SCCM Applications vs. SCCM Packages: Understanding the Key Differences

Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) is a versatile and powerful tool for managing devices, applications, and updates in an organization's IT environment. Among its many features, SCCM allows you to deploy software to your end-users in two primary ways: Applications and Packages. Although both methods have a similar goal, they have some key differences that IT administrators should understand when choosing the appropriate deployment method. In this blog post, we will explore these differences and help you decide which option is best for your organization.

Definition and Deployment Scenarios

SCCM Applications:

An SCCM Application is a high-level, user-centric deployment method that focuses on providing the desired user experience. Applications are designed to be state-based, meaning they can detect if the application is already installed and only perform the necessary actions if the application is not present or if a newer version is available. Applications are suitable for deploying software that has multiple deployment types, dependencies, or supersedence, and when you need to deploy software based on user groups, rather than on devices. 

SCCM Packages:

A Package in SCCM is a low-level, device-centric deployment method that does not track the installation state of the software. It consists of a collection of source files, a program that runs the installation, and a distribution point where the package is stored. Packages are more suitable for deploying scripts, patches, or software that does not have a complex installation process or require state-based management.

Deployment Types and Detection Methods

SCCM Applications:

Applications in SCCM support multiple deployment types, such as Windows Installer (MSI), App-V, and Windows Store Apps. Each deployment type can have its own detection method, which allows the system to determine if the application is installed, its current version, and whether it needs to be updated or repaired.

SCCM Packages:

Packages do not support multiple deployment types or detection methods. A package has only one program that is executed on the target device, and it is up to the IT administrator to ensure that the program's script is correctly configured to manage the installation or uninstallation process. Although Packages do not look at a detection method they still look up the exit code to verify that the package ran correctly. If you are creating a script to run as the package you can have your script exit with a different code depending on the scenario and add those codes to the package for custom logging. 

Dependencies and Supersedence

SCCM Applications:

Applications can have dependencies on other applications, ensuring that required applications are installed before the main application. They also support supersedence, allowing you to define which applications should be replaced by newer versions or different applications altogether.

SCCM Packages:

Packages do not support dependencies or supersedence. If you need to manage software dependencies or upgrades, you must do so manually or through custom scripting in the package's program.

User Experience and Interface

SCCM Applications:

Applications provide a more user-friendly experience, allowing end-users to install or uninstall software through the Software Center. Administrators can also customize the deployment settings to allow users to postpone installations or display notifications during the installation process.

SCCM Packages:

Packages are primarily intended for silent and unattended installations, without any user interaction. Although it is possible to create packages that require user input, this is not a recommended practice and should be reserved for specific scenarios.

Reporting and Compliance

SCCM Applications:

Applications provide better reporting and compliance options, allowing IT administrators to monitor the installation status and version compliance of deployed applications. This feature is particularly useful for ensuring that all devices in the organization are running the latest and most secure versions of the software.

SCCM Packages:

Packages do not provide detailed reporting or compliance tracking. While you can check if a package was successfully deployed to a device, you cannot verify the installation status or version compliance of the software without additional scripting or manual verification.

Task Sequence usage

Both Applications and Packages can be used in a Task Sequence to install software or run a script. 

When it comes to SCCM Applications and Packages, the right choice depends on your organization's needs and the complexity of the software you are deploying. 


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