Sideloading Windows 8 Store Apps

Sideloading Windows 8 Store Apps

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This tip is an excerpt from an article entitled "Try It Out: Sideloading Windows Store Apps." To read the article in its entirety, visit the Windows Client TechCenter.

By now, you are familiar with Windows Store apps. There are some pretty cool ones available in the store, and publishers are adding more every week. A great thing about Windows Store apps is they are super simple to install (and uninstall). But what about line of business (LOB) apps? You probably do not want to publish them through the Windows Store since that would make them publically available.
Instead, you can sideload LOB apps. Sideloading simply means installing a Windows Store app without publishing it in and downloading it from the store. You install it directly.
There is some mythology around sideloading apps, possibly because many IT pros have yet to experience it firsthand. In reality, the process is super simple: it is nothing more difficult than running a few commands in Windows PowerShell. There are a few requirements that you have to set up in advance though, and those too are rather easy.
Here is the thing: The problem with seeing and doing this first hand is that you need to get your hands on an app that you can sideload. You cannot sideload an app you purchase from the Windows Store, and you might not be fortunate enough to have developers available who are working on them. So to get started, here is a checklist of the steps that can help you quickly and easily build your own app for testing purposes.

  1. Set up the virtual machines – To experience sideloading for yourself, you will need two virtual machines (VMs): a domain controller and a client computer.
  2. Create a Windows Store app – A Windows Store app is one that you can sideload so they are not just "floating around." As Microsoft does not recommend downloading apps from untrusted sources, the best alternative for trying out sideloading apps is to build an app. This is likely far easier to do than you would expect.
  3. Install the root certificate – If you were deploying an actual LOB app, the developer would sign it with a certificate that is chained to a trusted root certificate. However, since you are just testing an app that is using a self-signed certificate, you need to install the root certificate on the client VM.
  4. Verify the requirements – There are a small number of requirements computers must meet to sideload Windows Store apps on them. For a computer running Windows 8 Enterprise, the computer must be joined to the domain, you must enable the "Allow all trusted apps to install" Group Policy setting, and the app must be signed by a \ certificate that is chained to a trusted root certificate.
  5. Sideload the app for a user – Sideloading the sample app for a single user is no more difficult than running a few commands in Windows PowerShell. However, if another user were to log onto the computer, the app would not be available to them.
    OR
    Sideload the app for all users – You can sideload an app for all users by using the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool. DISM is a command-line tool that you can use to service a Windows image–online or offline. If you are not familiar with DISM, see the Deployment Image Servicing and Management Technical Reference.

This is just a quick overview of the steps you would to take to experience sideloading Windows Store apps firsthand. For step-by-step guidance on how to complete step, please see Try It Out: Sideloading Windows Store Apps.

12 Comments
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  • I completly agree with Nick and I really don't know who within MS came up with this **** idea of side loading. We are a completly Microsoft friendly developing Company, and I don't know why it's unnecessary made so complicated to deploy Business apps.  I mean honestly, I cannot request all my customers to buy sideloading keys. All this stuff is not necessary on IOS or Androis platforms ... and MS still wonders why the market share isn't that great ?!

  • I've been developing for the Microsoft platform for 15-years, I have a lot of love for the OS and developer tools that have been coming out of Redmond over the years. However, the side-loading story for Windows 8 is missing the mark 100%. You are focused on a single scenario (enterprise side-loading) and missing small/medium-size businesses, as well as hobbyists that want to develop private use apps for their friends/families. Even if you were going to restrict side-loading for non-domain joined machines behind a separately purchased product key, then why sell in bulk. The barrier to entry ($3,000) makes it not worth it, and that makes me sad.

    You're taking the worst of Apple and using it to ruin the best of Microsoft here. Hobbyists grow up into Enterprise developers, and they're not putting out $3,000 to side-load an app on their $349 RT -- they're buying an Android.

    Most of all though, you're losing me right now. I am an Enterprise dev, but I still write code for fun too. The code I write for fun informs where I go with the craft, and it's really pulling me away. You have got to make side-loading happen -- for free, without hassle, and for everyone.

    There needs to be a unified story for RT / Pro / Enterprise regardless of OEM/SA licensing. I am still in shock of what the licensing story is. For shame.

    You are already taking heat in the tech media for this too:

    www.zdnet.com/the-enterprise-sideloading-story-on-windows-8-its-complicated-7000006742

    Windows 8.1 is coming, please fix it. I have a summer intern that I'm trying to show how MS loves developers, and he's not really feeling the love right now.

  • pzkpfw
    0 Posts

    Right; so I upgrade two PC's to Windows 8 at $50 each. Then I buy a convertible Tablet for $2,000 to get the touch interface experience. I also buy Visual Studio 2012 for $1,000 so I have the right tools.

    ... and I still can't legally write myself a little "modern" app to run on my own machines.

    Nor can I make a little utility for a friend.

    Nor can I write an LOB app for my Wife's small office.

    Simply pathetic. (And totally removed my interest in learning the new environment. It's enough to make one switch to being an Android programmer ...)

  • starrzr
    0 Posts

    Hi Stephen, my company has been developing mobile LOB apps for almost 2 decades, initially on Windows and Windows Mobile and now on several major 'mobile' platforms.  We are currently working on our first Windows Store app.  Most of our customers (we have over 100,000 licensees) are not going to be running Windows 8 Enterprise - they will be running Windows RT or Windows 8 Pro.  I am struggling to comprehend why Microsoft would finally bring a competitive device to market (e.g. Surface RT and Surface Pro) and then make it so difficult for such devices to be used in a business or BYOD setting.  Will all due respect, your assumption that the target audience for mobile LOB apps would own Windows 8 Enterprise is not consistent with our experience.  I strongly encourage Microsoft to consider making the sideloading key free or at the very least making it available on a per unit basis.

  • CMSmith- Any Enterprise customer with Software Assurance gets the licenses for free.  You can also get a free 90 day key to test any app on a local machine. Are you building apps for customers not running Windows 8 Enterprise?

  • cmsmith
    0 Posts

    It appears the only option is for a 100 pack at $30 each??  Why would anyone spend extra money to load their own apps onto their own device!

  • cmsmith
    0 Posts

    Absolutely cannot understand the reasoning behind this.  Paying for sideloading keys is a killer for the platform.  Why as developers would we support this when Android devices are cheaper for our clients and there is no cost to load LOB apps?  Windows 8 - what a dissappointment!

  • myokeeh,

    I am going to point you to the Dev Center at msdn.microsoft.com/.../apps for more information on building and licensing apps and app development.

  • myokeeh
    0 Posts

    Stephen,

    We currently have a couple of Windows 8 Pro devices (Dell Latitude 10 and my Surface Pro that fall under BYOD). What are our options to use Windows 8 Modern Apps that we may want to develop in-house? Are there any options for folks in our situation? Is there at least an option to buy these sideloading keys individually?

    I couldn't find a way to email you.

    Thanks.

  • Myokeeh,

    I am not sure I understand your second question since Windows 8 Enterprise requires Volume License to purchase anyways? As for a 12 person environment, we would normally recommend the Pro SKU as Direct Access and BranchCache are not normally used by smaller environments like yours. Feel free to email me directly if you have further questions.

  • myokeeh
    0 Posts

    Oh...a sideloading key that we have to buy in bulk?

  • myokeeh
    0 Posts

    Right off the bat, Windows 8 Enterprise requirement rules out our 12-employee small business company.