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How to unlock (jailbreak) your Windows RT device

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Windows RT is a sort of unique member of the Microsoft family of operating systems. It’s Windows, but it’s not. From a more technical aspect, Windows RT is actually the entire Windows OS rebuilt for use on ARM processors, which are what power almost all tablets, smartphones, and other gadgets. This means that you have Windows technically, but it also means it can’t run regular Windows desktop applications. However, Windows RT can run certain Windows programs made for ARM, and while you could toy with the Windows Store, another thing you can do is unlock your Windows RT device to be able to run third-party programs.

Full blown Windows for ARM

It’s important to point out that this process is not harmful to your Windows RT device, and is not permanent.

Don’t let a limited Windows Store and different architecture fool you, Windows RT really is full-blown Windows 8 made for ARM devices. However, Microsoft did actually leave a security lock on the OS much like Apple’s own iOS lock, meaning you can’t run unsigned, third-party programs, even if they have been compiled for Windows RT. This means that special Windows programs that have been re-built for ARM can work, but Microsoft blocks them. To get around this, you can actually unlock your Windows RT device and run these unsigned programs, which include everything from emulators, to 7-zip, and even games.

It’s important to point out that this process is not harmful to your Windows RT device, and is not permanent. If you format your Windows RT device or run the uninstall tool it will remove the Jailbreak Tool and your device will be as good as new. That being said, this is still a process that Microsoft and its partners neither condone or authorize, and we are not responsible for any damage your device may get from attempting to unlock Windows RT. If you’re willing to give it a go though, this is an easy process to follow, so don’t be worried!

Getting Started

To get started, you’ll need a few files. Namely, the Jailbreak Tool, as well as something to test it with, like DOSBox. You should also ensure you have plenty of battery life for your device (at least 50 or 60 percent) and, if your device has a keyboard dock, feel free to use it.  You will also need a connection to the Internet while running the Unlock scripts or installing them for the first time! (More on that soon.)

1Once you have the Jailbreaking/Unlocking tool, feel free to place the folder on your desktop or somewhere easy for you to reach. The folder itself includes a couple of folders as well as a batch file (.bat) that contain the Unlock scripts. Double click on the “runExploit.bat” to get started.

You’ll see that after clicking the “runExploit.bat” that a command prompt will appear with several options: to either run the Jailbreak script by clicking “R” with your keyboard, or to Install the Jailbreak script by clicking “I” with your keyboard.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Sadly, the Jailbreak script itself needs to be re-activated every time you reboot your Windows RT device. This is because of the nature of the exploit. To ensure that it cannot be used maliciously, it requires the user’s acknowledgement of the jailbreak every time your reboot the computer. If you’re interested in trying the jailbreak first you can simply just run the unlock process and see how it works. You would do this by pressing “R” to run the jailbreak. Once you reboot, the Jailbreak will be as good as gone.

If you’re dead-set on using the jailbroken experience every time you use your Windows RT device, then feel free to just go ahead and install the jailbreak by pressing the “I” button. When you reboot, a script will be activated upon log in that prompts you to re-initialize your jailbreak. For the sake of simplicity, this guide will first go through running the jailbreak, followed by installing the jailbreak script.

Running the Jailbreak

(“Running the jailbreak” temporarily unlocks your device. If you want a more permanent unlock, read the “Installing the Jailbreak” section below.)

Click the “R” button on either your physical or touch keyboard, and the command prompt will respond by beginning the exploit process to unlock your Windows RT device. In order for the exploit process to work, it will request administrator privileges on your RT device. Simply ‘allow’ it to receive admin privileges and your Command Prompt will look something like the picture below. You do have to wait for 2 minutes to reach a safe uptime to begin unlocking your device.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

After that wait, your Command Prompt will look like the picture below, requesting you to press a Mute or Volume control key. Doing this proves you are willingly unlocking the device, ensuring the app isn’t maliciously affecting your device. 


Once you click one of the three keys (Volume Up, Down, or Mute), the device will go to work utilizing the exploit and unlocking your RT device so it can run unsigned programs. If the unlock process succeeds, it will ask you to press any key and will exit. If it isn’t successful, it may produce an error. When in doubt, just try again! If you keep experiencing issues, it couldn’t hurt to try refreshing or reinstalling Windows RT on your device before trying again.

Remember that this unlock process will disappear once you reboot, and that it will not automatically attempt to unlock your device again. If you want to jailbreak it again, you’ll have to do it yourself!

Installing the Jailbreak

Installing the jailbreak is pretty much identical to running the jailbreak, with a few added steps. These added steps simply automate the jailbreak script to run every time you boot up your computer – this way you don’t have to remember to run the program yourself. These added steps will require you to interact with the device much like you do for just running the Jailbreak program, but it will save you a step loading up the exploit program every time you reboot your device. 

To begin installing open the “runExplot.bat” again, which will look slightly different if you already ran the jailbreak, as pictured below. If this is your first time running it, or you rebooted your RT device, it will look just like it did if you tried to run the jailbreak without installing it. This time around, instead of clicking “R”, click “I”.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Once you click “I,” the process will begin requesting your admin privileges. Once it’s done requesting permission, it will instead display a message from the Task Scheduler, noting that you have created a task to run that is labeled “Jailbreak.” This is the process that will run upon boot that jailbreaks your device. Once you see this screen, feel free to press any key to close the Command Prompt. After that, you can reboot.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

After you reboot and log in, you will notice a Command Prompt is on your desktop. It should either request administrative permissions, or show the uptime message below, which is identical to the one you see when just running the Jailbreak. It may or may not also show a message about being connected to the Internet, depending on if you had already tried to unlock your device.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

After this message appears, you’ll see that same message appear once more asking for you to press a Volume control or Mute key. Do as it asks, and your unlock will be complete until you reboot your device.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

That’s it, you’re unlocked! If you reboot your RT device, then you will have to repeat the last two steps again, but they will appear once you log in to the desktop, so it should only take a few seconds.

You’re done!

Once you complete those final steps, you’re all set! From here you can feel free to install any kind of ARM-compatible Windows software such as MAME emulators, play games with DOSBOX (pictured below,) or test a 32-bit Windows emulator! Thanks to a few easy steps, you’re good to go and ready to use your Windows RT device to its full potential. The only true limit left for Windows RT is what the developers are willing to make for it!

Image used with permission by copyright holder

(Special thanks to Chris over at XDA-Developers for helping us get the screenshots for the unlock process. Our hats are also off to some key people who have been working on development for Windows RT like netham45 and  clrokr, and are responsible for having made this tool possible!)

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