Traditional setup tools used a programmatic, script-based approach to describe the various steps involved in the deployment of the application to be installed on the target machine: files to be copied, registry settings to be created, device drivers and services to be started. The technology behind Windows Installer, while it maintains a comparable look and feel for the end user, underwent important philosophical changes. The fundamental change was to move from the imperative description to a declarative one: rather than to describe the individual steps of installation, the declarative form specifies the state the target machine should be left in after various phases of installation and uninstallation. While the imperative description seems to be quite sufficient until some error occurs, the declarative one makes it possible to cope with unexpected conditions, differing target machine environments, aborted installations, shared resources. It is of paramount importance for setup developers to make sure that whatever happens during the process, the target machine should be left in a known, stable state, without introducing any detrimental side effects.
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