January 25, 2013 by atxryan
I loaned my Surface to a developer to test his game on today and I realized I’d never actually side-loading on to the device. Up until now I’d just used the Visual Studio remote debugger to target my ARM devices from my laptop. I wasn’t sure if side-loading was as simple as it was on my Windows 8 Pro laptop, so I gave it a go.
“Side-loading” means installing a non-certified app using external media (CD/DVD, USB or even a .ZIP archive). This bypasses the official Microsoft Windows App Store. Typically you’ll want to side-load an application in order to test it. Developers can always side-load their own apps on a developer-unlocked device. This means a device with a valid developer’s license on it.
Creating a test app package in Visual Studio
- Create your app package for your project from the Store >> Create App Packages menu…
- For the simple purpose of testing, you can select no when asked if you want to build for the Windows Store.
- If needed, you can change your build target architecture and versions.
- Done. You’ll find a new folder called AppPackages in your project folder.
- The AppPackages folder will contain an .appxupload file (the same time that you’d upload to the Windows Store) and a folder ending with _Test.
- You can copy this folder over a thumb drive or zip it up to send via email. In my case, I copied it to a thumb drive to transfer to my Surface.
Side-load on to the Microsoft Surface
- Open the thumb drive on your device. It’s nice to have a USB port, right?
- Find the Add-AppDevPackage.ps1 in the *_Test folder and right click it to Run with PowerShell. To right click on a Surface, just hold your finger down for a long click. A square will appear to indicate a context menu click.
- If you’ve never installed a developer license on this device (and it’s more than likely you haven’t), you’ll need to acquire a new license. This is the part that makes the device “developer unlocked”.
- Pressing Enter opens up a new PowerShell window to acquire a license and install the certificate included with the app you’re installing.
- Click agree and sign in with the Microsoft account associated with your developer account.
- As soon as you successfully sign in, you’ll get a prompt that says a developer license has been added to this machine for 90 days. After 90 days are up, you will need to acquire a new license. It’s just as simple of a process each time.You’ll also need to confirm that you wish to install the certificate included with the app. If you signed it, no problem. If you’re testing someone else’s app, be sure you trust the developer.
- You can see that my terrible Hangman game is now installed on the Surface.
That’s it! It was just as simple as I’d expected to side-load on to a Surface. Keep in mind, these instructions actually would work the exact same on any other Windows 8 or Windows RT device.
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