.net, Cake, Continuous Integration, Raspberry Pi 3, UWP

Deploy a UWP application to a Windows 10 device from the command line with Cake

I’ve wanted to improve my continuous integration process for building, testing and deploying UWP applications for a while. For these UWP apps, I’ve been tied to using VS2017 for build and deploy operations – and VS2017 is great, but I’ve felt restricted by the ‘point and click’ nature of these operations in VS2017.

Running automated tests for any .NET project is well documented, but until relatively recently I’ve not had a really good way to use a command line to:

  • build my UWP project and solution,
  • run tests for the solution,
  • build an .appxbundle file if the tests pass, and
  • and deploy the appxbundle to my Windows 10 device.

Trying to find out what’s going on under the hood is the kind of challenge that’s catnip for me, and this is my chance to share what I’ve learned with the community.

This is part of a series of posts about building and deploying different types of C# applications to different operating systems.

If you follow this blog, you’ll probably know I normally deploy apps to my Raspberry Pi 3, but the principles in here could be applied to other Windows 10 devices, such as an Xbox or Windows Phone.

Step 1 – Create the demo UWP and test projects.

I’ll keep the description of this bit quick – I’ll just use the UWP template in Visual Studio 2017 – it’s only a blank white screen but that’s ok for this demonstration.


I’ve also created an empty unit test project – again the function isn’t important for this demonstration, we just need a project with a runnable unit test.


I’ve written a simple dummy ‘test’, shown below – this is just created for the purposes of demonstrating how Cake can run a Unit Test project written using MSTest:

using Microsoft.VisualStudio.TestTools.UnitTesting;
namespace UnitTestProject2
    public class UnitTest1
        public void TestMethod1()

Step 2: Let’s build our project and run the tests using Cake

Open a powershell prompt (I use the package manager console in VS2017) and navigate to the UWP project folder. Now get the Cake bootstrapper script and example Cake build file using the commands below:

Invoke-WebRequest http://cakebuild.net/download/bootstrapper/windows -OutFile build.ps1

Invoke-WebRequest https://raw.githubusercontent.com/cake-build/example/master/build.cake -OutFile build.cake

I edited the build.cake file to have the text below – this script cleans the binaries, restores the NuGet packages for the projects, builds them and runs the MSTests we created.

#tool nuget:?package=NUnit.ConsoleRunner&version=3.4.0

var target = Argument("target", "Default");
var configuration = Argument("configuration", "Release");


// Define directories.
var buildDir = Directory("./App3/bin") + Directory(configuration);


    .Does(() =>

    .Does(() =>

    .Does(() =>
      // Use MSBuild
      MSBuild("../App3.sln", settings =>
      // Use XBuild
      XBuild("../App3.sln", settings =>

    .Does(() =>
    MSTest("../**/bin/" + configuration + "/UnitTestProject2.dll");





Cake’s built in benchmarking shows the order in which the tasks are executed

Task Duration 
Clean                  00:00:00.0124995 
Restore-NuGet-Packages 00:00:03.5300892 
Build                  00:00:00.8472346 
Run-Unit-Tests         00:00:01.4200992 
Default                00:00:00.0016743 
Total:                 00:00:05.8115968

And obviously if any of these steps had failed (for example if a test failed), execution would stop at this point.

Step 3: Building an AppxBundle in Cake

If I want to build an appxbundle for a UWP project from the command line, I’d run the code below:

MSBuild ..\App3\App3.csproj /p:AppxBundle=Always /p:AppxBundlePlatforms="x86|arm" /Verbosity:minimal

There’s four arguments have told MSBuild about:

  • The location of the csproj file that I want to target
  • I want to build the AppxBundle
  • I want to target x86 and ARM platforms (ARM doesn’t work on its own)
  • And that I want to minimise the verbosity of the output logs.

I could use StartProcess to get Cake to run MSBuild in a task, but Cake already has methods for MSBuild (and many of its parameters) baked in. For those parameters which Cake doesn’t know about, it’s very easy to use the WithProperty fluent method to add the argument’s parameter and value. The code below shows how I can implement the command to build the AppxBundle in Cake’s C# syntax.

var applicationProjectFile = @"../App3/App3.csproj";
// ...

