GNU patch and Windows UAC

If you’re looking for the GNU patch on Windows, you would probably have found the GnuWin32 project. If you try to run this program on Windows Vista or 7, you will be prompted with the UAC dialog, asking you to run the program with administrative rights.

Windows Vista, when they introduced the User Access Control (UAC) feature, tried not to break existing programs by detecting which ones require administrative access. The usual suspects are installers that are probably named *setup.exe or *install.exe. For some reason they also thought they’d throw in *patch*.exe, which matches the patch.exe.

To fix this problem, I found a page at the OOMMF project at NIST, which talks about embedding a manifest file into the executable. Embedding it is actually not necessary, you just need to name it patch.exe.manifest and have it in the same directory as patch.exe.

The other alternative is to disable this system-wide “smart” detection behavior using a Security Policy: “User Account Control: Detect application installations and prompt for elevation“. If you do this, it means you will need to manually right-click older installer applications and select the “Run as administrator” option. Failing to do this means the installer will not be able to correctly write into directories like “Program Files” and alter system registry settings. Note that when I say “correctly write”, it’s because of the UAC virtualization, but that’s another story.

If you use MSYS (from the MingW project), it uses the patch.exe.manifest file technique, which is less intrusive than embedding it into the executable.

If you’re an application developer, you should read Windows Vista Application Development Requirements for User Account Control (UAC), which describes in detail the different options I have just talked about.


If you need just GNU patch, follow the OOMMF page to create the manifest file, but don’t bother embedding it. If you come from a UNIX background, just use MSYS to get all the other UNIX tools.

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One comment on “GNU patch and Windows UAC

  1. Anonymous says:

    You are a lifesaver. Cheers.

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