Examine methods for deploying desktop apps


Deploying desktop apps is a critical part of supporting users. Generally, the application deployment process should be automated. From a user’s perspective, this simplifies the process and makes it possible to repeat installations. Methods for deploying desktop apps include the following:

  • Manual installation. This method requires a local administrator (either a user or a support person), to know the location of the setup files, and then initiate installation. This method of installation is suitable only when you install desktop apps on a small number of computers. Some apps install to the users’ profile and do not require local administrator rights to install.
  • Group Policy. This method uses a Group Policy Object (GPO) to automate desktop app installation using the Windows Installer package file format (.msi file) from a network share. You can make desktop apps available for users to install via Control Panel, or you can configure desktop apps so that they install automatically for specific users, or on specific computers. To automate the installation process, some desktop apps require you to create a Windows Installer transform file (.mst file).
  • Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager. This method uses the application deployment capabilities of Configuration Manager to automate desktop app installation from a network share. The main benefits of Configuration Manager versus deploying with Group Policy are increased flexibility and detailed reporting. You also can use Configuration Manager to distribute application updates.
  • Microsoft Intune. Intune is Microsoft’s cloud –based solution for managing desktop and mobile devices. Intune supports deployment of UWP, AppX, and has recently added support for Win32 apps such as simple MSI files. While not as robust as Configuration Manager, Intune is significantly less effort to setup and manage. Intune also manages deployment of apps to non-Windows devices such as iOS, Android and macOS, as well as deployment to unmanaged (BYOD) devices.
  • Virtualized applications. Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) can make applications available on desktop computers without installing the applications directly. You use the Microsoft Application Virtualization Sequencer (Sequencer) to capture and later stream the application to the computer. The App-V Sequencer is part of Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK).
  • Remote applications. With the RemoteApp feature in Windows Server, you can avoid having applications installed on desktop computers. An icon on the user’s desktop opens a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) session to a server that hosts the application. The application is remote controlled in a window. This simplifies updates, because you must update only a single central copy of the application. This method works best with desktop apps that need to access data in a central location.
  • Inclusion in a Windows operating system image. Many organizations include common applications in the base Windows operating system image that they deploy to desktop computers. With this method, you can avoid having a specific deployment process for the desktop app. However, this method also results in increased image maintenance over time as your organization releases updates and new versions of the desktop app.