How To Unlock the Windows Phone 7 Series Emulator

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At Mix ‘10, Microsoft finally unveiled the first technology preview of the developer tools for its upcoming mobile platform, Windows Phone 7 Series. While the tools are aimed at developers, there is one specific tool in the package that might interest the regular tech enthusiasts as well – the Windows Phone 7 Series device emulator.

Since there aren’t any Windows Phone 7 Series capable devices in the market yet (and there wont be for quite some time), your best bet to play with the new operating system is via the device emulator that Microsoft ships with the development tools. Since the platform is a work in progress, Microsoft ships a locked version of the mobile operating system with a very limited feature set which includes only Internet Explorer Mobile.

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Fortunately for us, the ever so energetic community over at the XDA Developers forum have managed to unlock the Windows Phone 7 Series OS ROM that is shipped with the development tools which allow us full access to the current platform. Here is a step by step guide detailing how to download and install the required tools along with the emulator, and how to unlock the supplied ROM.

Setting Up the Tools

Setting up the tools is rather straight forward. All you have to do is:

  • Head on over to Windows Phone Developer website and click Download the Developer Tools. You will be taken to Microsoft’s Download Center.
  • Review the system requirements and make sure your machine qualifies for the download. What you basically need is a system with at least 2GB of RAM, 3GB of free hard drive space and a DirectX 10 capable Graphics Card. You also need to be running at least Windows Vista Service Pack 2 or Windows 7.
  • If your machine meets the minimum requirements, then just scroll down below and click the Download button next to VM_BOOT\vm_web.exe.
  • Once the download completes, run the installer. The installer is basically a package downloader it self which would now download all the essential tools required to setup the Windows Phone Developer environment. Just follow the prompts and proceed with the installation.

Setting Up the Emulator

Once the installation is complete, you can now start building your very own Windows Phone 7 Series applications. In order to access the emulator, you just have to debug your applications in Visual Studio 2010. If you have no clue on how to do that, then its better if you just setup a shortcut to the emulator directly.

  • Go to the drive where you installed the developer tools, the default being C:\Program Files\ or C:\Program Files (x86)\ on 64-bit systems.
  • Navigate to the folder Microsoft XDE > 1.0 and create a shortcut for the XDE.exe. You can place the shortcut anywhere you like.
  • Now open the shortcut properties, click the Shortcut tab and in the Target field, enter “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft XDE\1.0\XDE.exe” “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SDKs\WindowsPhone\v7.0\Emulation\Images\WM70C1.bin”
  • Hit OK to close the properties dialog. Now fire up the shortcut and you would be greeted by the emulator.
  • The emulator is running the locked ROM right now and you wont be able to do a lot of stuff until you unlock it.

Unlocking the ROM

The final step in order to get the full ROM up and running requires another download.

  • Download the unlocked ROM and extract it into C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SDKs\WindowsPhone\v7.0\Emulation\Images\
  • Now go back to the shortcut you created and edit the target field once again. All you have to do is change the WM70C1.bin at the end to WM70Full.bin and hit OK.
  • Run the emulator again and you should now see a lot more tiles on the Start Menu.

Keep in mind that since this is early code, a lot of functionality isn’t complete in this build yet so expect things to go wrong more often than not. Still, you can explore a great deal of the OS and get a sense of what’s coming in the future.

Oh and don’t forget to share your experience with the emulator, or if you can’t get the thing to work then feel free to ask any question in the comments below.

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