Orca?
  3. Are there any good alternatives to using Orca to edit MSI tables directly?

Read on for the answers to these questions!

The Windows 7 SDK is huge. Where exactly can I find the Orca.exe program in it?

First of all, you'll want to get the newest version of Orca, so at the time of writing that would be in the Windows 7 SDK. Sites that have extracted Orca.exe and made it available for download (with good intentions since the SDK is huge and broken into many pieces) often have older versions of the program, including ones with the crashing issue, and eventually end up with broken links. So, go get the SDK ISO. While the ISO is a huge download, the nice thing about it is that you can choose only to install the specific toolset that includes Orca and not a bunch of other tools and files.

  1. Download the Windows 7 SDK ISO
  2. Use a program, such as 7-Zip, to open the ISO or burn the ISO to DVD
  3. The particular installer you are looking for is the file GRMSDK_EN_DVD\Setup\WinSDKTools\WinSDKTools_x86.msi
    • Note this is different than the "WinSDKWin32Tools" folder
  4. This will install a number of tools, many of them just as useful as Orca, to C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v7.0\Bin
  5. Find the Orca.Msi file and use this to install Orca

How do I go about downloading just the portion of the SDK that contains Orca?

If you want a smaller download (~250 MB) and are willing to install about 500 MB of files just to get Orca, you can use the standard web-based installer for the Windows 7 SDK.

  1. Download the Windows 7 SDK Web Installer
  2. When installing, select only the Developer Tools\Windows Development Tools\Win32 Development Tools feature
  3. Find the C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v7.0\Bin\Orca.Msi file and use this to install Orca

Are there any good alternatives to using Orca to edit MSI tables directly?

Absolutely! While Orca is a terrific tool, others have improved on the idea.

  • InstEd (apps.instedit.com/): My new love. The free version works super well and has many additional features on top of what Orca offers. There's also a Plus version ($30 US) that adds a system viewer, smart field editors, and a file manager.
  • SuperOrca (www.pantaray.com/msi_super_orca.html): This was meant to be a direct replacement to Orca, but hasn't been updated since its original release in 2008. Still, you may find it useful as, unlike Orca, it doesn't lock the MSI file while editing and includes a neat MSI comparison function.

Happy software packaging and distributing, from your friends at The Grim Admin!


Tag: microsoft windows installer msi software deployment software packaging orca insted superorca

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