Don’t you just hate it when you are ready to install that new program you found, or the new software application that the department is dying to use, and you go to install it only to be slapped down with a FATAL ERROR? Or more accurately, an Error: -1603 fatal error during installation.

error code 1603

That’s really enough to put a serious downer on the whole day, and definitely enough to keep you from installing the program. Error code 1603 is a generic error that really just means ERROR_INSTALL_FAILURE, according to winerror.h.

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There are actually a few common causes, with some fairly straightforward fixes, that can get you past this error with minimal effort. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes, and easy fixes, for 1603 errors.

Cause

You are trying to install a program into an encrypted folder.

Fix

If you use the Encrypted File System (EFS) or other third-party encryption software that has encrypted the destination folder or a folder above it (but not the entire volume) either decrypt the folder, or select a different folder that is not encrypted.

Cause

You are trying to install a program to a folder on a drive letter that is actually a substitute drive.

Fix

Select the actual physical path for the install, rather than the path through the substitute drive letter.

Cause

The SYSTEM account needs Full Control permission to the destination folder, and does not have that.

Fix

Remove the ACL that is blocking inheritance for SYSTEM, or grant SYSTEM the Full Control permission explicitly to the destination folder.

Cause

A file to be replaced is in use by another program.

Fix

Close all open programs, and ensure that they are truly closed by checking Task Manager. You may instead choose to reboot or even perform a clean boot if necessary to prevent any background programs from running and locking a needed file.

Cause

A previous install or uninstall has not completed, or failed.

Fix

Complete the install or uninstall. You may need to reboot to do so. If you still cannot uninstall or complete the install of the other program, consult their support site for steps to manually remove the program, including folders and files to remove and registry keys to delete.

Cause

Required updates are missing.

Fix

Run Windows Update to install any missing updates or patches. Reboot after completion before attempting the install again.

Cause

The registry contains dead/bad links.

Fix

Consult the vendor’s support documentation for the registry keys used by the software. Reset these to default or delete them if appropriate before trying to install the software again.

Error 1603 can completely stop you from installing a new software package, but only for as long as the root cause still exists. If it is one of the probable causes lists above, it won’t take you long to get past that, and on your way to using your new program.