back to article Microsoft releases command-line package manager for Windows (there are snags)

Microsoft has released Windows Package Manager 1.0, better known as winget, a command line tool for adding, removing and updating what is installed on the system. The Windows Package Manager has a number of arguments through which users can inspect what is installed as well as adding, removing or updating applications. The …

  1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Windows trundles on, seemingly never escaping its disorganized past. FTFY.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      To be fair it's much harder for a $Tn corporation with 1000s of program managers and 100,000s of engineers to build anything than a bunch of randoms on the internet

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Indeed. You can ignore the yahoos, empire builders, wild eyed "visionaries" and unproductive deadweights among the bunch of randoms, and possibly get something done.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      "Microsoft releases command-line package manager for Windows (there are snags)"

      For headlines that begin "Microsoft releases" isn't "there are snags" redundant?

    3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Window's appeal is its "disorganized past". The whole OS is a legacy system designed to provide backwards-compatibility for its disorganized past. Were that need to evaporate, Windows would be regelated to a salt stain on the history of computing.

  2. Boothy


    Quote: The restart thing is a problem too: not restarting is great, but it's frustrating when the application is not fully installed.

    This has always annoyed me with Windows, why do so many user applications, such as Libre Office and many others, need a restart after an update in the first place?

    I've been able to install and update things like GFX drivers (such as for nVidia cards) in Windows without needing a reboot for many years now, and that's replacing hardware drivers for something that is actively in use by the system.

    So why can't updating a user application, also be done without a restart? Surely it should be much easier to update software that isn't actively in use at the time, than it is to update something that is actively in use, such as drivers for a GFX card?

    1. Calum Morrison

      Re: Restarts

      A lot of these restarts seem to be unnecessary and - from what I can tell - are probably just a hangover from old versions of Windows or caution on the behalf of the person writing the installer. Many/most apps calling for a restart will work fine without, albeit they may use that restart to tidy up some of their logs etc. Per the article, there seems to be little standardisation in Windows to ensure things are all done in a similar manner.

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: Restarts

        I might be wrong, but it could be due to some parts of the registry only being interrogated at start time. So an installer might add a registry key that the program needs to run, but it only becomes available after a restart.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Restarts

          Because --reload is so difficult?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Restarts

      Propably the largest deviation between Windows and Unix lies within its virtual memory implementation, the executable file format used, and how the file systems behave. If a COFF file is executed on Windows, the executable file is locked in such a way, that it can't be modified anymore on disk. Under Unix this is handled a little bit differently. If an ELF file is executed, the executable is also locked in a similar way as on Windows, but it is nevertheless possible to unlink the file (delete it) from file systems. Afterwards, the file can be created freshly, i.e. updated with a newer version. This "zombie" state of files--it is unlinked but still in use and therefore kept intact--is realised with tricks inside the file cache of the system. If you are interested how this is handled, read about "negative dentries".

      In summary, if on Windows a program or any part of it in form of a shared library is executed, it is not possible to change or update the program files. Hence, such changes are deferred until the next reboot of the system is initiated. On Unix this is only necessary if the kernel itself is updated. If Microsoft want to change this, they must rewrite an important part of the operating system.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Restarts

        This is precisely the issue and it is (slightly) worse than suggested. Because of this historicalbehaviour, there are apps that rely on this locking. They "know" that if they are running then theycan'thavetheir dependencies upgraded under their feet, so things like config data formats and protocols are stable.

        I doubt whether anyone knows how widespread this actually is, but MS have considered changing it in the past andbacked away. I think oldnewthing had an article on it a few years back. Don't expect it ever to change.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Restarts

        How does that work with regards to swap files then?

        On Windows executables and shared libraries are never copied into the swap file if memory space is needed because the OS knows they already exist on disk - they're just unloaded and reloaded as required. But that happens outside of the file cache which doesn't need to know or care about such specifics. (To me that sounds like an unnecessary complication to what should be a small, streamline system.)

