Connecting Visual Studio to Beckhoff Windows CE Devices

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Posted to Beckhoff Blog on Aug 20, 2009

You can quickly develop .NET applications in Visual Studio that target Beckhoff Windows CE controllers. At some point, it always becomes essential to connect to the device from Visual Studio, and debug the application online, running on the device hardware and not just an emulator.

After pressing F5 to deploy the application, it will prompt you to choose a device. The Windows CE Device is the correct choice, but unless connection options are set correctly, you will only get the dreaded error "Unable to connect to device".

Before reading the rest of this post, refer to the MSDN article below.

How to: Connect to Windows CE Device Without ActiveSync

Below are the steps to connect to a Beckhoff device.

Step 1. Copy the Windows CE Debug Files to the Device

There are five files you need to copy to the Windows CE controller. The most important is ConmanClient2.exe. Executing this file on the device enables the device to listen for an incoming connection from Visual Studio.


These files are located at the paths below in a standard Visual Studio 2005 SP1 or Visual Studio 2008 installation. You can copy the files to the device using FTP or by removing the compact flash card and inserting it into a USB reader.

X86 Processor (CX1000 Series):
C:\Program Files\Common Files\microsoft shared\CoreCon\1.0\Target\wce400\x86

ARM Processor (CX9000 Series):
C:\Program Files\Common Files\microsoft shared\CoreCon\1.0\Target\wce400\armv4i

Note, these will only work for Visual Studio 2005 SP1 or higher. But, why would you be using VS2005 without SP1?

Run ConmanClient2.exe on a Windows CE for Visual Studio connectivity

Step 2. CoreConOverrideSecurity Registry Key

This step and also step 3 will require that you have access to the device. You will need to plug a monitor and mouse into the controller, or you can download the CE Remote Host terminal tool and connect remotely into the device. The mouse and monitor route is usually the easiest option.

After copying and executing ConmanClient2.exe, Visual Studio will still not be able to connect to the device. The problem seems to be because of a missing registry key. On the device, you can use the mouse and keyboard and go to Start > Run > Regedit to add this key that MSDN documents below.

You can eliminate the CMaccept step by disabling security on the device. To do so, use the Remote Registry Editor to set HLKM\System\CoreConOverrideSecurity = 1 DWORD value. Disabling security exposes your device to malicious attack and is not recommended unless you have provided appropriate safeguards.

Run Regedit on Windows CE controller

HLKM\System\CoreConOverrideSecurity = 1 DWORD If this key does not exist, use the regedit menu to add a new DWORD key and set the value to 1.

Create and set the Windows CE CorConOverrideSecurity registry key

Step 3. Run ConmanClient2.exe on the Device

On the device, double click ConmanClient2.exe to start listening for a connection from Visual Studio.

MSDN says you should use a command prompt, and this is works as well. After executing ConmanClient2.exe at the command prompt, it will appear to just hang, with a flashing cursor. This is not a problem, it is just running waiting for a connection from Visual Studio.

If you need to restart the connection, run ClientsShutdown.exe then ConmanClient2.exe. CMaccept.exe should not make any difference since the registry key is set to 1.

Run ConmanClient2.exe on Windows CE device to enable Visual Studio connectivity

Step 4. Configure Visual Studio Options

Visual Studio must be configured to connect to the device's IP Address as shown in the screenshots below.

Go to the Tools > Options > Device Tools > Devices menu to configure this setting.

Setting the Visual Studio Windows CE device options

Setting the Windows CE activesync connection IP address option

Setting the Windows CE activesync connection IP address option

Step 5. Deploy and Debug the Application

You can create and debug a .NET Windows CE Smart Device project much like any other type of application in Visual Studio.

Creating a Smart Device project in Visual Studio

Be sure to select Windows CE as the target and not Windows Mobile. You can use the 2.0 or 3.5 version of the Compact Framework. The framework will be deployed along with the application when you press F5. I will soon post more information, and probably an additional post, on how to keep the 3.5 Framework installed and persisted on the device through a reboot, however.

Creating a Windows CE device targeted project in Visual Studio

This sample application is simply a one button form that displays the OS version.

Windows CE Compact Framework simple form example

Windows CE Compact Framework code behind example

Press F5 to deploy and debug the application. A dialog to select the Windows CE smart device will appear. If all goes well, the connection will be made to the Beckhoff device across the IP connection.

Device selection after F5 deployment onto Windows CE

If Visual Studio cannot connect, it will give the error "Connect to Device Failed" error message. Review the steps outlined above, unfortunately there is not a lot of information about how to debug this problem. Make sure the IP address is set correctly and that you can ping the device.

Windows CE Connect to Device Failed Error Message

If all goes well, the application starts on the Windows CE device in debug mode.

Windows CE .NET Compact Framework - Hello World sample