Solving ActiveSync Issues

© Beverly Howard, Austin, Tx, 2002
This Page Formatted for Viewing with PocketPC


I have finally given up on activesync and no longer use it plus have no plans to ever install Vista, so, I have, and will have, zero information on WMDC... which appears to be even worse than activesync... (would have never thought that was possible)

ActiveSync Alternatives???!!!

I have just finished transferring all of my contacts and calendar to Google and I am now using Google's free microsoft exchange sync.

It's not perfect, but it is transparent and trouble free, plus, much more reliable than Async or wmdc. Two major considerations;

  1. It does not currently sync contact "categories" although google hints that it might be available in the future.
  2. Google's exchange sync settings removes all hyperlinks from contacts "notes" field... a major consideration for me since I have used them extensively since 2000.

Don't expect help from google... however, I have posted extensive notes from my research and experiments on setting up and using google sync at

So!  In it's questionable wisdom, microsoft has killed it's best source of tech support by shutting down all of it's public NNTP newsgroup forums (summer of 2010.)  Since the web interface that has replaced these forums is excellent and squandering the time that regular responders need to post help and suggestions to user questions posed about windows mobile, I'm fresh out of suggestions on where to go for help... if you find a good forum, especially if it's an nntp forum, drop me an email.

There is now a Microsoft NewsGroup "web interface" web based interface, but my experience with it is that I am too dumb to use it.

Please!  Don't email me asking about activesync as the only advice I have to give any longer is to find a good windows mobile help forum... praise, on the other hand is always welcome ;-)

Can't "Get Connected"
PST Alternatives
Reusing Device Name
Unresolved Items
Refused Notes
3.6 Upgrade Blues
Killing the "Installer"
Syncing Large Trees
IR Syncs
Wireless Syncs
USB Connect Problems
Syncing Outside of the
"<device>My Documents"
Folder Restriction
Killing WCESComm

ActiveSync Problems

MS has made CE very friendly with respect to "synchronizing" It's as easy as the Palm, but it has the added benefits of transparent access of Word and Excel files on either platform.  Once syncing's set up and working (...yea, there may be some issues) it is blindingly simple.

There are, however, a number of other ActiveSync problems and issues and I am really a victim rather than a rescuer in this arena.  Activesync is exceptionally terrible, poorly managed software which MS has refused to addressed and allowed it to become the Achillies Heel for the entire mobile platform.

On every release of activesync since the original PPC was introduced, people installing the latest version of simply to "have the latest version" in turn generate a huge amount of problem postings, often with no option to revert to the earlier version which may not be a simple process.

The result of almost a decade of experience with WinCE devices, I _strongly_ recommend to any and all users that they _only_ install the activesync version that shipped with their device and  upgrade Activesync only if they are having a specific problem which  that upgrade has specifically addressed.

Activesync 4.0 is the exception to this advice.  Version 4.0 has serious problems and the current version should be installed in place of 4.0 that shipped on the CD included with all of the original WM5 devices.

Activesync 4.x is a completely different animal from 3.x versions of activesync and is required if you have a Windows Mobile 5 (WM5) or above device.

If you have devices running 2003se or earlier ppc os' you should NOT upgrade activesync to version 4.1!!!  Version 4 drops a number of features available in 3.x versions (such as the ability to sync via wifi) and uses none of the new connectivity methods to connect non WM5 devices.  At the time of this writing, the best place for AS 4.x problems is the Microsoft Public Activesync forum and Chris DeHerra's site FAQs.  Google Groups offers good simple web access to the Microsoft Public group at

Note, also, if you install Activesync 4.x over 3.x, you cannot revert to 3.x without manually deleting dll files and making registry modifications... details on doing so can be found on Chris' site.

Also, might try technet sysinternals for some additional suggestions pn killing the ASync processes.

Still got problems?  Do asearch for POCKETPC ACTIVESYNC TROUBLE (just click that Google logo) to find most of the currently available knowledge and solutions.
imho, Chris DeHerra's site at (formerly contains the most accurate information, but, there is so much there, it may take a while to uncover your specific solution.

I feel very strongly that Microsoft has failed in their responsibility to address the significant problems that do exist in this critical software, but feel even more that they should release information that would allow skilled individuals or third party developers to create solutions and tools at no cost to Microsoft... it's been over three years and no appreciable help has been forthcoming.

The following are some personal thoughts on addressing several very sticky problems;

Trashing the .PST File Alternatives

With any search for Activesync solutions, repairing or replacing the Outlook ".PST" file seems to top the list of fixes, but I beg to differ that it is unlikely to be the cause of the problem in a high percentage of the cases.