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Restarts

          All major OS have flags for opening a file in an "private" way, meaning that no other process is allowed to change their view of the file.

          On Windows, this locks the file completely, no other process may write to or delete the file at all. You can rename or move it though, a fact used by some installers. That works because files are objects in their own right, not just their name.

          On Linux and BSD (inc. macOS), this is implemented by giving each process a "private view" onto the file as it existed when the file was opened. IIRC this is done by taking a snapshot of the inode chain that represents the file contents at the time.

          If the file is deleted, the filesystem simply hides the file. It's not actually placed into the "free space" list until all open file handles are closed.

          If the file is modified by some other process, the changed blocks don't appear for processes that have asked for a private view.

          1. Julian Bradfield

            Re: Restarts

            @Richard 12: I've never heard of this, and it's not in the manpage for open(2), nor can I easily find any reference to it. Can you give a reference?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Restarts

              It's been best part of a decade since I looked at this & I've not tried this on Linux but I presume it is the same. But when a file is privately memory mapped then once a page is read it is mapped into the processes address space and its backing store can become the swap area if need be. It wasn't at open time that the file became "fixed" but at first access to a page.

              1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

                Re: Restarts

                That sounds like a recipe for disaster: I can end up seeing pages from two different versions of a file.

                For example, suppose the start of a file contains a "directory" that gets locked immediately I map it. If somebody modifiers the file and changes where something is then when I go to get the data my directory says exists, it's no longer there, even though I'm supposed to have a private copy of the file that no one can modify.

                1. Tomato42

                  Re: Restarts

                  you're right to think that it would cause a disaster

                  that's why it doesn't work like this

                  if a file is opened in exclusive mode, then nothing else can open it, but executing an application doesn't do that

                  The difference between Linux and Windows is that you can delete (unlink) an opened file on Linux, you can't on Windows. Such an unlinked file behaves normally for the application that has it opened (it will sync to disk, can be freely read and written to, and data is sent to disk, so you're not limited to RAM), but it doesn't have a name associated with it. As such, no other application can open it.

                  If two applications do manage to open same file at the same time, then they will see the same contents, so writes by the one application will be visible by the other, and vice versa. There is no way to "fork" a file and have two applications see different contents of the same file, that's a copy, even on ref-linked file systems like btrfs or zfs, so the new file needs to have a different file name.

                  1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

                    Re: Restarts

                    I just looked up the mmap(2) The text for MAP_PRIVATE says:

                    It is unspecified whether changes made to the file after the mmap() call are visible in the mapped region.

                    So it sounds like an accurate description of the pitfalls of copy on write mappings.

                    1. Dazed and Confused

                      Re: Restarts

                      @Brewster's Angle Grinder, you're right this is an accurate description.

                      It can vary from implementation to implementation. Some of it is beneath the vnode layer in the Unix kernel and so could potentially vary between different filesystems. Not all implantations even managed to be coherent between nmap MAP_SHARED and the traditional read/write system call interface to files.

                      To get a guaranteed consistent view of a file with MAP_PRIVATE you need to open the file, lock the whole thing, or at least the part you're interested in, then touch all the pages so your processes address space sets up all the data structures down to the page level and then unlock it. But that's really no difference to the behaviour of the read/write interface. If you open a file and start to read it while someone else is writing to the file you can get some old and some new new data. It is only the individual systems calls which are guaranteed to be atomic.

                      Things like libraries are normally only open read only so you don't need to worry about this sort of issue.

                      Also, not all systems allow you to unlink an open executable and you can get a text busy error, however you can rename an open executable so that an updated version can be inserted in its place.

                      NFS used to add "interesting" layers of behaviour too as it was never fully SVID compliant.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Restarts

        Sure, all this makes sense, but it doesn't when no files need modification yet a restart is required anyways. There's some cracker tricks that intentionally disable anything restart related to negate any further modifications after installing... yet everything runs smoothly anyhow. At the dawn of PCIe you could even bypass certain checks by pulling a card of interest and simply reinserting it. Again, everything ran fine and no further file modifications where made.

