Licensing The Sideloading Apps on Windows 8 PCs

Something weird popped up on the Microsoft Volume Licensing pricelist today that the sales folks had to ask me about.  I guessed that this was related to sideloading of apps as was promised in Windows 8, but I wasn’t sure of the specifics.  I did some Googling.

There’s a very good chance that mid-to-large enterprises will want to develop their own in house MetroWindows 8 StyleModern UI … *For Fu*k’s Sake!!!* Metro apps to run on their Windows 8 PCs.  It’s extremely unlikely that they’ll want to do this through the Microsoft Store.  It is possible to sideload those apps onto Windows 8, bypassing the Microsoft Store.  The tools will certify your app, making it a trusted app (see the GPO stuff later).

Note, this applies only to Metro apps.  Desktop apps are installed the same way as they always have, and don’t need to be treated any differently as they were on XP, Vista, or Windows 7.

There are two things you need to deal with.

Allow Apps To Be Sideloaded To Windows

There are two steps to enabling Windows to allow an app to be sideloaded:

  1. Sign/package the app with a trusted certificate.
  2. Configure the registry manually, via script, or via group policy to allow trusted apps to be added to Windows.

You can configure domain-joined machines to permit trusted apps to be sideloaded using Group Policy:

  1. Start the Group Policy editor (gpedit.msc).
  2. Navigate to  Local Computer Policy, Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, Windows Components, App Package Deployment.
  3. Open the Allow All Trusted Apps To Install setting.
  4. Click Enabled and then click OK.

This GPO configuration will set the following registry setting: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwarePoliciesMicrosoftWindowsAppxAllowAllTrustedApps = 1. 

Allow Sideloaded Apps To Be Run

If have Windows 8 Enterprise (only available if your Windows 8 Pro PC is licensed with Software Assurance) or Windows Server 2012 then you can enable sideloading of apps on those machines by:

  1. Joining the machines to a domain
  2. Configuring the above Allow All Trusted Applications To Install GPO.

Alternatively, if you have any other edition of Windows 8 (such as Windows 8 Pro) or if the machine must not be domain-joined then you must:

  1. Configure the above registry key.
  2. Activate a sideloading product key using Slmgr.vbs.  And that’s the new SKU that our sales people saw in this month’s Microsoft VL price list.

Deploying the App

According to Microsoft there are two ways to deploy the app.

To inject an app into a WIM image before PC deployment then you can use DISM:

DISM /Add-ProvisionedAppxPackage /PackagePath:C:App1.appx /SkipLicense

If the PC is already deployed then you can use PowerShell:

Add-AppxPackage C:ContosoAppExpenseApp.appx

You can use Get-Appxpackage to determine if an app is installed and perform updates to it by running:

Add-AppxPackage \FileserverContosoAppv1.1ExpenseApp.appx

Windows RT

All of the above applies to the x86/x64 editions of Windows 8.  If you’re running Windows RT then the experience is simpler by using a “management client”.  Don’t ask me a thing about it; like 99.9999% of the world’s population, I’ve not see Windows RT in person yet.

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4 thoughts on “Licensing The Sideloading Apps on Windows 8 PCs”

  1. With you mentioning something popping up on the price list does that suggest a cost to sideloading?

    Also, don’t forget ConfigMgr SP1 will include sideloading capabilities.


  2. Re-read (granted I’m reading on my phone, on a train)

    I know the SKU has appeared, as you state, but has MS put a price against it in addition to the Win8 Ent with SA or is it purely just a SKU for tracking purposes?

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