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Emulator lets Windows RT run x86 apps

Surface RT

By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 22 Feb 2013 at 12:15

A developer has created a way to emulate x86 software on Windows RT, Microsoft's tablet OS designed for machines powered by ARM processors.

According to a post by the converter's creator on the XDA Developers forum, the tool "emulates x86 instructions and passes Windows API calls to the WinRT kernel with necessary modifications".

The tool is only in beta and is of course completely unofficial, requiring the device to be unlocked to allow side-loaded apps, but offers a glimpse into how ARM-based devices such as Microsoft's Surface RT could gain additional software tools originally designed for the desktop.

Speed and the number of the emulated Windows API functions has increased, but it is still very far from being perfect

"The tool has reached the beta version," the developer explained in a post spotted by our sister site Expert Reviews. "Now it has an installer and a GUI launcher. Speed and the number of the emulated Windows API functions has increased, but it is still very far from being perfect."

According to the app's creator, the latest version's core internals are stable and there is a growing number of x86 programs that run on ARM via the emulator, including WinRar, 3D Pinball "Space Cadet" from Windows 95, Heroes of Might and Magic 3, with more programs planned for inclusion in the next build.

The tool is restricted to 32-bit Windows applications and excludes .NET and DOS apps, but once a device is jailbroken to bypass protections to prevent unauthorised software running, the tool proves developers could bring added functions to RT devices.

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User comments

one person v the might of ms programmer teams

Just goes to show what someone with a little vision can do. Hope he doesn't get bought out by ms and buried. Its happened before.

By gfmoore on 22 Feb 2013

What's the point?

Why not just get an x86 based device that does everything - and faster. There doesn't seem to even be a price advantage to an RT device.

By mypointis on 22 Feb 2013


While I admit this is very clever, we shouldn't all get carried away.

MS could have done something like this, but can you imagine the support nightmare? Which programs work and which don't? Does the vendor support their program in this environment?

By Stiggy on 22 Feb 2013


Then what's the point of the iPad then?

By rhythm on 22 Feb 2013


No idea, that's why I've never bought one.

An Atom based Windows 8 tablet is faster than an ARM based Windows RT tablet and runs all the normal Windows applications, as well as apps and the battery lasts as long as the ARM based devices.

By big_D on 23 Feb 2013

In that case , what's the point of Arm based Phones then.Just get an Intel Phone....In fact taking it to it's logical conclusion..what's the point of ARM Holdings? why not just give Intel all the Business!

By Jaberwocky on 23 Feb 2013

@all the doubters...

It's from the mysterious dungeons of XDA. The point of the exercise is "because it's there, let's see if it can be done..."
As for RT devices. Like all gadgets, either you have a need/use for it, or you don't. If there's more than 1 capable device to fit your need, then you pick the one that's best for you.

By nickallison on 24 Feb 2013

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