Unlocking your WP7 Device for App Development

So you’ve finally got some shiny new Windows Phone 7 hardware and you want to plug it in and start testing the fart app you’ve been working on for the last 5 months.  So how do you do it?

When it comes to unlocking your device Microsoft don’t exactly make it that obvious .  Firstly if you try and deploy to a locked your phone you will get a deploy error message saying “Application launch failed. Ensure that the device screen is unlocked and device is developer unlocked. For details on developer unlock, visit http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=195284.  Unfortunately the  link they provide isn’t at all helpful – it just points to the AppHub home page.

What if you look at the “My Registered Devices” in the AppHub, may be that will tell you how to register a device?  What you see there a message saying “The following devices have been registered and may be used to test your unpublished Windows Phone 7 applications. Adding additional devices must be accomplished through Visual Studio…

Ok, so how do you register your phone in Visual Studio? … Turns out you can’t! You need to use a separate tool which is part of the Windows Phone Developer Tools and is nothing to do with Visual Studio.  Great!

So here is what you need to do to unlock your phone for development:

1) Make sure you have registered as a developer on the AppHub and have paid your subscription.

2) Install the latest version of the Zune software.

2) Plug in your phone via USB and let Windows setup the drivers.

3) Lunch the Zune software and make sure that it picks up your device.  The Zune software is the gateway to the device it will always need to be running for any software on your PC to be able to talk to the phone – including Visual Studio when you are debugging.

4) Next you need to unlock your device using the Windows Phone Developer Registration Tool which can be found in the Windows Phone Developer Tools folder of your Start Menu.


Enter the Live ID details for your AppHub account and click Register.  After it has connected to AppHub and verified your details it should say “Your phone has successfully been registered.”.

NOTE: This process doesn’t unlock your phone immediately.  It takes a little while for your phone to get the message that it is now unlocked – but usually less than a minute.

Now the phone is unlocked you should see it in the “My Registered Devices” of AppHub


Once that is all done you should be able to happily deploy your apps to your phone – but remember the Zune software always must be running in order to deploy to your device.

Come back for my next blog post on deploying your first app to a device.


38 thoughts on “Unlocking your WP7 Device for App Development

  1. Hello!
    Thanks for the tips about “unlocking” devices. However I’m quite surprise to see that, as a developer, I have to pay to be able to do “real test” (or demo)… Is there another way to unlock ? In my company they wants me to make some “proof of concept” before paying things like this, we are MSDN subscribers (VS2010 Ultimate) so they don’t understand why I have to buy more stuff to make some demo!
    Any ideas on how to convince them is welcomed :o)

    • No there is currently the only way to run unsigned code on the phone is by unlocking as I described. And yes you need to pay the AppHub subcription for that priviledge. This is no different to the way Apple works with the IPhone – you have to pay for their development program before you can deploy to the IPhone too.

      But this shouldn’t stop you developing a proof of concept. Grab hold of the WP7 developer tools. It includes fully featured emulator of the phone hardware – its a kind of virtual phone device. You can develop, test and demo your app on the emulator. I’ve often demo’d apps to clients on the emulator – it works quite well.

      My advice would be to take the developer tools and build the best possible proof of concept you can on the emulator. If you can impress your bosses by showing off a top quality, slick, completed app that solves a problem for them, it won’t matter whether it is running on the emulator or a device. If you do a good job on the app they won’t think twice about the $90 to get it running on an actual device.

      • Apple has a bad business model, android is doing well…please dont bring in crAPPLE, there should not be a 90 fee, the developers that are starting atin the bedrooms and basements are the feature clients of MS, Apple is greedy period, and if you think a crAPPLE can not get a virus, why the hell do they sell anti-virus software right next too the crAPPLES.???

      • If you don’t want to pay the $90 to unlock your phone check out http://www.chevronwp7.com/ who will be coming out with another way to unlock your device – although they are still going to change $9. While not official the upcoming Chevron unlock does seem to sanctioned by Microsoft to some degree.

