Working with Win32 app dependencies

After a couple of weeks with distractions, this week I’m stepping away from conditional access. This week is all about Win32 app management capabilities. More specifically, about Win32 app dependencies. About half a year ago, when Win32 app management capabilities were introduced, I did my first post about those capabilities. That post is still being read really good, so I thought this would be a good time for a nice addition to that post. In this post I’ll start with a shorting introduction about Win32 app dependencies, followed by the configuration steps for Win32 apps and specifically for Win32 app dependencies. I’ll end this post by showing the experience for the end-user and the administrator.

Introduction

Let’s start with a short introduction about reason for using Win32 apps and more specifically about using the Win32 app dependencies. Slowly there are coming more and more reason to look at Win32 apps as a serious alternative to using single-file MSI via MDM. An important reason for that is that Windows 10, version 1709 and later, will download Win32 app content by using delivery optimization. Other reasons are the Win32 app configuration options for requirements and detection rules. That will make the Win32 app really flexible. To make the Win32 app even more flexible, and even more comparable to the ConfigMgr app model, it’s now also possible to configure dependencies between Win32 apps.

Scenario

Before looking at the actual configuration steps, let’s first describe the example scenario that I’ll use to show the Win32 app dependencies feature. As an example scenario, I’m using PolicyPak. I won’t go into details about the functionalities of PolicyPak, that information can be found here. The reason that I’m using it as an example scenario, is simply because the installation contains three steps: install the license file, install the client-side extension and install any setting file. All of these are available as MSI and the mentioned order (see also the picture below) provides the best result. In other words, ideal for showing the Win32 app dependencies feature.

PolicyPak-dependency-overview

Note: In my testing, PolicyPak will work just perfectly fine if you don’t take into account dependencies, but this is an ideal scenario to ensure that all policies delivered from PolicyPak always get applied the first time

Configuration

Now let’s start with the configuration steps. I’ll do that by first quickly showing the steps to wrap a Win32 app and the steps to configure a Win32 app. For more details about that, please refer to my previous post about Win32 apps. After that, I’ll show the detailed steps for configuring Win32 app dependencies.

Prepare Win32 app

The first step is to quickly go through the steps to prepare the Win32 apps by using the Microsoft Intune Win32 App Packaging Tool. Wrap the Win32 apps. The packaging tool wraps the application installation files into the .intunewin format. Also, the packaging tool detects the parameters required by Intune to determine the application installation state.  The following five steps walk through wrapping the different PolicyPak MSIs.

1 Download the Microsoft Intune Win32 App Packaging Tool. In my example to C:\Temp;
2 Create a folder per PolicyPak MSI. In my example C:\Temp\[PolicyPakMSI];
3 Open a Command Prompt as Administrator and navigate to the location of IntuneWinAppUtil.exe. In my example that means cd \Temp;
4 Run IntuneWinAppUtil.exe and provide the following information, when requested

  • Please specify the source folder: C:\Temp\[PolicyPakMSI];
  • Please specify the setup file: [PolicyPakMSI].msi;
  • Please specify the output folder: C:\Temp
5 Once the wrapping is done. The message Done!!! will be shown. In my example a file named [PolicyPakMSI].intunewin will be created in C:\Temp.

Note: The mentioned steps should be performed per PolicyPak MSI.

Configure Win32 app

The next step is to quickly look at the configuration steps, within Microsoft Intune, to configure the Win32 apps. The following 17 steps walk through all the steps to configure the Win32 apps, by using the .intunewin files.

1 Open the Azure portal and navigate to Intune > Client apps > Apps to open the Client apps – Apps blade;
2 On the Client apps – Apps blade, click Add to open the Add app blade;
3 On the Add app blade, select Windows app (Win32) – preview to show the configuration options and select App package file to open the App package file blade.
4 On the App package file blade, select the created [PolicyPakMSI].intunewin as App package file and click OK to return to the Add app blade;
5 Back on the Add app blade, select App information to open the App information blade;
6 On the App information blade, provide at least the following information and click OK to return to the Add app blade;

  • Name: [PolicyPakMSI] is pre-provisioned as name of the app;
  • Description: Provide a description of the app;
  • Publisher: Provide the publisher of the app;

Note: The remaining information regarding the Information URL, the Privacy URL, the Developer, the Owner, the Notes and the Logo is optional.

7 Back on the Add app blade, select Program to open the Program blade;
8 On the Program blade, verify the Install command and the Uninstall command and click OK to return to the Add app blade;
9 Back on the Add app blade, select Requirements to open the Requirements blade;
10 On the Requirements blade, provide at least the following information and click OK to return to the Add app blade;

  • Operating system architecture: Select the applicable platforms;
  • Minimum operating system: Select a minimum operating system version;
11 Back on the Add app blade, select Detection rules to open the Detection rules blade;
12 On the Detection rules blade, select Manually configure detection rules and click Add to open the Detection rule blade.
13 On the Detection rule blade, select MSI as Rule type, verify the pre-provisioned MSI product code and click OK to return to the Detection rules blade;
14 Back on the Detection rules blade, click OK to return to the Add app blade;
15 Back on the Add app blade, select Return codes to open the Return codes blade;
16 On the Return codes blade, verify the preconfigured return codes and click OK to return to the Add app blade;
17 Back on the Add app blade, click Add to actually add app.

Note: The mentioned steps should be performed per PolicyPak .intunewin file.

