STUDENTS: How to developer-unlock (jailbreak) your Windows Phone 7 device for FREE

If you’re a student and you have a Windows Phone 7 device – there’s absolutely no reason (aside from laziness, durr) why you shouldn’t already have a developer-unlocked device. Now you might be asking yourself – why would you want a developer-unlocked device? What does it mean? What are the benefits?

Essentially, a developer-unlocked device allows you to sideload apps on your WP7 device. Sideloading is the process of installing wp7 applications directly on your device without having to go through the standard WP7 Marketplace. Similar, to the commonly used term “jailbreaking” – except it’s meant for developers to legally test their apps on their device.

Got it? no? How about some use cases. With an unlocked device, you can:

  • Update your phone to the latest beta OS. If you’ve been keeping up with WP7 news, you may have heard of a wicked new software update called Mango (WP7 7.1/7.5). It’s slated for public release in fall of 2011 – but with a dev-unlocked device, you can install it right now.
  • Install awesome homebrew apps such as an NES emulator, custom ringtones installer, custom tile colors and more. These apps may not be allowed into the official Marketplace due to the use of special API or they may possibly hop the line of legality – such as the NES emulator.
  • And last but not least – code a WP7 app and actually test it on your device.

All developers (who are not students), pay $99 a year to purchase a developer membership with Microsoft/WP7, allowing them to developer-unlock their phones and build/test their apps. Fortunately, Microsoft loves students, and even more so developers (developers developers!). As a result, all students get a free WP7 developer account and the ability to developer-unlock their phones (with a little work). So now that you’re drolling with excitement (I hope!) and curious to know how to unlock it for free, here are the steps:

  1. Sign up for a free DreamSpark account at: http://dreamspark.com (or simply login with your current Windows Live account)
  2. Verify your DreamSpark account with your school. Should work for US/Canada universities for sure – no clue about rest of the world. (Update: confirmed in Germany too)
  3. Download & install the latest WP7 Dev tools from: https://www.dreamspark.com/Products/Product.aspx?ProductId=28
  4. Create an AppHub account (make sure you sign up as a STUDENT): https://users.create.msdn.com/Register/
  5. Download some WP7 app samples from here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff431744(v=vs.92).aspx asdf
    UPDATE** I’ve been notified that students may not need to submit a dummy app anymore, and their accounts are activated without Geotrust verification. So from here, you can skip to step 10 and if you can unlock your device, you’re good to go! If not, then please go ahead and try step 6-9 below.
  6. Now the hardest part of the process (for those with no software dev experience): creating a “dummy-app.” Essentially, modify one of the sample applications a bit if you want (change a title or color), and then build/compile and package into an xap binary. Note: I created a very very simple Notepad app (10 mins tops) to submit – but I’m sure it’ll still work with a generic code sample from Microsoft.
  7. Now for a bit more work – submit your dummy-app! https://windowsphone.create.msdn.com/AppSubmission – Just follow the instructions, and make some images files/screenshots and etc.
  8. Right before you submit, there’s a checkbox that says “Automatically submit to Marketplace when approved” – make sure you UNCHECK that box! Obviously we don’t actually want to submit our “dummy-app” to the real Marketplace.
  9. Submit! Within 24 hours of submission you should receive an email from GeoTrust to verify your identity. They’ll ask you to fill out a form and scan/fax over a piece of government-issued ID. Once they approve, your AppHub account will be fully activated!
  10. If you installed the WP7 dev tools, you should have an application installed on your computer called: Windows Phone Developer Registration. Start it, connect your WP7 device, type your Windows Live login, and click register!
  11. Wait for the Mango invitation email from Microsoft, then update to the latest beta OS and sideload to your heart’s content! :)

And that’s it. Not too hard, but definitely takes some patience. Trust me when I say the benefits are worth it. Mango is stellar, and I was just playing Pokemon Red on my WP7! def. a win if you ask me!

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About the Author: ShiftF

I'm a recent senior computer engineering grad from the University of British Columbia. I'm also a bit of a phone addict - as I currently switch between a BlackBerry, a few iPhones and a few Windows Phones (Samsung Focus, HTC Titan, Lumia 900). I'm now work as a software developer full-time.

