How to Use a Windows Azure VM for Windows 8.1 Development

04/11/2014 – Update – There have been a few changes to the portal since I recorded the video below, but the basic process is the same.  I also have a step-by-step walkthrough that you can use. To get the walkthrough, download the AzureDevVMWalkthrough.zip file from http://1drv.ms/1kBzFFr

I go to a lot of hackathons, live events, user groups, etc. where people want to do Windows 8.1 development, but need a Windows 8.1 machine to do so.  While there are a ton of different ways that you can get Windows 8.1, one way is to use Virtual Machines.  Windows Azure let’s you create and host virtual machines in the cloud.  The rub is that you can’t create a Windows 8.1 VM.  You can however create a Windows Server 2012 R2 VM in Azure, and configure it to allow you to do Windows 8.1 development!  Cool! 

The following video walks you step by step through the process.  Overall, plan on taking about 2 hours to get your VM setup (installing Visual Studio 2013 alone takes about 30 minutes).  That means that if you are thinking of using this in a hackathon, you want to do this a day or two ahead of time.  However, when you are done you’ll have a great VM you can use to build apps for Windows 8.1.

The basic steps are:

  1. Sign into the Windows Azure Management Portal
  2. Create a new Virtual Machine using the Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter gallery image
  3. Connect to the new VM using RDP and login using the admin credentials you provided during its creation
  4. Create a new user account that also has administrative privileges (because the built-in admin account can’t deploy Windows Store apps on Server 2012).  Disconnect an reconnect as the new user.
  5. Turn OFF the IE Enhanced Security Configuration
  6. Turn ON the User Desktop Experience Feature (Requires a restart)
  7. Install Visual Studio 2013 Ultimate using the Web Installer either from the free trial or from MSDN (Requires a restart)
  8. Apply Visual Studio 2013 Updates
  9. Install the Windows Azure SDK
  10. Connect up to your TFS project on visualstudio.com, or use some other source control repo to share code

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