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Assigned and published programs

Updated: January 21, 2005

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

Assigned and published programs

Windows Server 2003 family operating systems provide Windows Installer for deploying programs within your organization. You can assign a program to either computers or users, or you can publish programs to users. For more information on using Windows Installer to install programs, see Managing options for computers through Group Policy.

Because Terminal Server is designed to provide multisession access to programs, additional consideration is needed before deploying applications in environments that contain terminal servers.

Applications are installed on the terminal server, and are available to any user with remote access to the terminal server. Terminal Server cannot accept published programs because they are published on a per-user basis. Additionally, assigned programs must be assigned on a per-computer basis, rather than on a per-user basis.

When installing assigned programs, members of the Administrators group on the terminal server can install the program from either the console session or from a remote session.


  • Program installation often requires restarting the computer. Always ensure that no users are logged on to the terminal server before starting any program installation.

  • If the program is installed from a remote session, the session is disconnected or reset if the program installation requires rebooting the server. When the server reboots, your session is reset and you need to again log on to the terminal server to ensure that the program is correctly installed.

  • Whenever possible, install programs from the console session.

Deploying programs on terminal servers by using Windows Installer

Microsoft Windows Installer installs programs at different levels, depending on how the .msi package was created. Many .msi packages require minimal installation where only a small number of program components are installed. When a user first invokes the program, there are enough components installed for Windows Installer to know where to find the remainder of the components and install the program. For Terminal Server, members of the Users security group cannot invoke a Windows Installer installation. Therefore, it is important to install these programs locally. To do this, a transform file (.mst) can be used. Transform files appear as modifications to .msi packages and tell Windows Installer which bits to install locally. Since transform files might not be available for all programs, you can either ensure that all necessary components are fully installed during installation or create a transform file. For more information on transform files, see Windows Installer technologies.

Legacy programs can also be repackaged as Windows Installer programs, using tools that capture the changes made to the system when the program is installed. These changes are then used to create an .msi package for the legacy program. This method allows you to continue using programs developed specifically for your organization.

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