        To me, it is a borked design, but Microsoft has never made any attempts at trying to make these checks more visible to the API to make things more helpful to the client. Basically, they just assume darkness is ALWAYS way.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Restarts

          No, it's whoever wrote the installer.

          Windows simply believes the installer when it says "I need the OS to restart to work properly".

          This is probably primarily because several commercial Windows installer systems assume every application will need a restart. Looking at you, Installshield.

          Most applications don't, but whoever wrote the installer didn't find the opt-out.

          1. Falmari Silver badge

            Re: Restarts

            @Richard 12 “No, it's whoever wrote the installer.” Exactly I have written many installers, and none require a reboot and yes in InstallShield you do have to set the flag for /norestart.

            The only time a restart might happen (not often) is if we must update an external component like a Microsoft one which requires a reinstall. But it is done at the beginning before our install has started choosing to install those components will run those components installers which may trigger a reboot choosing not to install them will cancel the install.

            We decided that to check and if not present offer to install those components more convenient for customers than when finding they are not present telling the customer to get them themselves but they still have that option.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Restarts

          Windows has a Restart Manager for installations since a long time:

          Unluckily too many developers never left Windows 3.1 or maybe 95.

          Any decent installer for Windows will support it.

  3. karlkarl Silver badge

    Linux / BSD package managers work pretty well because the software is simple in terms of filesystem structure (though have IMO too many dependencies these days. Gtk, Gdk, Pango, Cairo, etc should potentially be a single package)

    This is one thing that the (early) Mac OS X got right. Single folders that you just drag into a folder on your HD to "install". They went with the approach of all the dependencies bundled in (I like this approach (though despise the rest of macOS), but I understand it does have some limitations).

    Solaris 10 had an interesting approach of handling many dependencies of different versions by using entire installation prefixes (/usr/sfw, /opt/sfw, /opt/csw, etc). This was confusing in many ways but was quite a good middle ground between the above.

    Whereas Windows software includes all of these updater services, admin registry entries and other weirdness that I think Windows should simply block these days. No, don't cripple Windows by making silly AppStore-like packages, but just make it so distribution via a zip becomes the norm and as soon as an .exe attempts to write into system32 or the registry, then emulate it, or deny it.

    People have been working on Windows for decades... why is it still so impossibly bad?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      If an OS X app is installed from a package instead of drag and drop, uninstalling (properly) is not so easy. Also the Library folder fills up with data from apps removed ages go. So it's not all roses inside Apple's walled garden.

      1. casperghst42

        There are tools to help with that. When you remove and .app use something like App Cleaner and it’ll do a very good job out of removing files left in ~/Library - of cause logfiles and datafiles will not be cleaned up, but that is the same with what ever OS you choose.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "or the registry, then emulate it, or deny it."

      The registry is required to register application icons, file open commands and other integrations with the system and the user.

      I understand those kind of advanced features are unheard in obsolete OSes with limited features, but the last thing Windows has to do is to lose features to become like an OS designed 50 years ago and never improved much from there.

      Luckily Dave Cutler designed an OS without trying to copy Unix.

    3. Falmari Silver badge

      @karlkarl "all the dependencies bundled in" how does it cope if you have a service you want to share between your applications or is every application dependent of its own version of the service in the application's folder?

  4. Calum Morrison

    Winget / Wing It, Winnit

    Are MS winging it (probably) or is this just a small crumb of shit hanging around a very smelly place?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Embarrassed for them.....

    I really am. I know how entrenched Windows is in enterprise, but, well, wow.....

    Whilst we are on the subject of BUILDING packages for installation.... I recently had to put some documentation together for windows and mac customers for building their own packages.

    macOS: All the tools you need are right there with pkgbuild and productsign. If you wish to use an app to do it, there's some great ones

    Windows: What an abysmal merdemess. Had to use NSIS, and it's own quirky scripting language (and it's 25 year old interface). I tried really hard to find a simple solution but....

    If you're a windows admin, I sincerely pity you

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Embarrassed for them.....


