Since IzPack 5.0

All Windows systems block executable files that are currently in use, as device drivers, EXE, DLL and even JAR files. Normally, a running application is to be shut down before such files can be overwritten, for instance by an IzPack installer. This might fit most of the use cases IzPack is used with.

There can be situations where the application cannot be shut down at the installation time, but has to be updated anyway. This is where this new feature comes into the game.

Microsoft offers a Windows API for handling such cases: Setup API. From the view of the pure interface it has been quiet stable over the different Windows distributions. Although Microsoft recommends using it only for installing device drivers Setup API can be used for any kind of file to be installed. Several independent installers which are not based on Windows Installer make usage of it. For example, the native NSIS installer uses a /rebootok flag for copying files which might be potentially in use.

Here is how blockable file handling is integrated into IzPack:

Lets start with an example of install.xml:

<installation version="1.0">
 
  <info>
    ...
    <rebootaction>ask</rebootaction>
    ...
  </info>
 
  ...
 
  <native type="izpack" name="SetupAPI.dll">
    <os family="windows"/>
  </native>
 
  ...
 
  <packs>
    <pack name="Core files" required="yes">
      <description>The core files needed for this test</description>
      <singlefile
       src="plain/my_exefile_v1.exe"
       target="${INSTALL_PATH}/my_exefile.exe"
       override="true" blockable="auto"/>
    </pack>
  </packs>
 
</installation>

Explanation:

The file ${INSTALL_PATH}/my_exefile.exe on the target system is assumed to be potentially running and therefore blocked at installation time, for instance as a system service. It might be not convenient to shut it down before installation. Instead, we intend to replace it after the next system reboot.

For this purpose we mark the according file as blockable. The value auto means that the OS recognizes automatically whether the file is blocked or not, instead of forcing marking it blocked (using force). If it is blocked it will be internally enqueued by Windows to be replaced after a system reboot. Otherwise the file is overwritten directly due to the override=true. If we had override=false and the file would be blocked during installation time copying of the file would be skipped as expected.

With <rebootaction>ask</rebootaction> we force IzPack to ask the user in case of using interactive installers whether the system should be rebooted immediately. The user has the chance to confirm or deny the reboot action. Anyway, if there are pending file operations the system has to be rebooted sooner or later to apply the changes that came with the installation.

The blockable attribute applies also on the packs elements file and fileset. For using it there must be included the SetupAPI.dll as can be seen above. This library is built-in into IzPack natively.

Note that if there no explicit constraint for the OS family = windows defined on the according parent element filesinglefile or fileset copying a file with a valid blockable value different to none there is a compiler warning given to the user:

"blockable" will implicitely apply only on Windows target systems

Anyway, it is possible to mark files as blockable even for multi-platform installations, for instance in case of blockable jar files. The blockable attribute will be simply ignored on non-Windows platforms, resulting in a "classic" behaviour for copying files.

For a complete specification of the according elements and attributes see the documentation of <rebootaction> in the Header - <info> and the blockable attribute in one of the elements <file><fileset> or <singlefile>.