What is a bootstrapper? Adobe has a very good explanation in their Adobe Reader Admin Guide:
Any setup.exe or any other executable that installs updates and launches the MSI installer is a bootstrapper. The Acrobat-Reader bootstrapper is provided as part of the Reader bundle on the CD and the web download. It is also provided for some releases on the FTP download site. It provides a streamlined way to chain installs without the need for administrative install points. The bootstrapper provides the following benefits:
- Detects whether the required Windows Installer (MSI) is available and installs it if it isn’t.
- Detects whether the product is already installed and only proceeds if it does not exist on the target machine.
- Provides binary installations where the entire installer is supplied and run by each machine.
- Provides a simple way to chain updates in the required order by simply adding the msp to the installer folder and modifying Setup.ini to apply that patch.
- It is not subject to the patch constraint that limits an AIP from installing a quarterly update over a out of cycle patch. Thus, installs can always have the latest update without starting over.
Now why, for Enterprise Deployments are MSIs preferred and bootstrappers aren't? Apart from not having granular control using MSI Transform files (MST), the non-preference for bootstrappers is described in e.g. in this discussion on www.stackoverflow.com: "How to distribute an installer which contains a bootstrapper":
"A bootstrapper is probably the most user friendly for a normal end-user. However, this is less friendly for system administrators, because usually bootstrappers are less manageable than the MSI files. An admin would rig the system so that all requisites are also installed when the main MSI is installed, thus the bootstrapper would not be needed."
"Basically the single bootstrapper is for non-sysadmins, people who want a single click solution. System administrators and corporate IT support who prefer more fine grained control over their installation are happy for multiple files, even if it means more work for them. The single EXE file is available publicly, the instructions + multiple files are only available by contacting our sales team."
Roel van Bueren