  • Svenalbert

    I’m following your instructions right now and wanted to give you some feedback.

    The first step wasn’t necessary for me as I could use my login data for Windows Live for DreamSpark, too.
    And the second step worked well for my university in Germany.

    Thanks for this little tutorial!

    • Hey Svenalbert – thanks for the heads up! I’ve updated the steps a bit with the info. :) 

  • I have read in other sites that before installing Mango we’ve to backup the phone. When we must do the backup, before registring using Windows Phone Developer Registration or after that?

    • It doesn’t matter exactly when you do it – but just make sure you backup your phone BEFORE upgrading to Mango. 

      If you apply the Mango update, it will create a backup for you. Just copy this backup to another folder and/or USB drive to make sure you have a safe copy of it.

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  • Phoney

    You can also use sim cards from other counties, no?  Or is that another step?

    • That is actually a sim-unlock that you’re looking for. You can buy an unlock code very easily on ebay and they’re super cheap. I think I paid $5 for an unlock code so I can use my Focus with any carrier’s sim card.

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  • build/compile and package into an xap binary—– How do you do this? I have never ever worked on cod or the Visual studio software. I spent a long time attempting to gifure out this step but can’t get it.

    • This is a great place to start. I actually learned quite a bit from watching these vids.
      They are broken down in different parts.


      • cool but is there a certain video you could show me or step by step method. I’m looking to learn enough so I can recieve the mango build legally. any help is great I just don’t have too much time on my hands to look at all the videos.Thank you

        • You actually have to submit an app to microsoft to get an invitation for Mango. Just so you know the .xap file is in the bin/debug folder of a project. That file must be submitted along with some pics of the app.

          I suppose you can download some app examples from the internet and modify one just a bit to make it your own and submit.

  • good!

  • This is a great tutorial, I haven’t written code in a long time and was hesitant to pay the developer fee. Now I am working on my first app to submit to apphub. Two Thumb up!!

  • I’ve never developed before and well im kind of stuck, I really want to get Mango and also I would like to one day start developing for Windows Phone. I just started taking different types of programming in college so any help with making a simple app would be nice.

  • What a great tutorial! Just what I had been looking for all these months! On step 8 it mentioned about a checkbox “Automatically submit to Marketplace when approved” but there was none. I did however  chose to submit my dummy-app to the “Private Testing” instead of “Masketplace” – should that work as well for the GeoTrust email?

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  • Add a tick for Australia for DreamSpark verification! :)

  • Vinay

    hello WP7 users, I have a dreamspark account and during my registration in the APPHUB (after entering my personal details) i get this message :We’re sorry, an error has occurred.

    We have detected an error while
    processing the page you were looking for. We apologize for the
    inconvenience. Please try again”. Can anyone help me out? I have provided all the information it asked for during the registration process.

  • Papp Gábor

    Also works in Hungary (or at least for BME)

  • Hunter

    Hello, it works for France too. I’m a student at Versailles (France) and i am able to register a DreamSpark Student Account. 
    I’m so glad it worked.

  • Travis Ingram

    Hey man so at the last part you said wait for the ”
    Wait for the Mango invitation email from Microsoft, then update to the latest beta OS and sideload to your heart’s content! :) ”
    I am on a Mango device but am I waiting for a  customized firmware update or what? Cause I am stuck from here on what to do so far and how to side load it. Accept for using the xap installer

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  • Philip

    hello, Im from the Philippines and it took me pretty long to have my student verification from dreamsparks but i just got it this morning through scanned ID’s and transcripts.

    however, i was not able to register in app hub due to my location, 
    i don’t know what i should do next or should i just give up hoping a developer unlocked  lumia 800 :( 

    help me guys.

  • BAOC

    I’ve done it and download some paid games for free and deployed them, but some of them dont work, what is wrong? Thank you

    • Accounts

      First off where are you getting the .XAP files for paid games, because that could fall into the realms of piracy. Depending on the publisher they may have added extra requirements such as XBOX live, etc.

  • Buhinone

    I have a onthehub.com account for my universities dreamspark webstore (dreamspark for academic institutions), but I cannot access dreamspark.com with this ID. Do you know if there is a way to verify my student status through my onthehub account?