Windows Mobile sync pain

I use a Samsung i600, similar to the Blackjack, which I’ve upgraded to Windows Mobile 6.0. Nice mobile, but for a while now it hasn’t been syncing properly. It hadn’t bothered me too much, because the main thing I care about is email, which I retrieve via IMAP, and that always works fine.

Then something else went wrong. I noticed that some documents which I had on the storage card in the i600 had disappeared. No error message; they just were no longer there. That prompted me to fix it.

I started with sync. On Vista it is no longer ActiveSync, but two new things. One is called the Sync center, the other called Windows Mobile Device Center. Probably a lot of the same old stuff underneath. What’s the difference?

The new Sync Center is a convenient central location in Windows Vista from which you can manage data synchronization between PCs, between PCs and servers, and between PCs and devices.

Got that? Now this:

Though it unifies your various sync activities, please note that Sync Center does not replace third-party sync tools or functionality. For example, a Windows Mobile device will still use its own infrastructure—Windows Mobile Device Center—to perform the actual synchronization of data with a Windows Vista computer. If you want to change the granular sync settings for any specific relationship, Sync Center directs you to the Windows Mobile Device Center or, in the case of another company’s device, to the data management settings for that device.

I wish I’d read that sooner. Since it is the Sync Center that fires up automatically (or is meant to) when you connect via USB, I had wasted some time fiddling with it. I was trying to delete the partnership. Right-click, Delete. Nothing happened. File – Delete. Nothing happened. No error, nothing in the event log, but the partnership remained.

I Googled. Dear me. I hit the Windows Sync Center Blog. An archetypal example of how not to blog. Here’s the blurb:

With the advent of the new Sync Center folder in Windows Vista and a brand new programming model, the team felt that it was important to provide a way for those using these interfaces to interact with us and provide feedback.

Just what I wanted. Thing is, there are just two posts, the most recent in September 2005. And lots of comments, like this:

Please, oh please help me remove this thing from my machine. I just got Vista and an external drive. Created a sync partnership which didn’t work. Cannot delete the sync.Cannot remove systray application.

or this:

does anyone who can fix this mess read our blog? PURGATORY!!!!!

or this:

HELLO…….. BILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL RU listening to us?

You guys call this a blog?! You’ve answered NONE of your customer’s questions! And you’ve had, what, two posts in two years??

Not the best place for help apparently. Fortunately I realized that what I really wanted was the Windows Mobile Device Center, and hit this post instead. Downloaded and installed version 6.1, and everything worked. Easy. Though the comments to that post are almost equally depressing.

I’m also puzzled. I use Microsoft Update. Why hadn’t my Mobile Device Center been updated automatically?

Never mind. Time to look at the other problem. I looked at the storage card in the device explorer, which now worked. It was almost empty, yet had very little free space. I removed it and put it in a card reader. Right click – Properties – Tools – Check for Errors. As I’d guessed, it was corrupt. The error check restored my missing documents. It also revealed the likely cause of the problem. Live Search had created around 1200 temporary files on the card. I deleted them all. Replaced the card in the device, upgraded Live Search to the latest version. All seems to be well.

Was I just unlucky? I’m not sure. Windows Mobile devices do seem prone to this kind of runaround. Then again, my older Qtek 8100, running Windows Mobile 2003 2nd Edition, worked reliably for a couple of years. Oddly enough, it is not the errors themselves that are frustrating, but the lack of helpful error messages or troubleshooting tips that actually work.

It strikes me that Windows Mobile and the whatever-you-call-it sync software still has some way to go before it is truly user-friendly.

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