It is a good time burning exercise that will succeed in frustrating a high percentage of the users to the point where they will go away and never come back... in other words, a true tool of tody's tech support phone agent.

A gentler attempt is to use Outlook's well hidden "Detect and Repair"  You'd think it would be under the "tools" menu, but, no, it's found under the "Help" menu.

At one point, I simply quit syncing because I could not get the process to work at all... I tried everything including complete uninstall and reinstalls of Outlook and ActiveSync and even threw in a cold boot of the Jornada... but, nada.

Finally, saw a post on the newsgroup about the file mapi32.dll

I did a search for mapi32.dll and found not one, but three copies on my PC, all with different dates and file sizes.  Per the posting instructions, I renamed all of them and restarted Outlook which promptly informed me that there was a problem and it could fix it... I said yes, and while significant sync problems that had developed over the months that I was unable to sync remained, I was finally at a point where I could begin to address and fix them.

Recently (May 04) Peter Corry added more information about dealing with this nagging problem if you are running Eudora.

"Every time Eudora runs, it replaces the mapi32.dll file to its own, so my "detect and repair" of Outlook 2002 and the extraction of the original system file gets overwritten."

"The simple solution for Eudora users using ActiveSync, go to Eudora's Tools_Options_MAPI dialog box, and change the MAPI setting to "Never".  Eudora replaces the mapi32.dll file with the Windows original and ActiveSync works fine."  For more info from Eudora click here

Reusing the Original Device Name

When you re-establish a "partnership" between your device and ActiveSync, it will refuse to allow you to use the same device name because it feels that this new relationship is with a different device and it is needlessly protecting the assets of the old device.

The solution is to manually purge all references to the old device that exist on the PC, so start by;

Delete the desktop folder shortcut that Activesync created for the original partnership

Move or remove the folder that the shortcut pointed to

Assure that your PC's file explorer is set to view "hidden files"

Search for the "device name" and remove the backup folder that bears that name

Addressing Unresolved Items

While my case was an unresolved file, I'm guessing that this may work on the pim database items such as contacts and events as well. In the past, I have also noted that on pim items, that I have, on occasion, seen the name of the contact or appointment that was causing the problem, but never known why the item id was not consistantly presented.

So you have done everything possible and finally decided that the "Disconnect and Reconnect..." message was composed by a programmer who didn't have a clue and had not received nearly enough dope slaps, then;

back up
sync to point of only "Unresolved Items" remaining
Activesync/options/rules/always replace items on this computer
resolve items

While in one test it took a couple of syncs+resolve item attempts, I finally got a textbox that included the name of the file that could not be resolved.

When I looked for the file that was named, I found it on the pc but not the ppc, so I moved the file outside of the PC's sync folder, then synced again and the unresolved message disappeared.

Important!!! immediately reset as/options/rules/ to "ask me"

Finally, if you need that file, put it back in the sync folder and sync again.

The above appears to be a reasonably reliable way to quickly pinpoint unresolved items without manipulating all items which is another option... specifically remove all of the items int the PPC's storage memory "My Documents" folder and the folder pointed to by the destop shortcut that ActiveSync creates when it establishes a partnership, then re-sync.

Once you re-sync, then replace the folder contents on either the PC or the PPC and re-sync again.

Notes Sync Not Allowed

Notes are strange animals as they can exist as either Outlook items (PIM data) or as disk files in the PC's device's "My Documents" sync folder, but not both... once they are synced as files, ActiveSync will not allow you to check the "Notes" icon because they are no longer Outlook data.

This is doubly strange as I have yet to find any way to access a Notes (.pwi) file on the PC using any app including Outlook.

First, assure that the notes you are maintaining on the PocketPC are in RAM and not stored on a memory card... those that are not in RAM will sport a tiny image of a diskette on their icons.  If they are on the card unintentionally, notes/tools/options has the ability to set the default storage location for new notes.

When I ended up with an ActiveSync that refused to sync notes after a cold boot, my solution to this was to remove (move them to a backup location or delete them) all of the Notes Files.

Move them completely out of the two "My Documents" folders on both the PC and PPC.   Don't put them in lower level "My Documents" folders either, as these folders sync even though you can't see them in most PPC apps.

Sync and Disconnect with no notes files and confirm.

Create a dummy note in Outlook on the PC

Open activesync and see if you can re-check the Notes sync

If so, sync again.

Once Notes sync is re-established, you should be able to move the Notes files back _on the PPC only_ and sync again.

