Msi is the extension used by Windows Installer files and in most cases, these installation files aren’t much use on a Mac. You can’t run and install a Windows app directly on a macOS, but if there are some files you need to extract or look at inside the .msi file, there is a way to do this.
I’m Eric, a software engineer for over 20 years. I’ve worked with a variety of operating systems and many different file formats. As a software engineer, there are many times when I need to find ways to open a specific file type. I’ll be glad to help you out with this one.
If you would like to see how to open one of these files on a Mac and learn a little more about them, keep reading and I will explain further.
How to Open MSI Files on Mac
Since .msi files aren’t designed to be used with macOS, there is no native or built-in way to open one on a Mac. Because of this, you will need to have an application that can open them.
Msi files are package or archive files like .zip or .tar files. This means that they contain multiple files packaged inside them and they are often compressed to save space. So you will need a utility that can extract the files from within the .msi.
Keka is one utility that can open a .msi file. There are many others but this one is free and is the one we will be using for our procedure below. If you have another that you would like to use, that should work fine and the steps should be very similar.
Note: Keka is free from their website but there is a small charge for it if you get it from the App Store.
Things to Prepare
The only thing you will need to have is the extraction or unpackaging utility installed on your Mac. For information on how to download and install Keka on your Mac, you can refer to their website.
Installing it is fairly simple and only involves downloading the install file and then running it. Once you have Keka installed just use the following steps to open up your .msi file.
Steps to Open the File Using Keka
Step1: Use Finder to navigate to the location of your .msi file.
Step2: Right-click on the .msi file and choose Extract using Keka.
Step 3: Keka will create a new folder with all of the files contained in the .msi file.
Step 4: Keka will also open the new folder created from the .msi and you can see all of the files there. The new folder will have the same name as the file without the .msi extension.
Step 5: You can try opening any of these files, but be aware that many of them will be binary files and when you try to open them they may be mostly unreadable as shown below.
Now that you have the files extracted from the .msi file into a folder, you can do whatever you need to do with them.
Can I Install the App That is Contained in the Msi?
Keep in mind that in the above steps we are only trying to open the .msi and extract the files that are contained within it. If you need to install or run the .msi file, the only way you can do this is in a Windows environment.
One way to do that is to use a Virtual Machine such as Parallels or VMWare. A virtual machine allows you to run another operating system such as Windows on your Mac desktop.
Another route you might take to running a Windows environment on your Mac is to use Apple’s Boot Camp. With this, you can install a Windows environment right alongside your macOS and choose which one you want to use when your computer starts up.
You can then install any Windows applications, including those that use .msi files, onto your Mac. Take a look here for more information on Boot Camp and how to use it.
What is a .msi File?
The .msi file extension denotes a Windows Installer file. It was called .msi because the original install software was called Microsoft Installer. Inside the .msi file will be some other files that are needed for the application that it is intended to install.
They can contain several different file types and if you look inside, most will be binary which can only be read by a specific application. This means if you open them they will probably not make any sense and look like a bunch of random characters like the one we see above.
For the most part, these files are meant for either installing the Windows application or are part of the application itself. There could be a few readable text files or images in there but there will not be much you can use on a macOS.
Why Open the .msi File?
There are probably not many reasons for a general Mac user to need to open a .msi file unless there is something like a text file, image, or document that you are looking for. If that is the case, the method above should help you find what you are looking for.
If you are a software developer, you may know how .msi files work and you might be looking for something specific to fix an installation problem or to reuse for another application.
You would probably be better off doing that in a Windows environment, but there may be cases where it is necessary to do this on a Mac for one reason or another.
I hope this article has helped you to open your .msi file on a Mac if that is what you need to do. If you were just unsure of what a .msi file is and what it is for, hopefully, you now understand that it is a Windows installer file for a specific Windows application.
Let us know if you ever work with .msi files and if you ever have a need to open one on a system other than Windows. We would love to hear from you.