Configure Win32 app dependency

Now the main configuration of this post, the configuration of the dependency between Win32 apps. The created Win32 apps need to be installed in the order as described (and shown) during the explanation of the scenario. The following six steps walk through the Win32 app dependency configuration. In my scenario, these steps need to be performed for he PolicyPak settings MSI, to create a dependency between the PolicyPak settings MSI and the PolicyPak client-side extensions MSI, and for the PolicyPak client-side extensions MSI, to create a dependency between the PolicyPak client-side extensions MSI and the PolicyPak license MSI. After configuring the Win32 app dependencues, make sure to assign the PolicyPak settings MSI to a user group.

1 Open the Azure portal and navigate to Intune > Client apps > Apps to open the Client apps – Apps blade;
2 On the Client apps – Apps blade, select the just created [PolicyPakMSI] app to open the [PolicyPakMSI] app blade;
3 On the [PolicyPakMSI] app blade, select Dependencies to open the [PolicyPakMSI] app – Dependencies blade;
4 On the [PolicyPakMSI] app – Dependencies blade, click Add to open the Add dependency blade;
5 On the Add dependency blade, select the [PolicyPakMSI] app and click Select to return to the [PolicyPakMSI] app – Dependencies blade;
Win32App-AddDependency
6 Back on the [PolicyPakMSI] app – Dependencies blade, select Yes with AUTOMATICALLY INSTALL and click Save.
Win32App-AddDependency-Save

Note: Keep in mind that these steps need to be performed for both dependencies.

Experience

Now let’s end this post by looking at the end-user experience and the administrator experience.

End-user experience

The first experience to look at is the end-user experience. Below, from left to right, is the end-user experience. As I configured the dependencies to automatically install, the dependencies will install before the actual assigned PolicyPak settings MSI. First the end-user will receive the message that PolicyPak license MSI will install as a part of the PolicyPak settings MSI installation. After a successful installation, the end-user will receive the message that the PolicyPak client-side extensions MSI will install as part of the PolicyPak settings MSI installation. And once that installation is successful, the PolicyPak settings MSI will install.

PP-Example01 PP-Example02 PP-Example03

Administrator experience

Win32App-AdministratorExperienceThe second experience to look at is the administrator experience. That is not always the most exiting experience to look at, but in this case it does add something good and new to look at. For the administrator, Microsoft Intune provides the Dependency viewer. The Dependency viewer can be found by selecting an app and navigating to Monitor > Dependency viewer. The Dependency viewer shows the the dependencies of the selected app and the dependencies of the dependencies (all the way down). The Dependency viewer does not show the apps that depend on the app. So, to explain that with the example of this post, it would be like this:

  • PolicyPak settings MSI: The PolicyPak settings MSI would show that it has a dependency on the PolicyPak client-side extensions MSI and that the PolicyPak client-side extensions MSI has a dependency on the PolicyPak MDM license MSI (as shown on the right);
  • PolicyPak client-side extensions MSI: The PolicyPak client-side extensions MSI would show that it has a dependency on the PolicyPak MDM license MSI;
  • PolicyPak MDM license MSI: The PolicyPak MDM license MSI would show no dependencies.

More information

For more information regarding Win32 apps and Win32 app dependencies, please refer to the following article:

7 thoughts on “Working with Win32 app dependencies”

  1. Peter,

    OK, I think you’re right – that’s how dependencies work for now.
    But does it make sense?

    1. Instead of just ordering the components I need to create a dependency chain.
    That is not only non-intuitive in many cases it’s also not exactly flexible: any component but the last in the chain cannot be installed without its dependencies. Splitting components into different app packages and combining them by dependency relations only makes sense if the combinations are flexible and components may be used by different apps.

    2. What about uninstallation?
    The dependencies will not be uninstalled when uninstalling the “main” component, right?
    What if I want to uninstall my app together with all of it’s components?

    I think currently it is better to avoid dependencies and put all components into 1 app, installing and uninstalling them in my preferred order using a script.
    Not exactly what I really want but works reliably.

    I hope Microsoft will add the necessary functionality soon to make dependencies a really valuable feature.
    – allow ordered installation of same level dependencies (and apps)
    – allow the configuration of uninstallation options (always, never, if not needed by other app)

    What do you think?

    Cheers
    Klaus

  2. Hi Klaus,
    You do have some fair points. However, do keep in mind that using separate apps make the troubleshooting a lot easier and it enables you to use the same app as a dependency for multiple apps.
    Regards, Peter

  3. Hi Peter,

    Yes, using the same app in combination with other apps, that’s what I want!
    But how would I do that?

    Let’s have a look on you example scenario:
    I want to combine just one of the components “PolicyPak settings MSI” with another app, let’s say an updated version of the main app.
    I can’t because it would install its direct and indirect dependencies, too.
    And what if I wanted to uninstall the PolicyPak client-side extension?

    Using some runtimes as dependencies might work because they are used by multiple other apps and we usually leave them installed when uninstalling the main applications.
    I can hardly think of any other scenario where the current dependencies would make sense but would certainly be very interested to learn how people actually use dependencies.

    I think Microsoft will come up with an enhanced version of the dependencies and I hope they will deliver it in the not too far future.

    Cheers
    Klaus

  4. Hi Klaus,
    Yes, you’re correct. Currently, the Win32 app dependency functionality does not fulfill all scenario’s. At this moment I’m creating a dependency chain to order the installations. That’s not possible yet. And no, that’s not always the most efficient way.. This is the initial version of this functionality, so probably updates will follow.
    Regards, Peter

  5. Nice post.

    Do you know if there is any plan for Line of Business Apps be added as dependencies??
    I have some legacy apps which need some components which are MSIs and currently i cant say they are a dependency because only other win32apps can be used.

    Thanks

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