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Total PDA

Using Windows Mobile ActiveSync

This page contains information on ActiveSync - The connectivity product for Microsoft Pocket PC / Windows Mobile devices

What is ActiveSync?

Activesync logoActiveSync from Microsoft, is the control centre for data exchange between the desktop PC, and Windows Mobile / Pocket PC devices. It supports synchronisation of Contacts, Calendar, Email, Tasks and Notes with MS Outlook.

ActiveSync also handles the following:

  • Document conversion for Pocket Excel, Pocket Word and Pocket Access
  • Synchronisation of Email folders between Outlook and Inbox
  • Synchronisation of files and audio/video
  • Exchange of Internet favourites (plus cached content)
ActiveSync is available as a free download from


Using ActiveSync:

  1. Install the latest version of ActiveSync
  2. Connect your Windows Mobile device to the PC using ActiveSync - Depending on the device you have, this will be with USB, Bluetooth or Infrared.
  3. If this is the first time you've connected, you may be prompted to set up a partnership. Select "Standard partnership", and run through the wizard. You may want to untick all of the Synchronise options for the time being.
  4. When connected, ActiveSync should report that it is connected, and display the Partnership name

How to copy files to / from a PC:

Certainly the easiest way to copy files between your PC and Windows Mobile device, is to make use of the ActiveSync software. When your Windows Mobile is docked with the desktop, you'll find you can use the connection to copy files using drag-and-drop.
  1. Connect your Windows Mobile device to the PC using ActiveSync
  2. PPC Mobile DeviceGo to Windows "My Computer"
  3. You should see a "Mobile Device" icon listed in "My Computer" - double-click on this icon, and it should open up the files and folders on the device.
  4. Leaving this folder open, go back to "My computer", then open your "My Documents" folder
  5. You should now have two folders open, and you can drag files between PC and Windows Mobile devices as required


How to install software:

Below is a summary of how to install software on your Pocket PC / Windows Mobile device:

If you're looking for Windows Mobile applications, download a few trial apps from Handango

  1. Connect your Windows Mobile device to the PC
  2. Next, go to the application that you want to install. It's assumed you've downloaded this from a site such as Handango, and the file is a self-installing EXE file. Double-click the file to start the installation.
  3. During the installation, the ActiveSync Add/Remove Programs dialog appears, and prompts you to install to the default application install directory. Unless you want to install to a memory card, select 'Yes'.

  4. Installation will begin, and you should see a status bar. After installation, you may see a message asking you to check whether the Pocket PC requires any extra steps.
  5. The installation should now be complete

Problems installing? Try the following suggestions:

  • Check what's installed from the Add/Remove Programs dialog available from the ActiveSync 'Tools' menu.
  • Perform a soft-reset on your Windows Mobile (refer to the manual if you're not sure how to do this).
  • Try downloading and installing another Pocket PC program (from Handango), in case there's a problem with the software you're trying to install - it could be incompatible with your machine.
  • More serious problems can be corrected by re-installing ActiveSync - it may be worth checking to see if there's a newer version available from


Latest version of ActiveSync
  • As of March 2007, the current version is 4.5

ActiveSync is available as a free download from

Running a newer version? Let us know.

How can I transfer data from another PDA? Moving data from one PDA to another, or trying to convert a non-standard file into Pocket PC format can be troublesome. As it's such a common question, we've created a dedicated conversion page. If the information on this page isn't useful, or we're missing a format, please let us know.
Looking for software? Check out for one of the widest ranges of Pocket PC software out there. If they don't have what you need, try
ActiveSync and Vista

Microsoft's ActiveSync software works with Windows XP SP2 or earlier. If you have the Windows Vista Operating System, you shouldn't use ActiveSync. Instead, your synchronization settings will be managed through the Windows Mobile Device Center.

Windows Mobile Device Center can be downloaded from Microsoft's Mobile Device Center page.