MSBuild(applicationProjectFile, new MSBuildSettings
        Verbosity = Verbosity.Minimal
    .WithProperty("AppxBundle", "Always")
    .WithProperty("AppxBundlePlatforms", "x86|arm")

After this code runs in a task, an AppxBundle is generated in a folder in the project with the path:


The path and file name isn’t massively readable, and is also likely to change, so I wrote a short method to search the project directories and return the path of the first AppxBundle found.

private string FindFirstAppxBundlePath()
    var files = System.IO.Directory.GetFiles(@"..\", @"*.appxbundle", SearchOption.AllDirectories);
    if (files.Count() > 0)
        return files[0];
        throw new System.Exception("No appxbundle found");

Now that I have the path to the AppxBundle, I’m ready to deploy it to my Windows device.

Step 4: Deploying the AppxBundle

Microsoft have provided a command line tool in the Windows 10 SDK for deploying AppxBundles – this tool is called WinAppDeployCmd. The syntax used to deploy an AppxBundle is:

WinAppDeployCmd install -file "\MyApp.appxbundle" -ip

It’s very straightforward to use a command line tool with Cake – I’ve blogged about this before and how to use StartProcess to call an executable which Cake’s context is aware about.

But what about command line tools which Cake doesn’t know about? It turns out that it’s easy to register tools within Cake’s context – you just need to know the path to the tool, and the code below shows how to add the UWP app deployment tool to the context:

Setup(context => {
    context.Tools.RegisterFile(@"C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\10\bin\x86\WinAppDeployCmd.exe");

If you don’t have this tool on your development machine or CI box, it might be because you don’t have the Windows 10 SDK installed.

So with this tool in Cake’s context, it’s very simple to create a dedicated task and pull the details of this tool out of context for use with StartProcess, as shown below.

	.Does(() =>
    FilePath deployTool = Context.Tools.Resolve("WinAppDeployCmd.exe");
    var processSuccessCode = StartProcess(deployTool, new ProcessSettings {
        Arguments = new ProcessArgumentBuilder()
    if (processSuccessCode != 0)
        throw new Exception("Deploy-Appxbundle: UWP application was not successfully deployed");

And now we can run our Cake script to automatically build and deploy the UWP application – I’ve pasted the benchmarking statistics from Cake below.

Task                     Duration
Clean                    00:00:00.0821960
Restore-NuGet-Packages   00:00:09.7173174
Build                    00:00:01.5771689
Run-Unit-Tests           00:00:03.2204312
Build-Appxbundle         00:01:09.6506712
Deploy-Appxbundle        00:02:13.8439852
Total:                   00:03:38.0917699

And to prove it was actually deployed, here’s a screenshot of the list of apps on my Raspberry Pi (from the device portal) before running the script…


…and here’s one from after – you can see the UWP app was successfully deployed.


I’ve uploaded my project’s build.cake file into a public gist – you can copy this and chan-ge it to suit your particular project (I haven’t uploaded a full UWP project because sometimes people have issues with the *.pfx file).

Wrapping up

I’ve found it’s possible to build and deploy a UWP app using the command line, and beyond that it’s possible to integrate the build and deployment process into a Cake script. So even though I still create my application in VS2017 – and I’ll probably keep using VS2017 – it means that I have a much more structured and automated integration process.

About me: I regularly post about .NET – if you’re interested, please follow me on Twitter, or have a look at my previous posts here. Thanks!

4 thoughts on “Deploy a UWP application to a Windows 10 device from the command line with Cake

  1. My rasberrypi 3 running windows 10 will work great for 5 hours and then crash with a black screen and a cursor. When I reboot it, it gives me spinning gear icons with a loading bar. When the loading bar finishes it gives a black screen and never comes back. Have you had anything similar?

    1. Hey Mason – are you using a Windows Insider version of the Raspberry Pi software? Obviously I can’t diagnose the issue for sure, but it sounds like your device has started doing an automatic update and then crashes after the reboot. I’ve had this issue in the past – I worked around it by adding an internet access restriction rule in my router for my Raspberry Pi 3’s MAC address, which prevented the Pi calling out to Microsoft for an update (this suited me but might not suit you). Alternatively, I believe the Creators Update ISO (available at https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/iot/Downloads.htm) doesn’t pull an automatic update.

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