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Hacker finds way to run desktop applications on Windows RT

Lucian Constantin | Jan. 8, 2013
A hacker claims to have found a method of bypassing the code integrity mechanism in Windows RT, therefore allowing for desktop-style programs to be installed on the platform.

"This is not quite true," he said. "It all really depends on the quality of the programs. Win32 and WinRT apps are not as different as you might think. You can easily build a crappy, slow, unresponsive WinRT app. And there is no reason to believe that Win32 apps have higher requirements when it comes to processing power and memory."

It's not clear how Microsoft will react to the public availability of this bypass method. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent Monday.

The hack does have some limitations. For one, the signing-level byte cannot be permanently changed because of the Secure Boot feature that checks the integrity of the OS after every reboot and reverts unauthorized changes.

This means that the bypass procedure must be performed after every reboot. Tablet devices are not rebooted that often, so this is not necessarily a huge inconvenience, but it does mean that the use of the hack is, at least for now, restricted to more technical users.

Another limitation is that x86 desktop programs can't simply be installed on Windows RT; they need to be recompiled for the ARM architecture. For open-source programs this might prove easier to do, but for closed-source ones the only way to do it is to convince the original developers to create versions for ARM.

In a discussion thread on the XDA-Developers forums, a user claims to have already compiled PuTTY -- an open-source SSH, Telnet and rlogin client application -- for ARM and successfully installed it on a Surface Tablet using clrokr's hack.

In the same thread someone suggested the idea of porting Chromium, the open-source browser that serves as the basis for Google Chrome, to ARM and installing it on Microsoft Surface. Clokr also said on Reddit that he has seen 7-Zip running on Windows RT.

 

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