How to use the Secret Software Installer on your Windows PC

Imagine the ultimate replacement for the Windows Store app. Let’s imagine that it can install almost any Windows application; no clicking through software installation wizards; automatic rejection of junkware in these software installers; keep everything on your PC up to date; a single command you can run to install all your favorite apps on a new PC without having to dig through everything one by one.

Well, I have news for you: this exists. Microsoft built it and it’s already installed on your Windows PC. Some Windows nerds talk about it, but few PC users know the secrets of Winget, Microsoft’s secret software installation and update tool.

Here’s how to unlock its potential – and how to put a nice shiny graphical interface on top of it to make it more usable. It works on both Windows 10 and Windows 11.

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The Windows Store replacement you’ve been waiting for

This tool is truly the ultimate option for installing Windows software. It has a large list of applications. All you have to do is ask for the name of an application, and Winget will automatically download it from the official website and install it without you having to click anything. And it will automatically reject adware and other junk in software installers.

You can request your favorite 20 apps at the same time and they will be automatically downloaded and installed for you, saving you a lot of time. And when your chosen apps have updates, this tool can also check for updates and quickly update installed apps in a single action.

Microsoft hasn’t given this utility a shiny graphical interface, but I’ll show you how to give it an easy-to-use graphical interface in a moment.

Meet Winget, the Windows package manager

Winget is the Windows package manager. It actually has a lot in common with package managers on Linux. (It’s also an official, Microsoft-supported alternative to beloved tools like Chocolatey.)

The Windows Package Manager can scan your computer for installed software and determine whether it matches any known software. Winget has a large official Microsoft-provided database of Windows applications, and you can install them using the Winget command. When Winget installs a program (like Mozilla’s Firefox, say, or Valve’s Steam), it downloads the latest version of the application from the developer’s website (Mozilla, in this case, or Valve) and installs it. Winget installs it “silently” and uses the default options, while ensuring that no junkware is installed.

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Microsoft is clearly positioning this tool more for system administrators and less for home users – but Windows would be a lot better if the Microsoft Store app made peace with the secretive Winget tool and they worked together.

A glossy graphic face for the secret Winget tool

Winget is also officially just a command line. You can’t ignore that – that’s how Microsoft keeps it hidden.

Prefer a graphic experience? Install WingetUI, an unofficial and open-source graphical interface for Winget and other package managers like the PC geeks’ beloved Chocolatey, which existed before Winget.

Chris Hoffman/Marti Climent/Microsoft

The Discover Packages panel lets you search a huge database of available applications.

It’s definitely a power user tool, although you may still find it easier to use to learn how this then works to browse to dozens of different websites to download your favorite applications in different ways.

With WingetUI installed, you will see three useful windows:

  • Discover packages: Search for packages such as “Firefox” or “Steam” and install them. Right-click on a package in the search results and select “Package Details” to see more information and options.
  • Software updates: Scan your computer for outdated applications and install updates for them all of them at once – with a single click.
  • Installed packages: View a list of your installed applications and where they come from. If a package says it’s from “Winget” under the Source column, it can be updated through Winget using this application – even if you installed it from the Internet.

On the Installed Packages screen, you can select your favorite installed applications and then click ‘Export selected applications to a file’. You can then backup this file and use it to install all your favorite applications on a new PC at once. Just go to the Discover Packages screen in WingetUI and use the “Import Packages from a File” button. Boom — all the applications you use are now installed, without the hassle.

WingetUI has also enabled support for Chocolatey by default – which will help you find as many applications as possible – but you can enable or disable that from the settings screen if you want to simplify your app’s search results and just now use Winget.

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This tool also resides in your system tray and notifies you about application updates. You don’t have to update every single application with a different software installer, and you won’t end up with a bunch of outdated, vulnerable applications that don’t update themselves. Winget takes care of it all, thanks to WingetUI.

Chris Hoffman/Marti Climent/Microsoft

The Software Updates panel scans for application updates and can install them all with one click.

How to use Winget on the command line

The Winget tool is intended for use on a command line. I know most Windows users are looking for a convenient graphical interface, so I showed WingetUI first. But if you want to use Winget in a Terminal window without installing anything extra, you can — and it’s very easy.

This guide to upgrading software using Winget on the command line shows you how to do it. In summary, with a Terminal window open as an administrator, these are the commands you need to know:

  • Find an application: winget search NAME
  • Install an application: winget install NAME
  • List of installed applications: wing molding
  • View available updates: wing upgrade
  • Install all available updates: winget-upgrade –all

Microsoft’s official Winget guide will also walk you through the process.

The install winget This command allows you to display multiple applications at the same time. For example, the following command will install both Firefox and Steam at once:

winget install Mozilla.Firefox Valve.Steam

Create a list of your favorite applications (and their identifiers in Winget) and you’ll have a handy command to install all your favorite programs at once.

Chris Hoffman/Microsoft

The winget command will be immediately familiar if you’ve ever used a package manager on Linux.

All PC users deserve this experience

Winget is a super cool tool and WingetUI is a great interface that brings it to a wider audience.

It’s an incredible antidote to something missing from Windows: a centralized software installation and update experience, one that ensures Windows users don’t end up with vulnerable, outdated apps, saves time, and helps PC users avoid malware.

All Windows users should have this kind of experience. Microsoft should better integrate Winget with the Windows Store so that all PC users can quickly reinstall and update their favorite applications in one place. You don’t need to know the secret handshake to unlock these types of experiences.

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