Activity: Installing a program

micro:bit activity: Installing a Microsoft MakeCode Program on the micro:bit

Objective: Learn how to download programs from the MakeCode tool.

Overview: Students will create a simple program in Microsoft MakeCode and download it to their micro:bit using a USB cable.

For this activity, students will each need a micro:bit, a micro-USB cable, a computer, and a battery pack.

micro:bit kit

Open a browser window to, and select the micro:bit code editor

micro:bit card icon

Create this program by dragging out blocks from the ||basic:Basic|| Toolbox category. Put the ||basic:show icon|| and ||basic:pause|| blocks in the ||basic:forever|| loop. Type in 5000 for the time in each ||basic:pause||. Set one icon to a Happy face and the other to a Sad face. It shows a repeating series of faces:

basic.forever(() => {

At the bottom of of the editor, name the project as “Happy Sad Face” and click on the disk icon to save the project.

Save file

Now, click on Home to go back to the home screen.

At the right of My Projects on the home screen, click on the Import button and then click on Import File in the import dialog. Select the file that you just saved to your computer in the previous step.

Import button

Import file

The program should again look like the following in MakeCode:

basic.forever(() => {

Tour of Microsoft MakeCode

  • Simulator - on the left side of the screen, you will see a virtual micro:bit that will show what your program will look like running on a micro:bit. This is helpful for debugging, and instant feedback on program execution.
  • Toolbox - in the middle of the screen, there are a number of different categories, each containing a number of blocks that can be dragged into the programming workspace on the right.
  • Workspace - on the right side of the screen is the Programming Workspace where you will create your program. Programs are constructed by snapping blocks together in this area.

IDE tour

The features highlighted here are:

  1. Go to the Home Screen to start a new project or open an existing project
  2. Simulator shows what your program will look like when running on a micro:bit
  3. Hide or Show the simulator pane
  4. Program in either Blocks or JavaScript
  5. Programming Workspace where you will build you program
  6. Blocks Toolbox
  7. Download your program to the micro:bit
  8. Name your project and Save it on your computer

The color of the blocks identifies their category. All of the blocks that make up the program above come from the Basic Toolbox category, which is light blue.

Downloading a MakeCode program to the micro:bit

To download the file to your micro:bit, you must connect it to your computer’s USB port using a micro-USB cable. The micro:bit will draw power from your computer through the USB connection, or you can connect an optional battery pack so it can function even after it is unplugged from the computer. Once plugged in, the micro:bit shows up on your computer like a USB flash drive.

USB connection

Click the purple Download button in the lower left of the MakeCode screen. This will download the file to your computer, to the location where your browser is set to save downloads.

Download button

To move the program to your micro:bit, drag the downloaded “microbit-xxxx.hex” file to the MICROBIT drive, as if you were copying a file to a flash drive. The program will copy over, and it will begin running on the micro:bit immediately.

micro:bit drive

The micro:bit will hold one program at a time. It is not necessary to delete files off the micro:bit before you copy another onto the micro:bit; a new file will just replace the old one.

For the next project, your students should attach the battery pack (it takes 2 AAA batteries) to the micro:bit using the white connector. That way they can build it into their design without having to connect it to the computer.

Battery pack