Windows Phone 7 Side Loading

Side loading is a topic familiar to Windows Phone developers but not so familiar to those who might need to work with these developers and require an understanding of the functionality in order to be more effective.

Side loading refers to deploying applications directly to a device without going through the official Microsoft Marketplace. You may want to side load an application for prototyping, demos and reviews. 

In an enterprise environment, you may additionally want to side load applications that are intended only for internal consumption. Unfortunately, an enterprise solution is not available for the first iteration of Windows Phone. It may be included in a future release.

The side loading capabilities of Windows Phone 7 are somewhat restrictive. You may side load applications either to a software emulator running on a PC or to a physical device. Side loading to the WP7 software emulator requires the installation of the Windows Phone Developer Tools. In addition to various products (Visual Studio Express, Blend for WP7), the Windows Phone Developer Tools includes the Application Deployment utility which you will use for side loading. You must be running Windows Vista or Windows 7 in order to install the Developer Tools.

The Windows Phone Developer Tools may be downloaded here.

Side loading to a Windows Phone device additionally requires installation of the latest Zune software.

The Zune software may be downloaded here.

Deploying to a WP7 device is similar to deploying to the WP7 emulator. Besides the requirement that Zune software be running in order to deploy to a device, there is an additional restriction that you can only deploy to an “unlocked” developer device. A Marketplace account is required to unlock a WP7 device, and only five three developer devices can be unlocked for each marketplace account. A Marketplace account requires an annual membership fee of $99. A full membership, allowing for the publication of applications to the marketplace, can be purchased here and generally requires a two to three week verification period. Finally, only ten applications may be side loaded onto any device.

Deploying to the Emulator

Once the Windows Phone Developer Tools have been successfully installed, you may side load to the emulator by using the Application Deployment utility. You can find the Application Deployment utility by going to your Start Menu on the taskbar.


Select “All Programs” from the Start Menu. Find and open the menu folder named Windows Phone Developer Tools.


This will open the Application Deployment utility.


The Target dropdown has two entries. From the Application Deployment utility, apps can be deployed either to the emulator or to a device. To deploy to the emulator, select “Windows Phone 7 Emulator” as the target.

You will be deploying a XAP file, which is a file with a “.xap” extension. A XAP file is the basic unit for a phone application, much as an executable is the basic unit for a typical windows application. It includes the code as well as all the images and other assets required to run a specific phone application. Use the browse button to find the XAP file you want to deploy to the emulator.

Once a XAP file has been selected, press the “Deploy” button. If the emulator is not already running, deployment will start the emulator for you.

The emulator is a bare-bones version of the Windows Phone OS. It has most of the functionality found on a Windows Phone device but is lacking many of the applications you will typically find on a standard WP7 device. In fact, the Start screen on the emulator only contains Internet Explorer.


Select the right facing arrow at the top right corner to bring up all applications. You will find your newly loaded app on the applications screen.

Deploying to a Windows Phone

Once the WP7 Dev Tools and the Zune software have been successfully installed, you must run the Zune software before attempting to side load. You do not need to be logged into your Zune account in order to side load an app.


While the Zune software is running, open the Application Deployment utility by following the steps enumerated above for side loading to the software emulator.

As pointed out above, the device must be “unlocked” as a developer device in order for deployment to occur.  The device does not have to be unlocked by you.  Hypothetically, you can simply ask someone with an annual Marketplace subscription to unlock the device for you.

Connect your device to your PC using a micro-USB cable (typically included with the device). The lock screen must be slid out of the way for deployment to occur.

In order to deploy to your device, you will select “Windows Phone 7 Device” as the deployment target in the Application Deployment utility rather than “Windows Phone 7 Emulator”.

To finish deploying to an unlocked device, follow the steps outlined above for deploying to the emulator.

* Special thanks to WP7 MVP Joel Johnson for reviewing this document and making necessary corrections to my understanding of how side loading works.

4 thoughts on “Windows Phone 7 Side Loading”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *