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Getting Windows Phone Apps Back Into The Zune Desktop Client

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The Windows Phone team recently announced that it will remove the Windows Phone apps section from the Zune Desktop client due to the fact that users mostly access those through the web interface or the mobile client directly on the device. Despite the fact that I do support this change, I know there are also users who might want to keep using the Zune software on their PC to download apps for their Windows Phone.

If you started the Zune client today, you probably saw this:

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Here is what’s happening. You are not actually getting a Zune client update, but rather a configuration update. Whenever the Zune software launches, it tries to reach this endpoint:

That is, if your client version is 4.8. For other clients check out the Zune API documentation page I wrote a while ago. This configuration file has a node called apps, and in the updated version it has the status set to disabled.

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The configuration is being cached on each launch, this is why you are getting the alert when the settings change and you need to restart the client. To get the Windows Phone apps back in the desktop client, you need to set the status value to enabled. But how do you intercept the XML file? There are several ways to do it. The easiest one is to use your own mini (or not so mini) web server with the folder structure used by the endpoint to get the configuration. Here is what I did with IIS:

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The configuration.xml file has absolutely the same contents as the original configuration file, with the only difference being the fact that apps are enabled via the method I outlined above.

Now, open your HOSTS file (C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc) and add the following line:

Now whenever is accessed for the configuration file, the local version will be fetched. If you already updated the configuration to the one disabling Windows Phone 7 apps, restart the Zune client. You will see that you will once again get an alert notifying you that the settings changed. Restart the Zune client once more and voila:

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NOTE: Use at your own risk. I am just guessing that this will be available only till the next full Zune client update.