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!

Related Posts

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.