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How to install Windows Phone 8 GDR3 for free

By Adam Z. Lein October 14, 2013, 1:06 pm

The latest update to Windows Phone 8 was just announced today, but more importantly, a method for enthusiasts and developers who want to void the warranty on their phone for the privilege to install the update right away (instead of having to wait for their carriers to approve the update) has also become available.  We heard about this program a while back, but now it’s finally come to fruition.  Having to wait for carriers to approve and allow the distribution of Windows Phone operating system updates has always been extremely frustrating for users.  Of course, the carriers want the updates to be tested properly since they’re the ones that are responsible for supporting the phones that they sell you, but if you don’t care about all that you really didn’t have any way to get the latest update on your own.  That is until now!  Here’s how you do it.  WARNING: Don’t forget this will probably void your warranty.


1. Register for the Windows Phone App Studio.  The Windows Phone App Studio is a free tool for developing Windows Phone Apps, it doesn’t have as many features as the full software development kit, but it’s simple and easy to use and most importantly it includes the ability to developer unlock one Windows Phone so that you can install your own apps to it for testing.  You’ll want to register using the same Microsoft ID that you use with your Windows Phone.

UPDATE: Steps 2 and 3 below are unnecessary if you install the security certificate that is emailed to you after you sign up for the Windows Phone App Studio program above.  Find the email on your phone, download the attached security certificate and tap the install button when prompted.  Optionally, you can download the security certificate here, and then email that to an account on your phone in order to install it there. For some reason, downloading the certificate to your phone directly through the web browser doesn’t work.

2. Download the Windows Phone 8.0 SDK.  In order to make your phone “Developer Unlocked”, you need to use the “Windows Phone Developer Registration” tool. You can get this using the Express Installer for the Windows Phone 8.0 SDK, or you can download the ISO image of the full installer.  When installing the SDK, if you get a certificate error that prevents the installation from completing successfully, try closing out of the installer anyway, and then look in your programs listing for a program called “Windows Phone Developer Registration”.  It’s probably there already and it will probably work.

3. Developer Unlock your Windows Phone.  Microsoft’s instructions for unlocking your phone are here, but essentially all you have to do is launch the “Windows Phone Developer Registration” program that was installed with the Windows Phone 8.0 SDK.  Be sure that your Windows Phone 8 is connected to the PC via a USB cable.  The tool will detect your phone and after you sign in with your Microsoft ID (which you had registered with the Windows Phone App Studio), you’ll be able to developer unlock your phone with the click of a button.


4. Install the Preview for Developers App on your Windows Phone and enable the preview program.  After you get your Windows Phone developer unlocked, you can download the “Preview for Developers” app from the Windows Phone store.  Either click the link here from your phone, or using the web browser to send the app to your phone.  After the install completes, launch the apps, and follow the instructions to enable your phone for the preview program.

Use this QR code to install the Preview for Developers app.
On your Windows Phone, press the search button at the bottom, then the eye icon, and scan this QR code to install the Preview for Developers app.

5. Go to Settings > Phone Update and check for updates.  After a while of “checking for updates”, your phone should find the GDR3 install files and from there you’ll be able to download and install them.  The phone will reboot, show some gears animations for a while, then reboot again and perform a data migration step.  After that you should be running the latest built of Windows Phone 8.0 GDR3!

Have you installed GDR3 yet?  How did it go?


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