Windows cannot find setup.exe


I'm running Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit.

I cannot install some programs that have to beusing setup.exe (if I use msi installer - it's OK, but some programs like Adobe Photoshop Elements must be installed using setup.exe). When I click on setup.exe, I'm instantly getting a message that this file cannot be found.

This is not a problem with the particular program, but with many. Also, couple months ago I didn't have these problems with the same programs. I've tried Microsoft FixIt - didn't help. I don't know when this happened, but at least two months ago, so I cannot even use the restore point.

I'd also ran SFC /scannow, it fixed some problems, but not this one.

What could be wrong here? Are there any ways to fix this besided re-installing Windows?

Thank you.

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Are you clicking on the Setup.exe file on the install media, (DVD, CD) or a folder with the installation files in it?

If you right click on the .exe file and look at Properties does it all look normal?

When you insert the Adobe disk does the Window with the install options come up on the screen?


Hi Mike,

I've tried everything - to install from the disk, to copy files to the hard drive, to download trial version directly from Adobe - same thing. Yes, the install options come up, but the result is the same - cannot find file. In properties everything looks normal.

Recently I had the same issue with another setup.exe from NVIDIA.

The message that Windows cannot find file appears instantly, so the PC even doesn't try to do anything.


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Microsoft Community Contributor


Excellent Member
Microsoft Community Contributor
If you open the Services dialog (services.msc) there are two Windows Installers services you might try to start if they are not already running (and they probably aren't).

Look for Windows Modules Installer and Windows Installer. Select each and select start to see if they will. You can stop them it everything looks OK.

Thank you. Both services were running, Windows Installer service I even couldn't stop.

This is very weird - Windows don't like the word "setup". If I rename setup.exe to something like AdobeSetup.exe - the installation starts OK. I'm starting too think that I've got a virus, although I scan my PC regularly.

What A-V & A-M are you using? Run as Admin in cmd, chkdsk /r/f

I'm using ZoneAlarm Security Suite and Malwarebites AM. I've checked the drive for errors, I'll re-check again from the command line.

I've seen problems from or w/ Zone Alarm before. I suggest you'd be better off w/ MSE. See if House Calls finds anything. Also, try running Repair from the OS disc; but, if the Registry is 'broken' which, can account for no setup.exe working, Repair may not fix it & you may be forced to rebuild.. Did Defender find anything?

Defender doesn't find anything. MSE I even cannot install - cannot find installation files. I cannot even re-install Windows, setup.exe doesn't work. I'll try to copy DVD to the hard drive and re-name setup.exe, hopefully it will work. I've tried to boot from DVD and repair, but the options are limited there.


Excellent Member
Microsoft Community Contributor
Thank you. Both services were running, Windows Installer service I even couldn't stop.

This is very weird - Windows don't like the word "setup". If I rename setup.exe to something like AdobeSetup.exe - the installation starts OK. I'm starting too think that I've got a virus, although I scan my PC regularly.
Since you are already aware, some viruses will stop certain named utilities from running, especially installers. That could certainly be a possibility. But an Anti-virus might think it needs to do the same thing, but less of a possibility. Zone Alarm used to keep logs..anything in one of those?

The fact both of your installers are running might mean you just tried to install something, or you still have some process working that is trying to install. If you check the Services dialog again, both of those services should show a manual start. So if they are running, something is starting them.

Microsoft does have a bootable version of MSE you might try, if you can get it to install or write the CD. System Sweeper can be used during a boot and might find something there. There are, of course, other anti-virus applications that might find any root kits.

Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper Beta | Microsoft Connect

If you are convinced the problem is a virus and you need to be able to run something, there is a utility from SysInternals, called Desktops, that has been used to allow utilities to run in a separate Desktop and work around anything that might be stopping your setup from running. You could try it.


Thanks, I'll try all this.

But the thing is that installers are actually working, I can install from MSI files and renamed setup.exe. I'd managed to install Photoshop and Premiere after I renamed setup.exe. It's the word "setup" that Windows don't like.


Fantastic Member
If you have not already tried this see if it helps. Shutdown your FW and AV if it work than start one than the other to see if one of them allows the exe to run.

Thanks. Yes, I've tried this. I'll try to re-install Windows today from my hard drive.

From your hard drive (?????); please, explain what you mean by that. & if, you've been using the Zone Alarm firewall, don't. Use the OS Firewall.

I just want to copy Windows 7 installation files to my hard drive and re-install Windows, hopefully this will fix the problem. I cannot reinstall from DVD, because setup.exe doesn't work, I'll try to rename it.

Maybe from a USB. & maybe, I'm still missing something here... IF, a clean install is done, it's not going to care what was not working on what was there... it's about to put in something clean... clean slate, fresh & new so there isn't a broken OS, anymore.

I've just reinstalled Windows, so it's all good now.

I'm afraid this may not be a virus, but the registry cleaner. Some changes in the registry cannot be noticed right away, I had this problem before. I'll probably won't use it anymore.

Glad to see your news :thumbs_up:

Has anyone found a solution to this problem. I am having a similar issue.

Basically if an executable file is named setup.exe specifically, the file will not run. I really don't want to do a reinstall of Windows. The system responds as if the file does not exist, even though it is right in front of me. This has been tested on several different drives, and optical discs so it is not hardware related. Also, if I open up notepad, I am able to open setup.exe, so this tells me that Windows is in fact able to access the file. When the file is run, I believe that something is directing the system to handle the file the wrong way, because this only happens if you try to run the file.

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