      It's what Microsoft use and recommend. If your application is trivial enough that the built-in macOS tools are usable then WiX is literally a one-liner.

      It produces an MSI which will install and uninstall as a single transaction.

      Or there's the MSI creator that comes with Visual Studio, just like pkgbuild and productsign come with xcode. Though TBH I've never used it as wix is nicer.

      These also mean windows admins can preinstall and remotely install/update whatever they need across thousands of managed desktops. I pity macOS admins, they rely on the end user for so much.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: Embarrassed for them.....

        Yep, I've been using WiX for at least a decade for my own software releases. Never had a problem with it and for simple installers it doesn't get any easier.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I pity macOS admins, they rely on the end user for so much."

        They're lucky, you never find an admin who need to manage thousands of macOS systems... probably only at Apple. Where I'm going to bet they use some custom built system.

      3. Falmari Silver badge

        Re: Embarrassed for them.....

        "It's what Microsoft use and recommend" well they did created Wix originally. ;)

        But yes WiX is good and free.

        @Richard 12 ever used Dark on a MSI created by InstallShield not a pretty sight? :)

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Embarrassed for them.....

      Oh no, I'd managed to block the absolute horror that was NSIS from my memory. Just... quite how whoever vomited up that thing considered any way that it worked to be useful I'll never know. It felt like the creator of it had heard of scripting and even basic logic structures and methods and had intentionally gone sideways instead.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Most number of restarts for an install ?

    I have vague memories of Visual Studio 6 needing about 6 or 7. One for DCOM. One for MFC. One for this. One for that ....

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Most number of restarts for an install ? for the other, and one for luck?

  7. vtcodger Silver badge

    There are snags

    A "snag" is what? A bug after application of a lot of lipstick?

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: There are snags

      A bug has six legs. A snag has five.

  8. unccvince

    Did you know that apt-get for Windows has existed for 8 years ?

    The product is called WAPT. It's made in France by a team 3000 times smaller than the MS team.

    It is agent and pull based so that it works well with NATs, firewalls and proxies, users don't need to be local admins, you have command line and console based management capabilities. Actions and packages are signed using certificates and all communications are https. You can catch return codes and even configure the user environment for their immediate productive use of the software package.

    Repositories are self hosted so you can customize your packages.

    It is designed to be flexible, secure and simple to set up and use.

    Cherry on the cake, it even has a security certification from the French Cyberdefense agency.

    Winget is what WAPT was in 2014.

  9. Blackjack Silver badge

    How about Chocolatey? Is it any good?

    1. cornetman Silver badge

      > How about Chocolatey? Is it any good?

      It's OK. I use it here. Sometimes a package fails to upgrade for weird reasons, but in the main it works well. The closest I have come to having a convenient installer.

      One good aspect is having choco update all installed software. So I have many of the classics like notepad++ and every now and then I just run a blanket update to get the most recent versions.

      I can recommend giving it a try.

      1. Blackjack Silver badge

        I have found no way to make it work in Windows 7 back when the thing still had a few months of support left. If I ever use Windows 10 I will give it a try.

    2. Robert Grant

      That was the previous blessed thirty party package manager, if II recall.

  10. jason_derp

    Windows Store?

    "A nice feature of Winget is that it can manage existing applications installed via the Windows Store or visible in Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel."

    I know what one of those last two are.

  11. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Nice try, but package management will never work as well on Windows as it does on Linux

    Given how many problems there are with the various Linux installers that doesn't sound promising.

    Packaging, especially when external libraries are required, is hard.

  12. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge


    A very apt name for Microsoft.

  13. malfeasance

    I’ve always found to be more useful than chocolatey.

  14. Denarius

    Oh, the irony

    back when I were a wee lad, WIMP was the Future. Command lines were so old-fashioned. Yes, the 1980s. So MS are rediscovering the power of command lines. Meanwhile I will continue to enjoy the speed, power, flexibility of ksh93. Scripts that run 40 times faster than bash. No, I dont do much in graphics. Data munging, yes, a little

    1. ITMA Silver badge

      Re: Oh, the irony

      There is the alternative GUI based view - and I just KNOW I'm going to get serious stick for this - but:

      If a Windows user wanted to have to learn and use lots of cryptic commands on a command line do anything useful, they would be using Linux, not Windows.