  2. Hey,
    Thanks for the quick reply…I understand some of the reason of those restrictions, this avoid to have like in previous winmo : many sources to get applications. The private cloud for marketplace (once available) will be great too.
    I won’t debate if IPhone works the same or not (I really don’t care and other teams are working on it, same for blackberry demos). Only one point my boss told me 10 minutes ago : the development tools are not free for apple, is MSDN Subscription free ? he was kind of joking but having MSDN more or less full access he don’t get why he has to pay more for technical demos, he is ok for using in production but demos….

    The problem here is more on the kind of demo I need to do : I will use camera to take “barcode” then GPS to locate where the barcode was scanned then use 3G to upload all those data to a central server. This is just a simple exemple of the kind of functionnality they are asking me to create (very simplified, just to explain)…
    The emulator is really nice (I’ve been testing it for months now) but to show him what’s best than taking the phone, going on a real site (trucks site, with delivery of rocks and more) and showing what we can do…Using “virtual stuff” won’t convince them, they believe in what they see, not in what they imagine…
    I may pay those 90$ myself for personal stuff but wasn’t scheduling to do it before next year…
    Anyway thanks for the informations, maybe some guys out there will come with some tricks (I’m not saying I’m waiting for kind of jailbreak stuff…erm…I’m not…)

    • Hi

      If you are asking why the AppHub registration isn’t included in the MSDN subscription that is a different question that you would have to ask Microsoft. But charging for the ability to run unsigned code on a consumer device is standard across the industry (IPhone, Blackberry, Nokia and even XBOX do this – to my knowledge the only ones that don’t are Windows Mobile and Android).

      Sure its always nice to be able to demonstrate on a physical device – but I can say in my experience that it is far from manditory. I have never encounted anyone who has had a problem relating an emulator to a device. I’ve never had to ask anyone imagine anything or pretend something was happening. They can see very clearly what the application looks like – you are running a real application on a real instance of the operating system after all.

      In fact, as we speak, I am in the process of building an app to a client who has never even seen it run on a real device – and they won’t see it until it is available to download on the marketplace.

      Your point about needing to use the camera and GPS is a good one, but there are well documented ways to deal with these issues in the emulator. They are not showstoppers by any means and my guess is these features will be turning up in the emulator in future versions.

      Anyway good luck with your project but I would urge you to remember that the cost and effort involved developing a mobile app is orders of magnitude larger than the $90 it costs to unlock the phone. Given the overall cost, I have to say it is rather unsual that $90 to unlock the phone would be the sticking point.

  3. Thanks for publishing this, I’ve been going in circles for an hour finding out what “register your phone” means (and I am a registered developer.) Most of that time was spent searching menus and help in Visual Studio after the AppHub site telling me registration is done in Visual Studio (as you stated.)

    I would like to say that due to the complicated world we live in, that everything like this we do is frought with pitfalls. There is not a company I know of that is immune to that, and that overall the tools and help are world class, and for me, there is no equal.

    This is the first release, and the first exposure of the tools for the phone. (Albeit Visual Studio and Blend have been here a while now.) Instead of “whoa… just like Microsoft too…”, take some time to look at just how powerful and easy to use this platform is, and give the company some credit.

    I, for one, am both amazed and thrilled with the environment I get to work within.

    Again Aiden, thanks for taking the time to save me some time.

  4. Thanks so much for this. It’s shocking how searching on “unlock phone”, “sideload”, etc etc doesn’t give this really basic information in a search inside the App Hub. It’s like MS may about indy developers, but no one in particular is in charge.

    One factual note –
    Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone is free if you have a computer with Windows Vista or 7.
    Xcode (The Apple equivalent) is also free if you have an Apple computer that will run it. (most will)

    I have to disagree Microsoft’s development story is “best”, but they are trying!

    • We’ll have to agree to disagree 🙂 I’ve developed on iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7. I have more or less given up on Apple because of their archaic tools and language – it’s time for Apple to move into the 21st century. Android however do have a compelling development offering, however I believe the tool support with Windows Phone 7 is more complete and well rounded.

  5. Thanks for taking the time to post this Aiden. I too am amazed that this information isn’t in the App Hub.

    Also, a helpful note to add along with the tips others have added.

