Windows Phone users had a surprise last week when a silent update to the Zune client resulted in the removal of the ability to browse the Marketplace.
While videos and music can still be purchased and streamed to computers, the apps and games that were a key aspect of the application have been dropped, meaning that there are only two avenues through which Windows Phone users can buy apps.
Zune might have had its critics, but as a media player and sync tool it was far superior to Windows Media Player and ActiveSync/Windows Mobile Device Manager.
So what can Windows Phone users do?
What’s the Point of Zune Now?
There are some users questioning their continued use of the Zune software, and while it does seem likely that this move pre-empts the integration of Zune (or at least much of its functionality) into Windows 8, there seems to be a bad reaction against what was an unannounced, silent update to the Zune software.
However, Zune continues to be vital to Windows Phone users for desktop synchronization and administering updates. While there are other ways in which data can be synced from a Windows Phone (uploading photos to Facebook, copying data to SkyDrive) Zune provides the best method for ensuring your data is safely copied to your computer and for managing the music, video and podcasts stored on your device.
Where Else Can I Find Apps?
Of course, none of this means that Windows Phone users are unable to install apps.
On the handset itself you will find a Marketplace tile, which opens access to the full range of games, apps, music and video. These can be purchased, as before, with a credit or bank card attached to a Windows Live account.
Meanwhile, the browser-based interface to the Windows Phone Marketplace offers all of the same games and apps that you would previously have found in the Zune desktop client.
But what if you don’t want to use the browser? What if – due to your location – the Zune client was your only way of viewing what apps were available?
Fortunately there is a way around this little inconvenience…
Hacking Zune to Display Apps
So what can be done to restore apps to the Zune client?
As with many things in Windows, the solution comes in the shape of a registry hack. This one adds a new DWORD to the entry for the Zune desktop client, thereby restoring app browsing functionality to the app. Before starting, close Zune.
Begin by opening the Windows Registry Editor. This is done by typing regedit into the search box in the Start menu and tap Enter (note you can use your preferred third party registry editor if you prefer).
The Registry Editor will then load. Before continuing, create a backup in case of errors – do this using File > Export… and save the export file in a memorable and easy to reach location.
You will then be ready to proceed. Open this location: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Zune
This can be done either by expanding the folder tree or by copying and pasting the HKEY location above into the search tool (Edit > Find).
With the Zune folder selected in the left-hand pane, right-click and select New > Key, and name it FeaturesOverride.
Select this, and in the right-hand pane right-click to select New > DWORD (32-Bit) Value.
Name the new entry Apps, and double click it to set the value as 1.
When you restart Zune, you will find that the apps and games can be browsed once more!
This is a simple solution that will restore full app browsing functionality to your Zune player. However there are a few things to bear in mind.
First, this hack might be blocked with future silent updates.
Second, unrelated updates might result in the hack being disabled, so you will need to re-enable it again periodically.
Third, there is a good chance that Microsoft will be introducing a replacement app/service for use in Windows 8. While this doesn’t help Windows Vista or Windows 7 users, the existence of the browser-based Marketplace should mitigate inconvenience for most.
Finally, be aware that if you use the hack, Zune’s ability to correctly display the app catalogue may reduce in the future as there is a possibility that a new way of presenting data is planned.
Ultimately, you may find that using the browser is the best option…