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Creating PDQ Packages To Silently Install Applications

Here at PDQ.com, we take great pride in our package library. That's because the package library in PDQ Deploy contains hundreds of pre-built packages maintained by a dedicated team of expert packagers. Users can download and deploy these applications to hundreds or even thousands of devices with just a few clicks. However, there may come a time when you're asked to deploy an application that isn't part of the package library. Before you freak out, let me assure you that creating a custom package to install your applications silently is an easy process, and in this article, we'll show you how to do it.

PowerToys

The application we're going to use for this tutorial is Microsoft's PowerToys. PowerToys is a collection of utilities that provide users with additional Windows features and functionality. It was initially released with Windows 95 and is still going strong, though the included utilities have changed quite a bit since its initial release. Here's a list of the currently included utilities.

  • Awake - Awake is designed to keep a computer awake without managing the power & sleep settings.

  • Color Picker - Pick colors from any currently running application. Colors are copied into your clipboard in a configurable format.

  • Fancy Zones - FancyZones is a window manager that makes it easy to create complex window layouts and quickly position windows into those layouts.

  • File Explorer add-ons - Enables preview pane rendering in File Explorer to display SVG icons (.svg) and Markdown (.md) file previews.

  • Image Resizer - Resize images directly within File Explorer.

  • Keyboard Manager - Customize the keyboard to be more productive by remapping keys and creating your own keyboard shortcuts.

  • PowerRename - Enable you to perform bulk renaming, searching, and replacing file names.

  • PowerToys Run - Helps you search and launch your app instantly just by entering the ALT+SPACE shortcut.

  • Shortcut Guide - Shows available shortcuts for the current state of the desktop after holding down the Windows key for more than a second.

One note worth mentioning is that PowerToys may be OS dependent, meaning you may need a certain version of Windows to run it. Check the requirements before attempting to build a deployment package.

Finding Silent Parameters

To ensure that our package deploys successfully, it needs to have a silent installation parameter. Deploying something silently means that the installation won't require any user inputs or prompts. I've covered this topic thoroughly in the past, but here's a quick summary:

  • MSI files are easy because they are standardized. The silent parameter of an MSI file is /quiet or /qn.

  • EXE files are more difficult because they aren't standardized. Developers can decide what parameters to use if any.

  • There are four primary ways to find silent install parameters.

  1. Check the usage statement for the install parameters by using /?

  2. Use Google. Many developers will list install parameters on their websites.

  3. Universal Silent Switch Finder (USSF). This application specializes in retrieving silent switches from applications.

  4. Use an application such as 7-zip to extract the contents of the executable to find an MSI installer.

  • If you can't find a silent parameter, the last resort option is to use an application such as AutoHotKey, which can automate tasks, such as navigating installation prompts.

Since PowerToys is an EXE file, we will need to find out what the silent parameter is. First, let's check to see if it's listed in the usage statement.

  1. Type CMD into the Windows search field.

  2. Right-click on Command Prompt and select Run as administrator.

  3. In the Command Prompt window, enter the path to your install file followed by /?.

  4. Hit Enter

  5. After running the command, instead of giving us the usage statement, PowerToys just wants to install, so we'll have to find the silent parameter another way.

Next, we'll try our luck with Google-fu. Using the search term "Microsoft PowerToys silent install switch," I was able to find the silent install parameter online, which is --silent. Now that we have the silent parameter, we can build our package.

Creating A Custom Package In PDQ Deploy

I recommend saving the installer into the PDQ Deploy repository folder before we build our package. If you don't know where that is, you can find the path to the repository by clicking on Options > Preferences, then click on Repository.

Here, you can see I've added the folder to my repository and placed the installer file inside this folder.

Now it's time to build our package.

  1. In PDQ Deploy, click New Package.

  2. Name the package

  3. Click New Step > Install

  4. Click the ellipsis button to browse to the installation file.

  5. Browse to the install file, select it, and click Open

  6. Enter the --silent parameter into the Parameters field.

  7. When you are finished, click Save.

Deploying A Custom Package

Now that we have our package created, we can begin to push it out to the computers that need it.

  1. In PDQ Deploy, right-click on the package we just created and click Deploy Once.

  2. Enter the names of the computers you want to deploy to and click Add Computer. Alternatively, you can click Choose Targets to select targets from PDQ Inventory or Active Directory.

  3. Once you've added your devices, click Deploy Now.

That's all there is to it. Your custom package will begin to deploy silently to all of your targeted devices.

Wrapping Up

Whether you're installing PowerToys or some other application, the process remains pretty much the same. Download the install file, find the silent parameters, deploy the package.

If you want to take your custom packages to the next level, we've got an article covering custom packages and video walking you through the process of fully automating them. Careful, though, this process is only for those who have truly mastered the art of laziness.

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