While it is normally not an issue with the notes sync process, alsot check the forms installation to assure that that is not an issue.

Screwed Icon and disappearing recordings symptoms with newer versions of Outlook "Forms Installation"

There is a wierd one out there related to "forms" not being properly installed on the newer versions of Outlook such as Outlook XP.  The primary manifestation is the appearance of unrelated icons such as mail envelopes related to Outlook notes.  In addition, voice recordings may play once and then disappear.

Fortunately the solution to this one is simple... To read ink and voice notes on Outlook, you need to install the
corresponding forms, by simply running the exectuable file "forminst.exe" that can be found in your ActiveSync installation folder.

Dealing with the ActiveSync 3.6 Missing Driver Goof

Version 3.6 of ActiveSync was supposed to help, but it was ready to be packed up and posted for download about the same time that a number of new PPC's hit the stores and the drivers for some of those devices were not included in the USB driver file that is part of the download.  The most notable omission was the Dell Axim.

The incorrect files are WCEUSBSH.INF and (for XP) WCEUSBSH.CAT.  Do a search on the CD that came with your device for files with the above names, then search for files with the same names on your hard drive.

If the files on your hard drive are different (different size or date) move or rename them and copy the files from the CD to the same directory.

If simply replacing them does not fix the problem, with the device connected, open the PC's device manager, find the PocketPC entry and remove it, the disconnect the PocketPC, power it down and reconnect it... and keep your fingers crossed... we all assume that this one will be a short term problem, but until it has been addressed... ;-/

Stopping the PPC Install Process on Sync Connect

Find and delete the "CEAppMgr" entry, (not "Default") under the registry key in the desktop PC's registry;

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows CE Services\AutoStartOnConnect

Hot Tip... Syncing large folder trees

While programs such as PWord and PExcel can only see files located in the "My Documents" folder and then only a single folder level below, if you have "Files" checked in Activesync, it syncs all folders below the PPC's storage memory "My Documents" folder, not just the first level of folders.

Getting Connected

On the assumption that you are reading this because you can't get connected, this is one place where activesync is probably providing the information that you need to figure out what's happening but it is easy to breeze right past the information in our frutstrations.

You have heard it before, but when you are trying to pin down elusive problems, always begin with a clean slate by doing a "soft reset" on your PocketPC before you begin any diagnosis.

On the PC, open ActiveSync, then click File/Connection Settings.  Make sure that your method of connection is checked.

Then click the "Get Connected" button.  Once it finishes it shows a report that contains enough information on where you need to look for the problem.

In this report snippet, "Not Available" indicates that COM1 is being used by another program.  In many cases other programs such as cellphone or pager utilities that use serial connections may have the port open without your knowledge... even if you never used them, so the solution is to track down what else is using the com port and shut that program down in order to connect using activesync.

If you were connected to COM2 in the above case and couldn't connect, one possibility is a bad cable or even a bad serial port in the PC.  Here's a tip... get ready to run "get connected" with your PPC disconnected and turned off.  Just before you start "get connected" connect the PocketPC to COM2... it should turn on and display a connection dialogue... if not, you have a hardware problem somewhere and it could be the cable, wrong connector, a PC or PPC serial hardware problem.  Before giving up, soft reset the PPC and give it one more shot.

The "Not Installed" message is applicable to other ports as well... the IR result message shown above indicates that the PC either doesn't have that port or doesn't believe that the port exists.  If you know that the port exists, you may have to turn it on in your PC's bios, and you may have to prod the computer into "finding" the port by running "Add New Hardware" in the control panel and get the PC to search itself again.

Note that there is no reference to attempting a Network connection.  Network Sync connections must always be initiated manually on the PPC and ActiveSync will never try to initiate a network connection from it's end.

USB Connect Problems

There are constant reports of inconsistant USB connect problems with all of the PocketPCs.  From my observations of a number of my own connect problems, I have concluded that information specifying exactly which USB port was used for the initial sync connection is referenced in subsequent sync connections, so, as long as the USB connector stays in or is always plugged into exactly the same USB port, there will be no problems.

However, if the sync cable is plugged into a different USB port on the PC or the hub that was used initially, or if a hub is plugged into the PC port that was used and the connection made through a hub, the problems arise.  It would be my guess that Activesync "sees" the connect on the new port, but attempts to communicate out through the original port, not only precluding a successful connect, but potentially disrupting any device that is now connected to that original port.

The solution is to;

Connect PPC and confirm that it is on.
Open the PC's "device manager"
Find the PPC device
Remove that device.
Disconnect the PPC
Reconnect the PPC
Assure that the PPC is always connected to the same port in the future.

