How to Install Windows Service

Service Windows Install to How

Creating the solution

To create the solution, use "File." "New." and select "Blank Solution. from the Visual Studio development environment. For this example, call the solution "ServiceSolution".

All related projects (especially those that will be part of a installation, should become a project within the root solution. This keeps all inter-project dependencies relative to one another an simplifies the process if another developer decides to use a working folder.

The next step is to create two new projects as part of this solution the service application and the installation package. Right click on the solution within the Solution Explorer and select "Add." and the "New Project." from the Visual C# projects folder, choose "Window Service". Name the project "TestService". The resulting project should now be in design mode and ready to add the installation components.

The C# source file "Service1" and the class name "Service1" are added to the project; replace all occurrences of "Service1" with "TestService", including the string used to name the service in the InitializeComponent() method.

In the design view, right click and select "Add Installer" from the context menu. A new source file "ProjectInstaller.cs" with the class named "ProjectInstaller" will be added to the project. Two component will also be added to your project with the default name "serviceInstaller1" and "serviceProcessInstaller1". These component use the .NET framework to handle the registry key setup and installation of the service. You can opt to change the names of these components, but for this example keep them the same.

Service properties

In the design view, you can select the "serviceProcessInstaller1 component and modify its properties. For the "account" property, you can choose the type of account this service will use. For a use account, a name and password can be supplied in the code, but this should not be done. For production services, the service type should typically be user and then the name and password set to 'null'. A installation time, the production support personnel will be prompted to enter the name and password for the account under which the service will run. Be sure to specify what resources will be required by the application so that the account's permissions may be set appropriately.

Next, select the "serviceInstaller1" component in the design view. In the properties window, the name property should be set to "TestService which is the name of the class we chose for our service. You only need to change this property if you want the Service Control Manager to recognize your service with a different name.

In the "ServicesDependedOn" property, add the service name (as shown in the Service Control Manager) of any other dependent services that you service requires. This can be other services such as Microsoft Message Queuing, IIS, etc.

For the "DisplayName" property, choose a short friendly name that is displayed when the services are listed in the control panel. For our service, we'll use "Test Service" (with a space).

Adding a description

You'll note that there is no description property available for the service through any of the components. In order to add a useful description to the service that can be read by anyone, some code will need to be added to the "ProjectInstaller" class that was created.

The service is now ready to be developed in accordance to the service specification; prior to development, however, we can create the installation package along with the custom steps required to install the product.

MSI Package setup

The final step of the exercise is to create the MSI installation package that will be used to install our test service. From the Solution Explorer, right click on the "ServiceSolution" and choose "Add." then "New Project." from the context menu. From the "Setup and Deployment Projects" folder, select "Setup Project" and then name it TestServiceInstall".

Instead of focusing on the various properties for the installation, instead we will just go through the steps required to install the service application and then execute the service installation components that will occur when the MSI is deployed.

With the "TestServiceInstall" project selected in the Solution Explorer, you should see icons appear over the project folders. Select the first icon which is the "File System" installation folders. Right click on the "Application Folder" in the project pane and select "Add." and "Project Output." from the context menus.

Make sure that the "TestService" project is selected in the project drop-down and then click on "Primary Output" in the list box. Keep the "Configuration" dropdown to "(Active)". This will allow the installation project to use the appropriate output for either a debug or release build depending upon which you choose to create for the installation. (Debug builds are useful for development/stage environment deployment in some testing situations.)

The fifth icon on the top is the "Custom Actions" editor. Custom actions can be callbacks in code (in this case, they are part of the "ProcessInstaller" class that was created for us). We need to associate the "primary" output of our application to each of the custom installation steps.

To do this in one fell swoop, click the "Custom Actions" icon to show the actions view. There are several folders with the names "Install", "Commit", "Rollback" and "Uninstall". Right click on the top level "Custom Actions" node and select "Custom Action."

In the next dialog, open the dropdown and select "Application Folder". You should now see the "Primary output from TestService (Active)" in the list view, as this is where we added our project's output. Select this item in the list and choose "OK". The primary output for the service will now be associated with all of the custom actions and the service installer classes that were added to the project will now be called to perform the various installation steps when the MSI package is deployed.


We are now ready to create the installation package and see the results of the service installation. Right click on the "TestServiceInstall" project and choose "Build" from the context menu.

When the "TestServiceInstall.msi" file is created, navigate to the output folder where it was placed and double click on it to perform the installation. The other installation properties (such as the splash screen display name, copyright information, other dependencies, etc.) can be added as needed as this is only a test project.

When installing, choose "Everyone" for the installation and continue to click next. You will eventually be prompted with the dialog to enter your login name and credentials. You can use your network logon for testing purposes. When installation is complete, use the Administrative Tools to view the installed service applications. You should see the "Test Service" along with its description and the credentials used by the service application.

After closing the services window, use the "Add/Remove Programs" functionality from the Control Panel to uninstall the service and it should no longer appear in list of available services.

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