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Microsoft’s DreamSpark promises several free products to college students, including a free one-year subscription to the Creators Club, but it’s difficult to activate. I went through the process, and took notes, so that you’ll have an easier time getting the goods.

What’s DreamSpark?

Now, there’s this awesome new website where Microsoft is giving away a ton of stuff to college students, including Visual Studio 2008, Visual Studio 2005, XNA Creators Studio 2.0, and a one-year subscription to XNA Game Studio Connect. (See also: DreamSpark on Wikipedia)

The only difficulty is that you either need to spend hours figuring out how to actually download and install the stuff, or have a Ph.D in Computer Science and/or Human-Computer Interaction. Sigh…

Verification

The first step is to prove to Microsoft that you’re a student. Go to DreamSpark, and log in with your Windows Live account. Next, select the product of your choice. It’ll most likely be Visual Studio 2008, Visual Studio 2005, or XNA Studio. Click “verify.” If your college is one of the few that’s made some sort of a deal with Microsoft, yours will be on the verification list and you’re home-free. Most likely, it won’t be that easy.

In the likely case that your college wasn’t on the list, click the link below the list to go through the JourneyEd website (creating an account, providing your credentials, etc). It’s free, thankfully. JourneyEd will send you an email with a link back to DreamScape, where you’re magically verified. I noticed that in subsequent sessions, I wasn’t “verified” unless I went through that email link, so keep that email around.

Download

Download and install your product of choice. Surprisingly, this is the easy step. Really, that’s all there is to this part.

XNA Activation

If you’re getting XNA, you’ll also want the free 12-month Creators Club subscription. This one’s a bit complex:

  1. On DreamScape, on the XNA download page, click “get key.” You’ll need that.
  2. On your Xbox 360, go to the “marketplace” blade. Select “Redeem Code.” Accept your free XNA subscription!
  3. Now you actually need to download the XNA software. This one’s a doozy!
    1. On the Marketplace blade, go to “Game Store.”
    2. Select “More…”
    3. Select “Genres.”
    4. Select “Other.”
    5. XNA is at the bottom of the list, so you can get there by hitting up once.
    6. Download away! You might want to grab all of those things while you’re there.

That’s it!

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