      1. Tomato42

        Re: Oh, the irony

        you're completely ignoring the power of marketing, network effects and abusing dominant market position

        1. ITMA Silver badge

          Re: Oh, the irony


          I just don't see the point in a GUI based OS where you have to resort to cryptic commands to do things.

          Sort of defeats the object.

  15. FuzzyTheBear


    Microsoft seems to be adopting all things GNU / Linux lately ..

    Wonder why ? Has linux totally won the technical battle ?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Funny

      Pretty much.

      To a first approximation, computing these days is Windows and Linux in user's hands, and Linux everywhere else.

      There's a few BSD and Mach kernels around too, but those are basically a rounding error.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Funny

        A bit more than a rounding error - every Mac, iDevice and recent PlayStation (PS3 and up) are running a BSD kernel. There's also a lot of BSD kernels running in embedded gear, and Cisco equipment run an OS derived from it as well.

        1. Tomato42

          Re: Funny

          except the fact that BSD kernel is in MacOS is of less relevance than the Linux kernel of Android

        2. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Funny

          Your TV, bluray player, and set-top boxes (Sky box/Roku/Fire/Chrome stick etc) all run Linux.

  16. Warm Braw

    Just about every developer has wanted a native package manager in Windows


    Can't say it's ever occurred to me that I might want or need to have a third party act as a gatekeeper for the software I might want to install.

    It also doesn't appear that winget handles the installation process - that's just your regular .exe/.msi/.msix installer.

    There might arguably be some value if it solved the problem of every package installing its own updater, but since you're getting the same installer package by this route as you would by any other, I'm struggling to see the advantage.

    1. Tomato42

      Re: Just about every developer has wanted a native package manager in Windows

      one doesn't preclude the other

      or you forgot the "./configure && make && make install" joke in your other jacket?

  17. s. pam Silver badge

    Why won't they just support Ansible fully?

    We don't need yet another sysadmin package management tool. We need full support for Ansible so we can manage Windblows systems!

  18. Elledan


    My go-to solution on Windows (my primary development platform) is MSYS2, with the Pacman package manager (same as Arch). This, together with a Manjaro (friendly Arch distro) VM, gives me a very coherent way to develop both for Windows and Linux, without having to resort to hacks like WSL(2).

    On Windows I prefer to get an EXE or MSI installer package for large software packages (like LibreOffice), but I like using MSYS2's pacman to get libraries and tools I use during development, also because of the Linux-style filesystem layout this gives me in addition to a Bash shell.

  19. venkatarangan

    //The question was whether to drop support for applications with legacy installers that are not transactional and have unpredictable behaviour.

    Drop such support, and Winget would be less useful. Maintain it, and Windows trundles on, seemingly never escaping its disorganized past.//

    Well put. I wish Microsoft brings the container technology from 10X so that all this mess can be hidden away inside individual container for every application.

  20. steelpillow Silver badge

    "by installing an application called App Installer"

    Quid inauguret ipse inaugurator?

    (to paraphrase Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "with the arguments /qn /norestart"

    A well written installer will run without issues with a silent install - it will use the default settings. If you need to change them you need the UI or a response file.

    You need to test that as well.

    Anyway usually Linux packages don't ask anything to users - but maybe some confirmations - they are not designed for a complex UI and interaction with the user. They leave an an exercise to the user hunting down configuration files and modify them after the package has been installed. A Windows installer lets the use to enter all required parameters - if designed to do so - and then write the required configuration.

    It's no surprise many commercial application for Linux don't use standard packages but come with their own installers too - be it some Java multiplatform installer or some custom one.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    can the package manager do...

    apt-get --purge remove cortana ?

    (asking for a friend)

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like