    If you register via Windows Phone Developer Registration Tool and the status returns an error message indicating that the Time on the Phone is out of sync; though it actually isn’t… give it a few minutes and try again.

    I had to do this a few times before the process successfully completed.

    • Oddly enough I tried to register a new device last night and got this exact same error message too but I’ve never seen it before. Maybe they’ve changed something which has introduced this problem.

  6. Hi,

    I am trying to test wp7 app with device and it doesnot allow me.
    The problem is as below:
    -I tried to register through Windows phone developer registration providing my windows live id and password
    -The error status received is: Marketplace registration incomplete. please return to the developer portal for more information
    -I have registered myself in marketplace and used dreamspark to validate as a student also
    -Everything in AppHub seems fine untill i check my Dashboard
    -In Dashboard it shows that my email is verified and confirmed but publisher identification verification is not happening so the device/phone is not getting developer unlocked.

    Am I missing some steps? or what should i do to test the apps with device.

    • Hi Bishal

      You will need to get your account verified before you can unlock your phone. This is why you are getting the error. Now Microsoft don’t automatically verify the dreamspark accounts until you actually submit an app. So you will need to publish an app before you can unlock your phone. If this seems a little strange that is because it is! But hey thats how it works.

      What you can do is create a quick dummy app that does nothing, then submit it to the marketplace. In your submission make it clear that you are a dreamspark student and it is a dummy app not intended to be published. Make sure you select “Don’t publish immediately to the market” when you submit, otherwise your app will be automatically published for other people to download once it has been verified – you don’t want this. This should cause Microsoft to verify your account (you will receive an email advising you what to do) after a few days. Once you have been verified you can delete your dummy app, without ever actually publishing it to the live marketplace.

      I have heard dreamspark students have been successful doing this. If you don’t get anywhere then you should raise a marketplace support ticket from the create.msdn.com website because the verification process can be a little flaky. Good luck!

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  8. Hi,

    the 90 Bugs are a steep hill for me. I do not know how well my app is going to go within the marketplace. Within the 90 Bugs I have to have 90 app instances sold to refund the money – yearly!

    How many apps are out there and have been bought once or twice or just 55 times? That would be interessting for me.

    Please MICROSFT tell.

    For me as an developer, have in mind just 1 app in the beginning, I have to kill the 90 Bugs first.
    I believe it is a cold for many. The marketplace would gain more apps if it is down to a childs budget of like 10 bugs. Which is acutally only needed for bank account verification – right? Microsoft doesn’t need the 90 Bugs to survive. And we wouldn’t have this discussion.


    So for DarkAngel, I believe he would have spend the 10 bugs on his own to do so. For a start he would be able to upload his own apps as well and sell them. After months he should be able to have fixed some ideas. Right?

    And as far I know the press is always comparing the amount of apps with the marketplaces.


  9. Hi,

    My app works fine as long i keep it connected to my pc using the usb-cable. Once i disconnect the usb-cable my application won’t connect to the network again.

    Is this any kind of build in limitation ?

    Kind regards

    • No that is certainly not any limitation, it should work as you expect. One thing to remember is that if your phone is plugged in via usb it will default to using that as its network device. So any communication that happens is proxied through your PC. Once you unplug it, the phone falls back to WiFi or 3G. If you aren’t able to connect it is because these aren’t connected to the network. Try checking your wireless settings. Also make sure you don’t have flight mode enabled.

  10. huuum, so sad story…
    i didn’t know the structutre of MS for developing on win phone 7. after a while, our boss accept to buy an htc hd7 fro about 450$. i don’t know how to express this new condition to boss :-s
    i guess i should buy a windows mobile device by myself and do the process from the beginning…

  11. Hi,

    i have one question. Have you any idea why my phone dosen’t showing up in the “my devices” list after registration?
    I can using the phone with VS, so its seems to be unlocked.

    • I’ve not seen that before. I would guess something has gone wrong on Microsoft’s side. It wouldn’t be the first time something has gone wrong, the marketplace backend seems rather flaky at times. You could raise a support request if you are concerned about it, although you might just find it sorts itself out after a while.

