Making Blender usage easy to start is something I always try to look at. In my personal opinion the easiest and nicest way is always to unzip any software distribution and run it from that fresh directory.
Without having to do anything.

I”ll readily admit that this is probably a way that should be considered fairly “hardcore”, since Windows users will be wanting their links in the start menu and/or on the Desktop for free.

Now, we’ve had our installer for a pretty long time, but pretty often we get reports in our bug tracker, that are related to our installer in some way. This should obviously be fixed, but currently we don”t have a NSIS guru amongst our developers who could properly address all the issues with the installer. Ultimately it should be similar to what unzipping the packed archive does, with the addition of adding the links, registering the Blender executable as default program for .blend files and set up the scripts directory as wanted by the user.

Our latest installer will run with current user privileges, and as such has some obvious problems: no write access to places where the user has no permissions to write to. It is pretty common that users don”t have administrative rights (and probably for good reason). Normally programs would install to %PROGRAMFILES%\Blender Foundation\Blender, but this is an off-limits area for normal users. Since we want our installer to work similar to our zip distribution, it means the default location we pick should be user-writable. For this reason I made the change to write to %USERPROFILE%\Blender Foundation\Blender instead (In my case that translates to C:\Users\Nathan\Blender Foundation\Blender). Of course, one can always change the location of the installation, but the point is that with this default the user doesn”t have to worry about write access. For this case it means one possible error message less, which is a good thing.

Another reason to use these defaults with the user level permissions is that with admin level it was often possible to install Blender in such a way that writing configuration files (startup.blend) or installing addons was impossible, due to wrong permissions for the (normal) user. We want our users to be able to do both things, naturally.

A new problem is with the current permission level, some parts apparently fail silently, like start menu links and registry manipulations (i.e. default action for .blend).

Other issues are how to handle properly uninstallation and installation of newer version. How much to remove

We also used to have problems with missing runtime components, but I think that”s solved currently.

None of these problems really exist with the zip distribution, as it is a fully self-contained install that can be extracted anywhere and Will Just Run<tm>. Again, we (and I guess more specifically, I) lack proper NSIS skills to fix our installer adequately. So, if you”re reading this, always have wondered why our installer sucks, and know exactly how to fix our installer script, please do so!

If we don”t manage to get our installer to a working way, I”d rather drop the installer. I”d replace it with a self-extracting archive that contains a simple install.bat that can create the necessary start menu links and do the default action registration (which you as user can also do by just running blender -R on a command-line). At least that would solve a lot of headaches for me, and probably give more satisfaction to the user. I”ll try to make up my mind, partly based on feedback here before the next release.

Anyway, feedback and ideas, even fixes appreciated.