Problems with ActiveSync There are a few notes on problems we've seen with ActiveSync:
  • "No device profiles are available" - I found this after realising that my AvantGo syncs were out of date, and looking in the AvantGo connection settings. I had no "device profiles" set, and the "add" button was grayed out. This appeared to be a problem with the partnership. In the end I had to delete the partnership and start again. I think the problem was down to the fact that I'd installed ActiveSync whilst logged on to a Windows 2000 PC as a local administrator. When I ran as my normal user, the registry entries weren't correct. Deleting the partnership solved this. If you're having problems deleting a partnership from ActiveSync, you can try to delete manually by removing the following folder from Windows Explorer: "C:\Documents and Settings\< login name>\Application Data\Microsoft\ActiveSync\Profiles\< device name>"
  • "The device name is already in use. You must enter a different name for your mobile device" - This happened to me on a Windows XP machine where I had two users with two different Pocket PCs. When I connected a Pocket PC, ActiveSync was picking up the wrong Pocket PC. If I switched partnerships, I was asked to create a new one, then refused permission as the name existed. The solution seemed to be as follows: 1) Connect, but switch off the Pocket PC 2) Go to 'File | Mobile device'. 3) Delete the device partnership - you'll lose your ActiveSync settings, but not your data or backups. 4) Switch on the Pocket PC and follow the instructions to create a new partnership. You can also see this if you've hard-reset your machine... see below
  • Problem with ActiveSync partnership after reset - If your Pocket PC gets hard-reset, when you first connect to ActiveSync, you may be told that your Partnership name is in use ("This device name is already in use. You must enter a different name for your mobile device"), forcing you to connect as Guest.
    To get back to normal, don't set up a partnership - instead connect as "Guest". From the ActiveSync menu, select "Backup/Restore" app, and restore your most recent backup. Once restored, reset the Pocket PC, and all should be well.
  • Connecting as 'Guest' - If your Pocket PC / Windows Mobile device has been reset, you may find that when you try to sync, you're only able to connect as 'Guest'. Make sure that the device name matches the ActiveSync Profile name (on the device, go to Start > Settings > System > 'Device ID' tab. Also, make sure the device regional settings match (Start > Settings > System > 'Regional settings')
  • "Restore cannot be completed successfully. The selected backup file was created from a different type of mobile device." - You'll see this under a couple of circumstances: either you've recently done a software upgrade (a new release of the operating system / ROM upgrade) and are trying to restore a backup that applies to the older software operating system. More commonly, you'll see this after having reset your machine, and the device is set to a different region to the region in use when it was backed up (it defaults to US English). Go to 'Settings > System > Regional settings', and switch to the appropriate language.
  • "Communications error: Cannot start communications with the desktop computer. Reconnect your device" - If you see this dialog appear when trying to sync using wi-fi... you may well have recently upgraded to ActiveSync v4.x. If you've upgraded to a newer version of ActiveSync and found wi-fi sync to be broken, note that this is by design - as statement on the Microsoft v4.1 download page says "Remote PC Sync (via Wifi or LAN) has been removed due to Enterprise customer feedback around security issues". So, if you want wi-fi sync, we suggest you downgrade to ActiveSync v3.8
  • USB connection problem? See below
Unable to connect via USB

If you've connected your Pocket PC to a PC's USB, and are having problems getting the PC to recognise the Pocket PC device, try some of the following:

  • Download the latest version of ActiveSync from Microsoft and try that
  • Check out the Troubleshooter under the ActiveSync 'Help menu'
  • Try connecting to a different USB port on the PC
  • Try connecting to a different PC (to check whether the problem is with the phone or the PC)
  • On the Pocket PC, go to ActiveSync > menu > Connections and make sure 'USB' is selected for Sync.
  • Try connecting again, this time with your software firewall disabled
  • Try resetting the Pocket PC
  • Try a clean uninstall of ActiveSync, then reinstall the latest version
  • Check in Windows Control panel > System > Device manager to see if there are any PC conflicts
  • Try a different USB device in the USB slot, to check the USB slot is working
  • Try connecting via Bluetooth
  • See 'Problems' above
  • Try asking in our forum - provide details, error messages and info from the Troubleshooter
ARM, MIPS or SH3 ?

If you come across Pocket PC software asking you to pick one of these three options, the one to go for is almost certainly ARM. These options represent earlier days of Pocket PC development, where an application had to be compiled for a specific processor. Just about all of the Pocket PC 2002 / 2003 devices are 'ARM' (including IPAQ and Loox). Early Casio Cassiopeia were MIPS and the early HP Jornadas were SH3.
If you see software making this distinction, it indicates the software may have been complied a few years ago, and therefore may not run on the latest machines. If in doubt, check with the software author

Loss of networking

Some details of a weird problem that we discovered after upgrading from 3.8 to 4.1 of Activesync...

After installing ActiveSync 4.1.0 for use with our Qtek S200, we found that our PC's Internet connection kept dropping out and we were seeing with Windows XP "A network cable is unplugged" message. We lost our Internet connection and found a number of odd TCP/IP messages in the XP Event Log. After a trawl around the 'net, we think we found the answer. ActiveSync 4.x uses TCP/IP for synchronisation, which means that an Activesync connection to a Pocket PC appears to XP as a network connection, and in some cases, it seems that this connection conflicts with other network connections. There seem to be a couple of things that may need tweaking in some cases:

Firewall - There's some advice on Microsoft's Activesync Help page about setting up PC firewall software to allow TCPIP port 26675 to be associated with ActiveSync. That page provides a walkthrough for the common Firewall apps

Network conflicts - This is the one that solved our problem. When ActiveSync is installed, it's set as a standard network connector. Disabling a couple of options prevents the network connector from aggressively conflicting with other network connectivity. Try the following:

  • Connect the Pocket PC to the PC, and allow ActiveSync to connect
  • Go to Start > Control panel > Network Connections
  • Under LAN connections, there should be an entry for your network card, and a new one, for your PPC
  • Select the one for the PPC (by trial-and-error, right-click and select 'Properties') - You need to find the one marked "Windows Mobile-based Device".
  • Untick 'Client for Microsoft Networks' and 'File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks' and then click 'Ok'

Activesync 4.1 Prob

  • Network card speed - No idea why this should make a difference, but it did. Changing the network speed that our network card connected to the router from "Auto" to "10Meg Full duplex" resolved this for us. To change this, go to Start > Settings > Network, then right-click on your network connection (e.g. Local area connection #2), and select Properties. Press the Configure button, then the Advanced button. Look for the option labeled something like "link properties"

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