Step by Step Guide to Sign an EXE or Windows Application

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Sign EXE or Windows Application

In this article, you will learn about why sign your windows application and step-by-step guide on How to Sign an EXE or Windows Application.

Code signing is a way to give assurance that the software is from a verified and genuine software publisher. Singing Windows EXE files with a code signing certificate ensures that the executable files or Windows applications are not altered or modified by malicious actors.

The Windows application signing process involves embedding a digital signature in the .exe executable files that can be verified for code authenticity. Similarly, you can get this code signing certificate from a trusted certificate authority like Sectigo or Comodo.

In addition, the OS will also check whether the issuing authority mentioned in the certificate is the same one who has issued the certificate and if the certificate is still valid or not. If such checks pass through, your .exe executables will run without any warnings.

For instance, if you don’t sign your executable, Windows will throw an unknown publisher error:

Unknown Publisher Warning

But if you sign an EXE or application with a code signing certificate, Windows will display a verified publisher message as shown below:

Windows 10 Upgrader Security

Now, let’s explore why signing a Windows EXE file is important:

Why Sign Your Windows Applications?

Windows application signing helps prove to your users that your software is authentic and trustworthy. As seen above, the operating system will show that the code-signed software is from a verified publisher. This boosts trust and confidence in your users and reduces the software abandonment rate.

Apart from that, a genuine certificate is necessary from trusted code signing certificate providers for enhanced security. Here, the issuing authority guarantees that the software is free from any malicious code or vulnerability.

This further increases users’ trust in your Windows application and improves the installation ratio.

Thus, application signing is necessary to state your EXE apps are safe for people to download, install, and use.

How to Sign an Application?

Once your application becomes ready for distribution, you will need to obtain a code signing certificate from a certificate authority like Sectigo or Comodo.

Here’s How To Obtain Code Signing Certificate from Certificate Authority

Now that your Windows application is ready for distribution, you will need to apply for a code signing certificate with a reliable certificate authority (CA) like Sectigo or Comodo. Similarly, the CA will issue your code signing certificate after thorough business vetting.

Many CAs use Microsoft Authenticode for signing the given piece of software or EXE and other files. It’s a popular technology from Microsoft to verify the identity of Windows publishers or developers. In addition, the tool helps ensure the software is from a genuine source and has not been altered after the signing.

It uses the cryptographic hash to verify the identity of the code publisher and assures CA that the software comes from a trusted source. Moreover, it helps you gain the trust of your audience by eliminating any warning messages or alerts.

Once you get the certificate, you’ll need to create a PFX file using the Pvk2Pfx command line tool to sign an EXE or application using SignTool. Here’s how you can do so:

  • Singing a non-password protected file:
  • Signing a password-protected file:

Voila! You have successfully signed your Windows EXE files. Once done, now comes the need for timestamping your digital signature. TimeStamping is a crucial verification process that shows the moment when your EXE file was signed.

Doing so will help users know whether the software code is altered or tampered with and if the file can be trusted anymore or not. Thus, TimeStamping is necessary, along with signing a Windows EXE file.

Final Words

As a Windows EXE application developer, it becomes your moral responsibility to sign your executables with appropriate measures. You need to ensure your audience stays away from any digital vulnerability when installing and using your application. This can easily be dealt with by digitally signing your Windows EXE files.

However, sometimes it can get complex for beginners, or you may not always remember the step-by-step process to do so. Thus, this guide provides you with a step-by-step process for signing an application or EXE file. We hope this was helpful for you to get started!

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Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta is a Cyber-Security Enthusiast who constantly updates herself with new advancements in the Web/Cyber Security niche. Along with theoretical knowledge, she also implements her practical expertise in day-to-day tasks and helps others to protect themselves from threats.