  12. Just a question, My country is not listed in the app hub developer registration. Do I have to wait till it’s available or is there some workaround this?


  13. Come on Adam! Microsoft is no longer the Darth Vader of the computer world, it’s just Darth Vader with a dwindling empire. Microsoft is charging his stormtroopers to help. This is ridiculous. Any developer who has purchased a Windows Phone and put up with the lousy selection of apps, when he could have easily gone with Apple or Google, has made a serious commitment and investment. Microsoft wants to turn around and charge them $99 to get necessary updates like Mango, even if they paid for a Windows Phone and an MSDN membership? If that isn’t bad enough, they force the developers to run their apps in a simulated environment instead of a real phone? Moreover, they are spending developer hours on a emulator instead of focusing them on improvements to WP 7. Real smart Microsoft! Keep doing this and you’ll find yourself in the same position as the companies you dethroned in back in the 1980s as smart device sales keep increasing.

    • Hi Joseph

      I’m not arguing as to whether Microsoft should or shouldn’t be charging to unlock a phone. To me, the argument is completely irrelevant to anyone who serious about development. Compared to the cost of developing the typical application (even apps you develop on your own time aren’t free unless of course you don’t value your own time) the $99 fee to unlock the phone is completely superfluousness. Its neither here nor there.

      I have no idea what Microsoft chooses to levy a fee but I can say with absolute certainly the aim isn’t profit. They made $18 billion in profit last year alone. You really think squeezing $99 out of a few developers is going to make the slightest difference to that? My guess it that it has more to do with quality control and end user experience than anything else and to me that barrier to entry sounds like a good thing.

      PS: I’m not sure what exactly makes you think Microsoft’s empire is dwindling. They made more profit last year than ever before – up 60% on the previous year. They are still easily one of the most profitable companies in the world (second most profitable in America after Exxon – considerably ahead of both Apple and Google). To say Microsoft is dwindling is entirely misinformed I’m afraid.

  14. Hi Hope this gets an answer… (I noticed the last post was months ago)
    I had an application that only I use to decode my own security system, on Windows Mobile 6.5, I have rewitten it for VS10 Silverlight and ran fine on the emulator… How can I put it in my device without giving it to anyone else?

  15. Here is another follow up to the last question…
    If I pay the 99 blood money and get my phone unlocked, run the application on the phone, will it continue to work on the phone after I disconect from my pc?

  16. I started developing an application few days ago and I am really determined to finish it and release it.
    However, I am currently still using the emulator, although would love to “feel” the app on my phone. The $99 fee isn’t huge, but at this moment it kind of cooled me down. If you plan to release paid apps I can 100% understand it, but in case you plan to release a free app (and I’m not considering here crAPPS that just spam the marketplace, but free useful tools that users may find nice to have), paying this amount is a bit of a problem. Hope I’ll be able to make up my mind about paying or not the fee for the app hub in the next few days time in which I hope to finish my app.
    Ahh… and I almost forgot… the app hub registration process is a big joke! I live in Cyprus and guess what: Cyprus is not in the list… so I guess my only chance would be to select another country and provide a fake zip code. Right? And the funny part about it is that last year Microsoft had some competition for creating WP7 apps and Cyprus was one of the places where you could participate.

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  18. Recently I bought WP7.5 device. Earlier I was using win mobile 6.5.1 (Garmin-Asus Device). With the many limitation with WP 7.5 device I am not happy at all thinking Win Mobile 6.5.1 was better. We all know list of must-have features in WP is very big. So tried to build app as per my own requirement, but for this I have to be a paid member [:(].
    I think Windows OS features (may be with somewhat less) should reflect in WP. That will be helpful for all kind of users (users/developers/techies).
    With these kind of changes/limitations It seems that mobile/phone market is now following apple. Now I can count many similarities in WP and iphone but Win Mobile 6.1/6.5.1 was unique with their features.
    *if anybody know the place apart from suggestion box where can I request the features I want (or I think ) in WP then pleas let me know.

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