IR Syncing...

IR syncing works, but it can be frustrating.  There are a whole series of possibilities on the PC's IR side alone to cause problems.

On the PC...

In some cases, the IR port may have to be turned on in the laptop's bios.

Check the Device Manager, find the IR port and confirm that it is "working properly."

IRDA has to be up and running on the Laptop (Icon's in the systray and there is no "X" showing)  Go to START/CONTROL_PANEL/INFRARED and activate it with the defaults.

On the PocketPC...

Make all attempts with the PocketPC and PC's IR ports pointed directly at each other and less that 3 inches apart.

Activate some type of IR action such as sending a file with IR from Explorer and put the ports together and confirm that the laptop "see's" the CE device by checking the IR icon in the systray.  If not, this must be resolved before going any further!

Next, start the PocketPC and select the Start/Connections/"IR ActiveSync" icon (2000) or "Tools/Connect Via IR" (2002)

Immediately power down the CE device and place it on the desk with the PPC's IR port aimed directly at the laptop's IR port, no more than a couple of inches apart. (we are not ready to begin until the following steps are taken on the PC)

On the PC...

Start ActiveSync on the Laptop and go to file/connection settings, confirm that the "Com" box is checked.

Click on "Get connected"  When the process finishes, check the result dialogue and confirm that the IR port was available.  If the IR port reports "Not Installed" or "Not Available" the problem is on the PC and needs to be resolved before continuing.  Again, there are a whole series of reasons why IR might not work on the PC side, from not existing to the port being used by another app that you don't even know is running, so, until this screen shows IR as "Available" concentrate your efforts on the Laptop/PC.

Once the "Get Connected" result shows IR as "Available," it's time to power up the CE device, confirm that it is attempting a connect and at the same time click the "Retry" button on the "Get Connected" results screen.  If the connect fails, immediately click the "Retry" button once more in case the attempts were "out of sync."

The reason for the "power up" on the PPC, on startup, the OS checks to see if an ActiveSync "connection" is occuring, and since you previously selected IR, the AS process on the PPC will attempt an IR connection.

Once the first IR sync is achieved, you should be able to simply select "IR Sync" on the CE device and put it near the IR port on the laptop for future connects.  

Hot Tip2... Syncing files outside of the sync folder

Frustrated because you can't sync a file that needs to be at a specific location on your PC other than in your devices "Sync Folder"  Well... while you can't, there is a way to accomplish what you need.

Move the file to the sync folder
Right click on the file
Create a Shortcut
Move the shortcut to the folder where you needed the file to be
Name it the same as the file
It will show up as a file in apps such as Word and Excel and can be opened and edited as if it were a file.  

Killing WCESCOM...

It's hard for me to understand a programmer or company that feels that they have to take such absolute control of user's systems that they refuse to allow users the option to control when and how their software loads and consumes resources that the user has purchased with their own money.  Activesync is a prime example of such programming arrogance in that it goes well beyond the arrogance of most other offensive programs.

First, know that you can use <Ctrl-Alt-Del> to bring up the current tasks at any time and "End Task" the Activesync module in memory named WCESCOMM at any time that the pocket pc is not connected without doing any damage.  Depending on your system, this action may make a significant improvement on your available system resources, in particular on any other comm port app that you may need to run.  To reload the module, simply click on the "Activesync" icon that was installed on your desktop... or, reboot your computer.  This information has an extra added benefit if you use a USB connection in that it will "clear" a current session and allow you to reconnect your device without rebooting.

If you are familiar with MSCONFIG, you may have already discovered that even if you "uncheck" the Activesync entry in the startup options, it will re-appear the next time you reboot.  Actually, it will appear before you reboot.  Every time any sync action, including the installation of third party PocketPC software, is run activesync generates a registry entry that absolutely assures that it will load and run every time the computer is started.

With the advent of ASync 4.x, Microsoft has brought Windows Media Player into this fray.  Installing Activesync 4.x "Patches" WMP10 to automatically launch Activesync if it is not already running when WMP starts.  With WMP10, you can download and reinstall media player to get rid of the patch, but WMP11 has it built in, so there are no options to prevent this behaviour.

Note... the following involves registry edits and batch files... if you are one of the many who are not comfortable in such territory, take a look at the prepackaged options available such as ASToggle. (At the time of this writing, if you are using AS4.x, you will need the "beta" version of ASToggle)

Run REGEDIT then find the key and value;

"H/PC Connection Agent"=""

and edit the value so that the string is empty as above.

