Decades ago, all the programs designed for Windows came packed into a setup file created through third party installers like Sheridan installer or Wise installer. But then Microsoft decided to create their own setup installer system called Windows Installer. The setup files created through this system are MSI files (acronym for Microsoft Installer). Many programs today come packed as MSI installers that you can run on your system in order to install them. For example, one of my favorite file managers FAR (created by the same author who created the popular WinRAR archiver) comes in an MSI package.
However, if you do not really want to install a software and just want to view the files packed inside the MSI file, then you can use the free JSWare MSI Extractor. This program gives complete details about any MSI file including the files packed inside it, the registry changes it will make, and a summary about the MSI installer.
JSWare MSI Extractor is a portable program but requires Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 related files (fortunately these files are already present on all modern Windows versions). You can simply double-click on the jsMSIx.exe file to launch the program – you do not need to run the program as an administrator.
After this, you can click on the setup installer button to choose an MSI file located somewhere on your computer. The destination extraction folder is automatically chosen to be in the same path as the MSI file, but you can specify your own folder. Clicking on the Get Installer Info button will fetch information about the MSI installer – you can switch through this information by clicking on the Show Registry Settings or Show File List buttons.
When you click on the Unpack Installer File button, it will extract all the files from the MSI installer into the selected destination folder. You will see a message when extraction is finished.
Verdict: JSWare MSI Extractor is the easiest way to extract files contained inside an MSI installer package. It does not require administrator privileges and runs on all Windows versions starting from Windows 98 to Windows 10.
You can download JSWare MSI Extractor from http://www.jsware.net/jsware/msicode.php5#unpackx.