Friday, July 02, 2010

MSI Custom Action error 2896 on Windows XP without executing the action

I have been trying to build this setup for a project I made, using WiX, the new Microsoft paradigm for setup packages. So I did what any programmer would do: copy paste from a previously working setup! :) However, there was a small change I needed to implement, as it was a .NET4.0 project. I built the setup, compiled it, ran the MSI and kaboom!

Here is a piece of the log file:
Action 15:34:48: FetchDatabasesAction. 
Action start 15:34:48: FetchDatabasesAction.
MSI (c) (A0:14) [15:34:48:172]: Invoking remote custom action. DLL: C:\DOCUME~1\siderite\LOCALS~1\Temp\MSI21CF.tmp, Entrypoint: FetchDatabases
MSI (c) (A0:68) [15:34:48:204]: Cloaking enabled.
MSI (c) (A0:68) [15:34:48:219]: Attempting to enable all disabled privileges before calling Install on Server
MSI (c) (A0:68) [15:34:48:251]: Connected to service for CA interface.
Action ended 15:34:48: FetchDatabasesAction. Return value 3.
DEBUG: Error 2896: Executing action FetchDatabasesAction failed.
The installer has encountered an unexpected error installing this package. This may indicate a problem with this package. The error code is 2896. The arguments are: FetchDatabasesAction, ,
Action ended 15:34:48: WelcomeDlg. Return value 3.
MSI (c) (A0:3C) [15:34:48:516]: Doing action: FatalError

In order to get the log of an MSI installation use this syntax:
msiexec /i YourSetup.msi /l*vvv! msiexec.log
vvv is used to specify verbosity, the ! sign is used to specify that the log should be flushed after each line.

As you can notice, the error is a numeric error (2896) and nothing else. Googling it you get to a lot of people having security issues with it on Vista and Windows 7, but I have Windows XP on my computer. The error message descriptions pretty much says what the log does: Custom action failed. Adding message boxes and System.Diagnostics.Debugger.Launch(); didn't have any effect at all. It seemed the custom action was not even executed!

After hours of dispair, I found what the problem was: A custom action is specified in a DLL which has a config file containing this:

<supportedRuntime version="v2.0.50727"/>
which specifies for the MSI installer which version of the .NET framework to use for the custom action. Not specifying it leads to a kind of version autodetect, which takes into account the version of the msiexec tool rather than the custom action dll. It is highly recommended to not omit it. The problem I had was that I had changed the target of the custom action to .NET 4.0 and had also changed the config file to:

<!--<supportedRuntime version="v2.0.50727"/>-->
<supportedRuntime version="v4.0.30319.1"/>

Changing the version to NET3.5 and adding the original config string fixed it. However, I am still unsure on what are the steps to take in order to make the 4.0 Custom Action work. I have tried both 4.0.30319 and 4.0.30319.1 versions (the framework version folder name and the version of the mscorlib.dll file in the .NET 4.0 framework). I have tried v4.0 only and even removed the version altogether, to no avail.

In the end, I opened the WiX3.5 sources and looked for a config file. I found one that had this:

<startup useLegacyV2RuntimeActivationPolicy="true">
<supportedRuntime version="v4.0" sku=".NETFramework,Version=v4.0"/>
<supportedRuntime version="v2.0.50727" />
As you can see, there is an extended supportedRuntime syntax in the 4.0 case, but that is not really relevant. The thing that makes it all work is useLegacyV2RuntimeActivationPolicy="true"!

So shame on whoever wrote msiexec for not specifying the actual problems that make a setup fail, and a curse on whoever decided to display a numeric code for an error, rather than trying to write an as verbose a description as possible. I hope people will find this post when facing the same problem and not waste three hours or more on a simple and idiotic problem.


Anonymous said...

I had exactly the same problem and I was messing around for hours, until I found this post.

Things are now working fine.
The key to the solution is: useLegacyV2RuntimeActivationPolicy="true"

Siderite, you're a legend!

Rob from DownUnder

Siderite said...

Thanks, mate! I have been neglecting the technical part of the blog for a while and comments like yours keep me motivated to continue sharing my solutions.

Unknown said...

Thank you!!!!!! This was driving me batty.

Brian from over and to the left

Anonymous said...

this is great, but what is the @#$$^%& config file that needs to be modified? ;-)

Anonymous said...

...I found it in: WixUnit.exe.config and in my case, it's already set to true and I'm still getting the bloody error!!! augghhhh!!!!

Siderite said...

I am sorry the post could not help you. There is a part of it that says "the error is a numeric error (2896) and nothing else. Googling it you get to a lot of people having security issues with it on Vista and Windows 7, but I have Windows XP on my computer.". Are you sure you have the same problem I had and not one of these other ones?