Export the above key and name it something like "KILL_ASync.reg"

Put it in the DESKTOP directory.  When you double click on this .reg file, it will remove the registry entry generated by Activesync... but, remember, the next time Activesync is run, the entry will be re-created.

You can polish the exectuion of this registry file by creating a shortcut to it that reads something like;

C:\WINDOWS\REGEDIT.EXE /s C:\windows\desktop\Kill_ASync.reg

and it will execute without asking you if it's ok to revise the registry.

Finally, if you are one of those computer users who has sufficient intelligence to click the Activesync icon when you need it, make a copy of this shortcut and place it in your "StartUp" folder... it won't get the next session, but it will stop subsequent sessions until you run Activesync again.

onward...  XP has a dos utility named TASKKILL that allows you to kill current tasks from the dos command line.


With "TASKKILL" you can also create a batch file that will both kill the current process and fix the registry so that activesync will not reload on the next reboot

======step 1======
Export the "KILL_ASync.reg" registry file as shown above

=======step 2======
create a "batch" file containing;

taskkill /IM rapimgr.EXE
rem the rapimger line takes care of AS 4.x as well... won't hurt if you are running 3.x
C:\WINDOWS\regedit.exe /s C:\<path>\KILL_ASync.reg

======step 3=====
place the batch file on your desktop or create a shortcut to the batch file on your desktop so that it is easy to run.

Still got problems?  Hit Google using the words POCKETPC and ACTIVESYNC to expose a raft of other sites that attempt to deal with Activesync's failings... imho, Chris DeHerra's site at (formerly contains the most accurate information, but, there is so much there, it may take a while to uncover it. 

Killing Activesync 4.x

The above batch file has been altered to deal with 4.x and to also kill the RAPI process.

For some reason, I am finding that I have to run the above batch file twice to have it take effect... pretty hardheaded.  In addition, even if you don't connect a device, I have found that there are other events that will reload activesync without your knowledge or consent, so, if your system "slugs out" for no apparent reason, open taskmanager and check for WCESCOMM's reappearance.  Opening Windows Media Player or other programs such as Audible manager which use the AS pipe will reload Activesync as well.

Stopping WM5 Activesync 4.x Five Minute Sync Interval and Constant Wakeups

There are some frustrating behavioural problems with Activesync 4.x and since it's new, approaches to deal with 4.x's specific problems are still evolving... the following two approaches deal with two different needs... first, throttling 4.x's insitance to sync constantly which is not only unnecessary in most cases, it robs the sync computer of valuable resources neeeded for other apps and tasks... second, connecting a device in need of a charge triggers it to "turn on" even if turned off... not only irritating, but, since juice from a USB connection is limited, it significantly extends the time needed to charge the device.

Restoring the Manual Sync Option

Use Regedit and find the key;

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows CE Services\Partners\**********\Services\Synchronization

Set the following values correspond to 0 in hexadecimal value.

- Continuously Update
- Update on docking

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Raj Pillai MS MVP - Mobile Devices for this find.

Controlling the WM5 Sync Connection

With the device connected, open network connections, rightclick the Windows Mobile Devices icon and create a desktop shortcut.

Once this desktop shortcut is on your pc, you can <right-click> it and select "Disable" which will break the activesync connection _until you re-enable it!_ (remember to check this setting before you post that you can't sync)

When the RAPI network connection is set to DISABLE, it will stop AS4's insistant syncing... however, the following facts should be read and understood before you elect to use this approach;

If RAPI connection is "Enabled"
    device syncs every 5 min
    device charges
    device will turn itself on if turned off

If RAPI connection is "Disabled" and PPC is "ON"
    device stops syncing
    device does not charge (a penalty fee? ;-)
    suggestion... set "on external power" setting
       to "power off" at 10min to prevent a dead ppc

If RAPI connection is "Disabled" and PPC is "OFF"
    device stops syncing
    device charges
    PlugNPlay bongs occur at random (turn them off... see below)

Again, the emphasize, it looks to me that in the case of the second senario above, it is possible that a WM5 could completely discharge the battery while connected to the Sync PC

Hey ActiveSync!!!! Shut the Hell UP!!!

The "Boings" and other Activesync noises can drive you batty as the PC appears to "retry" the RAPI connection when it sees that the usb connection doesn't have a parent.  You can deal with this by disabling the Activesync "sounds" using start/settings/control_panel/sounds or, in my case, I replaced the default sounds with very low volume alerts by editing the originals using SndRec32.

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