Using Version Information

An installation program typically has the following goals:

  • To place files in the correct location.
  • To notify the user if the installation program is replacing an existing file with a version that is significantly different—for example, replacing a German-language file with an English-language file, or replacing a newer file with an older file.

When writing the installation program, you must have the following information for each file:

  • The name and location of the file (referred to as the source file).
  • The name of the equivalent file on the user's hard disk (referred to as the destination file). This name is usually the same as the filename on the installation disk.
  • The sharing status of the file—that is, whether the file is private to the application being installed or could be shared by multiple applications.

The installation program can use the VerFindFile function to determine where the file should be copied on the disk. This function can also be used to specify whether the file is private to the application or can be shared. If a problem occurs in finding the file, VerFindFile returns an error value. For example, if the system is using the destination file, VerFindFile returns VFF_FILEINUSE. The installation program must notify the user of the problem and respond to the user's decision to continue or to end the installation.

The VerInstallFile function copies the source file to a temporary file in the directory specified by VerFindFile. If necessary, VerInstallFile expands the file by using the functions in the data decompression library.

VerInstallFile compares the version information of the temporary file to that of the destination file. If the two differ, VerInstallFile returns one or more error values. For example, it returns VIF_SRCOLD if the temporary file is older than the destination file and VIF_DIFFLANG if the files have different language identifiers or code-page values. The installation program must notify the user of the problem and respond to the user's decision to continue or to end the installation.

Some VerInstallFile errors are recoverable. That is, the installation program can call VerInstallFile again, specifying the VIFF_FORCEINSTALL option, to install the file regardless of the version conflict. If VerInstallFile returns VIF_TEMPFILE and the user chooses not to force the installation, the installation program should delete the temporary file.

VerInstallFile could encounter a nonrecoverable error when attempting to force installation, even though the error did not exist previously. For example, the file could be locked by another user before the installation program attempted to force installation. If an installation program attempts to force installation after a non-recoverable error, VerInstallFile fails. The installation program must contain routines to recover from this type of error.

The recommended solution is to display a dialog box with the buttons Install, Skip, and Install All. (Another solution is a dialog box with the buttons Yes, Yes to All, Skip, and Cancel.) The Install All button should prevent the installation program from prompting the user about similar errors by including the VIFF_FORCEINSTALL option in all subsequent uses of VerInstallFile. For nonrecoverable errors, the Install and Install All buttons should be disabled.

To display a useful error message to the user, the installation program usually must retrieve information from the version resources of the conflicting files. There are four functions the installation program can use for this purpose:

GetFileVersionInfoSize returns the size of the version information. GetFileVersionInfo uses information retrieved by GetFileVersionInfoSize to retrieve a structure that contains the version information. VerQueryValue retrieves a specific member from that structure.

For example, if VerInstallFile returns the VIF_DIFFTYPE error, the installation program should use the GetFileVersionInfoSize, GetFileVersionInfo, and VerQueryValue functions on the temporary and destination files to obtain the general type of each file. If the languages of the files conflict, the installation program should also use VerLanguageName to translate the binary language identifier into a text representation of the language. (For example, 0x040C translates to the string "French.")

If VerInstallFile returns a file error, such as VIF_ACCESSVIOLATION, the installation program should use the GetLastError function to retrieve the most recent error value. The program should translate this value into an informative message to display to the user. The program must not yield control between the calls to VerInstallFile and GetLastError.