Running Windows 8.1 Phone Emulator Outside of Visual Studio 2013 and 2015

I wanted to use the Windows Phone 8.1 Emulator for testing and demo without  Visual Studio 2013 or 2015 RC. So in this article, I have captured some details to supplement the available info found in miscellaneous (and now dated) blogs written for the Visual Studio 2012 time frame. Perhaps most significantly, we are going to install the Windows 8.1 update, which makes the experience MUCH nicer than the Windows Phone 8.0 Emulator (others have written about) when working outside Visual Studio. Please make sure you read all the way to the end, as there are a couple of phone navigation tips near the end you will want to know about.

Installation and Configuration

Note that I am running Windows 8.1 with the latest updates. You will almost certainly find this is equally applicable on Windows 10 as well.

The steps are as follows:

Make sure Hyper-V on your Windows 8.x or Windows 10 PC. The emulator is basically a VHD that runs as a Hyper-V VM.

Ensure that you have downloaded and installed the latest version of Windows Phone 8.0 SDK from – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=35471.

Next, download and install the Windows Phone 8.1 Update and Emulators at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=43719.

To launch the emulator from the command line, you will need the path to the xde.exe command line executable. The default path on my 64-bit Windows 8.1 system is “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft XDE\8.1”. You can search for xde.exe on your system if the same is not true for you.

At a command prompt, change to the directory containing xde.exe mentioned in the previous step.

To launch with the default settings (512 MB memory, 640×480 resolution)
xde /vhd “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SDKs\Windows Phone\v8.1\Emulation\Images\Flash.update1.vhd”

If you want greater resources (memory, screen resolution), you could use the following syntax, which will launch with 1 GB memory and 720 x 1280 screen resolution (really big!), which is great for demos.
XDE.exe /vhd “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SDKs\Windows Phone\v8.1\Emulation\Images\Flash.update1.vhd” /video “720×1280” /memsize 1024 /language 409 /creatediffdisk “%Temp%\dd.720×1280.1024.vhd” 

TIP: To see the full list of available options, run xde.exe with no parameters and syntax help will pop up.

IMPORTANT: Notice the name of the VHD in this post is Flash.update1.vhd, which is the Windows 8.1 Emulator. If you have followed other tutorials using Flash.vhd, you will be working with the Windows 8.0 Emulator.

On first launch, you will want to open to Hyper-V Manager and configure the settings for the VM labeled “Default Windows Phone Emulator” to connect to the network of your choice. In this example, I connected to my external network with Internet access.

WinPhone-Hyper-V

The Windows Phone 8.1 Emulator will appear. Note the screen tiles are blue. If your screen tiles are red, you have likely missed the details above and launched the Windows Phone 8 Emulator.

WinPhoneEmulator

TIP: After you launch the emulator from the command line one time, xde.exe will remember your settings. If you put a shortcut to xde.exe on your desktop at this point, you can launch the Windows Phone Emulator by simply double-clicking the shortcut to the xde.exe.

Navigation 

Keyboard control will be very important. I found with the 8.1 emulator, I had keyboard control automatically (this was not the case with the 8.0 emulator). If you find you do not have keyboard control, click the PgUp (page up) key on your PC keyboard while focus is on the emulator to enable keyboard navigation.

The full list of keyboard shortcut keys is available in “How to use the computer keyboard with the emulator for Windows Phone 8”  at https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/ff754352(v=vs.105).aspx.

On the Windows Phone 8.1 Emulator, I found that simply clicking into the URL field also brought up the phone keyboard, giving you the option to click with your mouse if you prefer that to using your PC keyboard.

WinPhoneNav
You can also use the rotate arrows on the toolbar to the right of the emulator to tip your virtual phone on its side for a landscape (rather than portrait) experience.

WinPhoneNav2

One last tip you will definitely need…scrolling. The easiest way to scroll in the emulator (in my experience) is to left mouse click and hold and drag the screen up or down as appropriate.

That is all for this installment. I hope you find this article helpful in getting your Windows Phone 8.1 Emulator experience without Visual Studio off to a good start! Please hit me up with additional questions and comments on Twitter at @pzerger.

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