Part of what sets Windows RT apart from Android, iOS, and other mobile operating systems is that it’s basically a full-fledged desktop operating system. Under the hood, it’s pretty much the same OS as Windows 8. It’s just designed to run on devices with ARM-based chips instead of x86 processors.
Unfortunately, most desktop Windows apps won’t run on Windows 8 for two reasons: They’re not compiled for ARM processors, and Microsoft only lets Windows RT users install apps from the Windows Store (which doesn’t allow desktop apps).
But now that there’s a way to jailbreak Windows RT, developers are starting to recompile apps so they can be side-loaded on the Microsoft Surface RT and other Windows RT tablets.
The folks at the xda-developers forum have put together a nice list of software that’s already been ported, as well as apps that work just fine without any extra work.
Most of the apps we’re looking at are open source Windows apps, games, and utilties including:
- 7-zip (archiving utility)
- Miranda IM (instant messaging client)
- TightVNC (remote desktop client)
- Quake 2 (first-person shooter video game)
Interestingly there’s also an x86 emulator, a DOSBox app, and a Java app, all of which could theoretically allow you to run many additional desktop apps on Windows RT devices.
Apps that work without any modifications include password manager Keepass Portable, BitTorrent client MonoTorrent, and screen capture utility IceChat.
You can find more details and download links at the xda-developers forum.
You can also find the RT Jailbreak Tool in a different xda-developers forum thread. Keep in mind that you’ll need to re-jailbreak your device any time you shut it down or reboot. Microsoft has also hinted that the next software update for Windows RT could remove the exploit used by this jailbreak tool — so if you really want the full Windows experience, the best thing to do is probably to buy a computer that can run Windows 8 (or earlier).