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Welcome to Windows CE 5.0

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Microsoft® Windows® CE 5.0 is an open, scalable, 32-bit operating system (OS) that integrates reliable, real time capabilities with advanced Windows technologies. Windows CE allows you to build a wide range of innovative, small footprint devices. A typical Windows CE–based device is designed for a specific use, often runs disconnected from other computers, and requires a small OS that has a deterministic response to interrupts. Examples include enterprise tools, such as industrial controllers, communications hubs, and point-of-sale terminals, and consumer products, such as cameras, Internet appliances, and interactive televisions.


This topic applies to an older product version. See documentation for the most current version of Windows Embedded Compact. Or visit Windows Embedded Products & Solutions for the latest information about intelligent systems powered by Microsoft.

Windows CE Highlights

With a complete OS feature set and comprehensive development tools, Windows CE contains the functionality you need to build, debug, and deploy custom Windows CE-based devices. Platform Builder for Microsoft Windows CE 5.0 is a fully-integrated development environment (IDE) for building custom Windows CE OSs and components for embedded system devices.

Windows CE enhances productivity by including a production-quality OEM Adaptation Layer (OAL). This OAL provides OEMs with an improved level of OAL componentization through code libraries, directory structures that support code reuse, centralized configuration files, and a consistent architecture across processor families and hardware platforms.

Windows CE also includes production-quality device drivers that use less hardware platform-specific code than previous drivers, abstract all resource assignments to the registry, and create reusable, hardware platform-independent libraries. These libraries work without modification for many of the common hardware platforms. This reduces the customization required for the drivers to function on custom hardware.

Windows CE brings enhanced productivity to application developers by providing a rich set of programming tools to create managed code and native code applications for Windows CE-based devices. Windows CE offers application developers the versatile environment of the Microsoft Win32® application programming interface (API) along with the ease and versatility of scripting languages. It also offers bundled support for multimedia, the Internet, local area networks (LANs), and mobile communications and security services.

If you are experienced with Windows CE, you will notice that significant changes have been made to both Platform Builder and the Windows CE OS. The new Help filters and the changes that have been made to the IDE and the build system will be of particular interest to you. For information, see What's New in Windows CE.

If you are not experienced with Windows CE, we recommend that you complete the tutorials that are included in the product Help and are available online. For more information, see Tutorials.

Windows CE Help Overview

Windows CE includes a variety of features to help you find information about programming tasks, OS design, available drivers, and many other aspects of Windows CE development. In Help, you will also find links to information about product support, Help updates, community resources, and training.

The Windows CE product Help contains detailed instructions on how to design, build, customize, debug, and test a Windows CE run-time image. You can complete step-by-step tutorials to learn how to use Windows CE emulation technology with a Windows CE PC-based hardware platform (CEPC). These tutorials show you how to reduce development efforts as you design custom hardware.

For a comprehensive roadmap to Windows CE Help, see Getting Assistance, which includes a comprehensive table of Help options. Topics in this section describe the Help features in Windows CE 5.0 in detail, for example, how to work with Help filters.

Windows CE Help Organization

Windows CE Help content is organized by major development tasks and by Platform Builder Catalog items. The following list contains links to Windows CE Help topics.

  • Migrating from an Earlier Version of Windows CE
    Provides information about how to migrate existing workspaces to Windows CE 5.0.
  • Bringing Up a Hardware Platform
    Provides information about creating a board support package (BSP) and bringing up a Windows CE-based device. Explains how to use the sample BSPs provided in Windows CE. Explains how to find information about how to order hardware platforms for the sample BSPs.
  • Developing a Device Driver
    Offers an overview of Windows CE drivers and describes typical processes for developing drivers for a Windows CE-based device.
  • Developing an Operating System
    Describes how to use Platform Builder to create and customize an OS design that you can use to build a run-time image for download to a target device. Includes information about creating software development kits.
  • Developing an Application
    Describes how you can develop an application that runs on a Windows CE-based device directly, or an application based on an imported SDK.
  • Debugging and Testing
    Provides information about debugging and testing.
  • Developing a Target Device
    Describes how to use a design template to create an OS design that you can then customize for your target device.
  • Platform Builder User's Guide
    Provides information about the Platform Builder tools and IDE.
  • Windows CE Features
    Provides links and information about items that you can select in the Platform Builder Catalog and functionality that can be included in OS designs.

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