Developer mode is available on Xbox Series X and S. This feature can turn any console into a development kit. Microsoft officially announced it for the Xbox One in 201
What is Developer Mode?
Microsoft first announced that the Xbox would be getting a developer mode during the Build 2016 event keynote, along with the news that Universal Windows Platform (UWP) was coming to the Xbox One.
With developer mode enabled on a Microsoft console, it is possible to install and run UWP apps. When developer mode is on, retail games and other services will not work. To play retail games and apps downloaded from the Microsoft Store, you must restart your console.
UWP was Microsoft’s big opportunity for a unified software platform that would allow apps to run on Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile (Windows Phone), Xbox One and HoloLens. The advantage of a UWP app was that it didn’t have to be rewritten to be ported to another Microsoft platform.
Developer mode is perfect for testing UWP apps you’ve written or sideloading UWP apps from other developers. This functionality is available on all Xbox One-era consoles, plus the Xbox Series X and S. The newer the console, the better apps will perform.
Why enable developer mode?
There are two reasons to enable developer mode:
- You write an app for the platform and want to test it.
- You have found a UWP app that you want to install on your Xbox.
If you are a developer, you probably already understand the platform and its benefits. If you’re more interested in sideloading your own apps, you’re probably also interested in emulation and other apps that Microsoft doesn’t allow in the Microsoft Store.
Developer mode isn’t completely free, though. To activate it on your Xbox, you must register an individual app developer’s account with the Microsoft Partner Center ($ 19 in the US, but costs vary in other regions).
You cannot skip this step because you must add your Xbox to your Partner Center account as a “development console”. There are no downsides to doing this other than the out-of-pocket cost. You can still boot your development console in shop mode and play games as usual.
How to enable developer mode
Before you start, visit the Microsoft Partner Center and register for an app developer account. You don’t necessarily need to use the same credentials as your existing Xbox (Microsoft) account; you just need a valid developer account. This is a one-time fee; you do not need to renew in the future.
Then turn on your Xbox and press Y on a controller to open the search box. Search for “Xbox Dev Mode” and install the app. Wait for the download to complete and then launch it. Select Next until you see a code.
Note: Another app called ‘Dev Mode Activation’ is designed purely for Xbox One consoles and will not work with the Xbox Series X or S. If you have a Series X or S, make sure to download the ‘Xbox Dev’ app. Mode ‘, or this will not work.
Write down the code before moving on to the next step. You must now register your console in the Microsoft Partner Center. Go to the Manage Xbox Consoles page or click “Dev Devices” followed by “Xbox One Development Consoles” under “Account Settings”.
Click the plus sign (+) to add a new console, then type the code you wrote down earlier. After submitting the form, your Xbox should enter developer mode.
When you are done, select “Switch and Restart” to reboot your console in developer mode.
Enter developer mode and install apps
To access Developer Mode, open the Xbox Dev Mode app, choose ‘Switch and Restart’ and wait for your console to restart. To exit developer mode, go back to Dev Home (the main developer mode dashboard) and choose “Leave Dev Mode” from the “Quick Actions” menu.
When you first boot into developer mode, you are not connected to the internet. To connect, select “Home Home” to open the dashboard and launch the Settings app. Select General> Network settings and set up your network (wireless or otherwise) as usual.
Select the “Dev Home” icon on the dashboard to return to it. After a few minutes, the message “Xbox Live” changes to “active”. An IP address should also appear in the “Remote Access” box on the right.
Select “Remote Access Settings” and enter a username and password to authenticate and send files from a browser to your Xbox. You can also turn off authentication if you’re not concerned that others on your network are tampering with your console.
Now it is time to test everything. Open a browser on your computer and type the address displayed by your Xbox.
Note: This address is an “https: // “secure connection. If you omit the ‘s’, the URL will not work. An error message will appear stating that the connection is not really private, but that’s okay, just dismiss it.
You are now done! Select ‘Add’ to transfer files. Select “Add User” to create dummy Xbox Live test accounts.
Developer mode limitations
Developer mode has some limitations to be aware of, especially if you are going to develop your own apps. Even if you do this for emulation purposes, you may run into some issues due to Microsoft’s limitations.
On an Xbox One or Series X or S console, UWP apps can only access files that are 2 GB or smaller. This can be a problem if an app you are trying to use is trying to access a large ROM or video file. This limitation is unique to developer mode.
There are also hardware limitations in terms of what system resources UWP apps can access. The maximum allocated memory for apps is 1 GB, while games get 5 GB. Apps can share 2-4 CPU cores and have up to 45% of the GPU. Games can use 4 exclusive and 2 shared CPU cores, but have full access to the GPU.
Only 64-bit (x64) apps are allowed (32-bit (x86) apps are not supported). While apps are limited to DirectX 11, games get full DirectX 12 features.
You can turn off developer mode
If you ever want to remove developer mode from your console, launch the Xbox Dev Mode app and select ‘Deactivate’. You can also sign in to Microsoft Partner Center and remove your Xbox from the “Manage Xbox consoles” menu. Restoring your console to factory settings will also delete developer mode.
Your Xbox is now configured for developer mode
Whether you’re installing emulators or developing your own apps, you can now use developer mode on your Xbox whenever you want. All you need to do is launch the Xbox Dev Mode app (or use the old Dev Mode Activation app on an Xbox One, S or X).
While the Xbox Series X has progressed in large-scale retail releases, the Series S still pulls its weight when it comes to emulation. Learn about the differences between the Series X and S.