Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 – Software Distribution “Theory”

Let’s start with the basics – What is it?

Software distribution is a way of automating and in general making your life as a system admin easier. Do you really want to go round 100 client machines – USB Key in hand installing a new program? – I for one would rather click “deploy” and those 100 machines have the new software package deployed to them.

There’s three main types – MSIEXEDIFF

This means any program you can run can be distributed!

As I’m sure many of you will have been involved with various installations over the years, MSI installation is generally the easiest. Especially if you deploy via GPO or logon script. Most MSI files have all the relevant switches included (switches include making the installation run silently – so the user doesn’t notice).

EXE files (Executable files) – tend to be more difficult mainly due to the fact some are almost legacy built which means they don’t include the various command line switches required to hide the installation from the user (or to not request a reboot after installation).

DIFF or difference are for those custom deployments. If you take a system state view before and after installation you can then see all those changes (reg key changes) etc which have been made during the installation. You will then package all those changes and deploy. You can see this is a more complex and usually the most difficult way of deploying packages.

The image below is a good reference point. I’ve tried to define the three main sections (Package which contains the program), the Advertisement and the Collection. (We will cover these later don’t worry). I’ve tried to make them as simple as possible – to try and break them down in to the below questions:

What – What do I want to deploy package?

When – When do I want to deploy the package?

Who – Who do I want to deploy the package to?

It’s the combination of these three items which make the change event – change event being new software installed.

An example using the above could be:

I want to deploy CuteFTP (what) during the day at 2PM (when) to only those machine’s with 2GB ram running windows vista (who).

Below we can see a spectrum of the different packages.

MSI – most install switches are contained within. Don’t require user input and tend to be the easiest option.

EXE – may or may not have the relevant switches – BUT can be very limited.

DIFF – Multi step process – Series of reg keys to see which are copied and which are not. Overall a difficult method.

One website you will find come in VERY handy is

This website tends to have the most popular packages listed along with all their command line switches (for example VLC player).

Keep in mind, within SCCM 2007 – packages DON’T have to just be software installations. Packages can be anything…deployment of a reg key, deployment of files you name it you can do it.

The benefit over (say GPO deployments) is you can keep track and can see via the SCCM console exactly which machines you’ve deployed to have received the package successfully and those which have failed. This saves you having to go over and over, checking gpresult and trying to find out why it’s not installed for certain users/machines.


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