Get to know the Chocolatey package manager for Windows

Looking for a tool to automate installing, configuring, upgrading and uninstalling software packages on Windows systems? Time to check out Chocolatey.

I’ve administered both Windows and Linux systems for close to two decades now. Honestly, while Linux is a fantastic operating system and very appropriate in many respects for many applications, I’ve long preferred Windows for its generally better ease of use and polish.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t pined for certain Linux features when using Windows — and a package management system is one of them. Luckily, there are a couple of package management tools for Windows, and best of all, both are open source and free.

The premise behind package management systems

Linux distributions have had package management options for a while. You probably have heard of Red Hat’s RPM (Red Hat Package Management) format, Debian Linux’s apt-get, and the new yum package manager that seems to be infiltrating a lot of distributions these days. At their core, these package management systems seek to achieve the same objective: to automate the installation, configuration, ongoing management and uninstallation of software packages. This includes analyzing a system; determining what packages are necessary to run whatever software you want; finding the latest compatible version of all of the packages; and installing them in the correct order, ensuring they get laid down on the system successfully and that, after the 117 dependencies install, the software is ready to run on the target system. I kid, but only a little bit.

Imagine bringing this automation over to Windows. Say you are moving to a new system and setting it up properly, exactly how you like it. In the process, you are trying to find the latest version of Google Chrome, for example, or any other reasonably popular utility. The procedure you’d likely use is to Google the product name, find the download link, skip past all of the “featured offers” and near malware that most sites like to bundle with their downloads, and then run the installer. After that, you might even discover you downloaded a 64-bit version when you’re working on a machine with a 32-bit version of Windows installed. Or maybe you found an old download link, and there are two newer versions out there. That whole sequence is not exactly taxing, but it is trying.

Imagine, instead, that you could simply say

choco install googlechrome

from a PowerShell command prompt and you would get:

Chocolatey package manager for Windows - install google chrome Jonathan Hassell / IDG

(Click image to enlarge.)

...which would be followed by a completely functional installation of Google Chrome. That would save a lot of time, right?

And what if you had software like Google Chrome installed and then wanted to upgrade it? What if you could use a command like

choco upgrade googlechrome

...and get an instant upgrade?

That is the power of package management, and that is what the Chocolatey package manager brings to Windows: a large and expanding selection of carefully curated and maintained software packages that can be brought down and installed on your system with a simple three-word command.

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