The same TeX Live installer is used for Windows as for other platforms, so the general documentation applies. On Windows, the installer is invoked with the command install-tl-windows, rather than just install-tl.
When successful, the installer does some special things on Windows:
If you want to share a TeX Live installation among several Windows machines, see the TeX Live Launcher information.
TeX Live for Windows will eventually move to 64-bit, but there are still many TeX users with 32-bit systems, and a 32-bit TeX Live works just fine on a 64-bit Windows. Simultaneous support for both 64-bit and 32-bit Windows would require intricate infrastructure changes, which we hesitate to take on.
For those people for whom the performance benefits of a 64-bit TeX Live are important, we offer in the meantime a makeshift solution in the form of a batchfile which downloads and installs 64-bit binaries side-by-side with the 32-bit binaries, see the accompanying README.
Alternatively, you can download either natively-compiled or cross-compiled binaries and install them as a custom binary set.
On Windows, TL includes a minimal Perl setup. It is sufficient for running the TL infrastructure programs written in Perl, such as the installer and tlmgr, but it is not sufficient to run every Perl script, not even all Perl scripts from TeX Live packages. It is not feasible to satisfy all those dependencies.
Therefore, if you need to run other Perl scripts and the included Perl does not have all the modules, you need to install a full Perl distribution.
On Windows, TL also contains a basic Tcl/Tk distribution, for running the default installer GUI and the tlshell front end of tlmgr.
Neither the included Perl nor the included Tcl/Tk announce their presence to the operating system: they are not added to the searchpath and no file associations are created for them. Therefore, they should not get in the way of a full install of Perl or Tcl/Tk.
It is especially important to be careful when processing untrusted documents on Windows, because in general Windows finds programs in the current directory before anything else, regardless of the search path. This opens up a wide variety of possible attacks.
Thus, we recommend checking for suspicious files in the current directory, especially executables (binaries or scripts). Ordinarily they should not be present, and definitely should not normally be created by merely processing a document.
Although the core TeX programs are robust, to the best of our knowledge, third-party programs may not reach the same level. For maximum safety, we recommend using a new subdirectory for processing.
Only one TeX distribution can be active at a time, because all the TeX distributions use the search path to find their programs. This means that to switch from one TeX to another, e.g., between TeX Live and MiKTeX if you have both installed, you must (at least) change the search path.
However, the individual shortcuts – including a command prompt – have a modified searchpath with TeX Live in front, so as long as you use TeX Live via the menu, you should be fine.
Administrator privileges are not automatic even when you run as administrator. If you want to install for all users, then:
Similarly, for TeX Live manager and a multi-user install, take care to start tlmgr, the command-line version of TeX Live Manager, from an administrative command-prompt. But tlshell, the TeX Live Manager GUI, will automatically pop up a UAC prompt to acquire administrator privileges if it needs them.
TeX Live is designed for shared use: you can install TeX Live on a network for use on client workstations. All it takes is adding TeX Live to the searchpath.
On Windows, a bit more is expected: double-clicking a file should open it in the right program, there should be menu shortcuts, and the user should not have to worry about modifying the searchpath. A conventional Windows installation takes care of these things.
The TeX Live Launcher can take care of the Windows-specific items in case TeX Live is already present, e.g. on a network share. Configuration takes place when a user runs the launcher for the first time, and Start menu shortcuts are replaced with controls within the launcher itself. The launcher uses an ini file for its configuration.
The launcher is present since the 2016 release of TeX Live. The 2017 release added the option to make the installation launcher-based, and the included tlaunchmode script can convert a local installation between classic mode and launcher mode.
Full documentation is available on CTAN.
In a multi-user installation with a pre-existing texmf-local, the files in this folder may have become unreachable after installing TeX Live 2020. The problem in the installer has been fixed and is no longer present in the 2021 installer. But if you are bitten by this, you can solve the problem as follows:
Here are some things you can try:
<path>\install-tl-windows -gui text
<path>\install-tl-windows -gui text -v -no-cls