MTC Munich: How to Activate a Windows 8/Windows 8.1 Sideloading Product Key Offline

MTC Munich: How to Activate a Windows 8/Windows 8.1 Sideloading Product Key Offline

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Windows Store apps used as line-of-business (LOB) applications play an important role for Microsoft’s enterprise customers. But publishing an internal LOB application to the Windows Store may not be practical. We have worked with various customers at the Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) in Munich, Germany, who are considering building LOB applications as Windows Store apps and are providing another option for them to consider -  sideloading.

“Sideloading” describes the process of installing an app onto a device that supports the installation of APPX packages, thus bypassing the Windows Store. Sideloaded apps do not have to be certified by or installed through the Windows Store.

Sideloading requirements
First, let’s recap the four requirements that must be met in order to sideload a Windows Store app on a Windows-based device:

  1. You need to have either the APPX package available or the source code of the Windows Store app to build the APPX package yourself.
  2. The APPX package needs to be digitally signed with a certificate that is trusted by the devices targeted for sideloading.
  3. Sideloading has to be explicitly enabled in Windows.
  4. The edition of the Windows operating system on the device must be licensed for sideloading.

The TechNet article Sideload Apps with DISM describes the requirements and the necessary steps to sideload an app on a device in depth. In many enterprise scenarios, the fourth requirement above will be fulfilled by default, because Windows 8 or 8.1 Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Pro Update, or Windows Server 2012 or 2012 R2 are licensed for sideloading if they are joined to an Active Directory domain.

Install a Sideloading Product Key
Windows editions that support but are not licensed for sideloading require the installation and activation of a Sideloading Product Key. This is always true for Windows RT devices and any of the aforementioned versions of Windows or Windows Server that are not domain-joined. You can obtain a Sideloading Product Key from the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC).

To install a Sideloading Product Key, you need to run the script slmgr.vbs (located in %SYSTEMROOT%\System32) from a command line with administrative privileges:

slmgr /ipk <sideloading key>

Activate a Sideloading Product Key online
Again, run the script slmgr.vbs from a command line with administrative privileges:

slmgr /ato ec67814b-30e6-4a50-bf7b-d55daf729d1e

Note: These steps are included in the aforementioned TechNet article.

Activate a Sideloading Product Key offline
Things get more interesting when you need to activate your Sideloading Product Key on a device that doesn’t have Internet access (this scenario is not covered in the TechNet article). As an example of this scenario, we worked with a customer whose development teams were confined to a completely isolated network for security purposes. They couldn’t activate their test devices for sideloading using online activation at work or without undermining these security restrictions (like activating the Sideloading Product Key in their home network).

The solution in this scenario is to activate the Sideloading key by phone. After installing the Sideloading Product Key as shown above, execute these steps from a command line with administrative privileges:

Step 1: Generate an ID for phone activation:
slmgr /dti ec67814b-30e6-4a50-bf7b-d55daf7291e

This will display a 63-digit number that you need for the phone activation.

Step 2: Call your Activation Center to get the confirmation ID.

If you don’t know the phone number of your Activation Center, run slui.exe 4 at the command prompt to display the phone number for your country. Make sure to cancel the dialog after taking note of the phone number.

You will need to enter the 63 digits (in batches of 7 digits) through your dial pad. You will receive a 48-digit confirmation ID (in batches of 6 digits) in return. Take note of that confirmation ID, or enter it directly as part of the next step.

Step 3: Activate the key with the confirmation ID:
slmgr /atp <confirmation ID> ec67814b-30e6-4a50-bf7b-d55daf7291e

Make sure to enter the confirmation ID received in step 2 as one continuous string (no spaces or dashes). This will activate the Sideloading Product Key, and you can begin sideloading apps on the device.

Note: The activation ID ec67814b-30e6-4a50-bf7b-d55daf729d1e shown above is always the same for any activation of a Sideloading Product Key.

To check the activation state of the Sideloading Product Key, you can use slmgr.vbs as well:

slmgr /dlv ec67814b-30e6-4a50-bf7b-d55daf7291e

What’s next?
Once your environment is ready for sideloading, you need to think about how you want to install and advertise your apps to your end users.

We recommend the Windows 8.1 Modern LOB Application Deployment series at the Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) to learn more about sideloading basics using Windows PowerShell and how management solutions like Microsoft System Center 2012 (either SP1 or R2) or Windows Intune are capable of sideloading Windows Store apps on a larger scale to dozens, if not hundreds, of devices.

 

Jörg Jooss is a Technology Architect at the Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) in Munich, Germany, where he helps enterprise customers and ISVs to develop next-generation applications for the cloud and Windows-based devices.

 

Alexander Lachner is also a Technology Architect at the MTC in Munich. Alexander focuses on Microsoft SharePoint solutions and Office 365.

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  • Thank you for the detailed description - unfortunately I was not able to obtain a sideloading key yet. The VLSC does not offer an Option to search for an buy such a key and their support could not help me either.

    Do you have more Information on how to obtain the key necessary?

    Thanks a lot in advance.

    Best regards

    Wolfram

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