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Windows Mobile and Windows 7

If you do adopt a Windows Mobile smartphone, you'll find that it's easy to integrate with Windows 7, as well as some other Microsoft software, including Microsoft Office. Windows 7, unlike previous versions of Windows, is Windows Mobile aware, so when you plug in a Windows Mobile device for the first time, the OS will install drivers and then trigger the downloading and installation of a Windows 7 feature called Windows Mobile Device Center. This application controls synchronization between your smartphone and Windows 7.

When Windows 7 detects and installs drivers for your smartphone, it will then download and install Windows Mobile Device Center.

Windows Mobile Device Center is also compatible with Windows Vista and comes in different 32-bit and 64-bit (x64) versions. Those with Windows XP will need to use the older (and, in the Windows Mobile world, reviled) ActiveSync software to manage PC-to-device synchronization. Windows Mobile Device Center works with devices dating all the way back to Windows Mobile 2003.

At this point, Windows Mobile Device Center will prompt you to establish a partnership between the smartphone and your PC. The application allows syncing between Microsoft Outlook-based contacts, calendar, e‑mail, and tasks, as well as Mobile Favorites (between IE on your PC and IE on the device) and files.

You must use Microsoft Outlook 2003, 2007, or 2010 to sync e‑mail, contacts, tasks, and notes from your PC to a Windows Mobile device using Windows Mobile Device Center. If you don't have Microsoft Outlook, you can utilize Microsoft's free My Phone service, in tandem with your device to manage these items. You can sync Mobile Favorites and files regardless of whether you have Outlook.

In the next step, you're asked to name your device and can optionally create a shortcut to Windows Mobile Device Center on your PC. When this is done, Windows Mobile Device Center will sync information between the PC and the device.

You can create a partnership between your smartphone and up to two PCs. To end a partnership, unplug the smartphone from the PC, run Windows Mobile Device Center, and choose Mobile Device Settings → End a partnership.

You can manually trigger a sync at any time by clicking the small green sync icon in Windows Mobile Device Center.

Managing the Device Partnership

Once your partnership is established, you can manage various aspects of the device:

  • Programs and Services:
    From here, you can add and remove applications on the device, which is useful, and access various Microsoft Web sites devoted to Windows Mobile (which is passingly useful at best). If you're familiar with the Programs and Features control panel in Windows 7, you'll be right at home with Add/Remove Programs for Windows Mobile.
  • Pictures, Music, and Video:
    Here, you can import photos and video clips you took with your phone and trigger media sync between the device and Windows Media Player.
  • File Management:
    From this simple interface, you can browse the contents of your device using a standard Windows Explorer window.
  • Mobile Device Settings:
    This last option in Windows Mobile Device Center provides a number of features. For this reason, we'll examine these options in more depth in the following sections.

If your device has integrated memory and a removable memory card, they will appear as separate drives under your smartphone.

You don't need to use Windows Mobile Device Center to access your device's storage with Explorer. That's because your smartphone appears in Computer, right alongside your other storage devices.

Changing Device Settings

From the Mobile Device Settings option in the Windows Mobile Device Center home screen, you are presented with a laundry list of features to configure. Some of these are quite important.

Change Content Sync Settings

The Change content sync settings screen resembles the initial configuration screen where you choose which items you want to sync between the PC and the device.

But there's much more going on here than just enabling or disabling sync items. Unlike that initial configuration screen, you can use this interface to configure individual item sync settings. To see what this means, click the link Sync Settings under Calendar. You now have some additional settings to fine-tune, including how far in the past to synchronize calendar appointments and, if you've connected the phone to two devices, which PCs to sync this item with. Contacts, Calendar, E‑mail, and Tasks all offer additional options in this manner.

You can use this interface to configure automatic file sync between your device and the PC too. To do so, click Sync Settings under Files and then click the Add button to add one or more files. From now on, each time you sync, the latest versions of those files are moved between the PC and device.

Sync Wirelessly with Exchange Server

If you use your smartphone to wirelessly synchronize with Exchange-based e‑mail, contacts, calendars, and tasks for work, you can use this interface to configure your phone. Exchange configuration is relatively simple because Windows Mobile Device Center can autodiscover all the information it needs.

Don't have an Exchange Server handy? No problem: Microsoft offers a free consumer service called My Phone that emulates Exchange but in a friendlier, consumer-oriented package. We take a look at My Phone later in the tutorial.

Manage a Partnership

Windows Mobile devices can maintain partnerships with-and, thus, sync between-up to two Windows-based PCs. From this interface, you can provide a name for the current PC only and configure what happens when a sync conflict occurs.

Connection Settings

Old-timers who recall the terrible ActiveSync application from previous versions of Windows will feel right at home with this interface, which helps you configure the ways in which your Windows Mobile device can sync with the PC. Your options include USB and Bluetooth wireless sync, but you can also determine how Internet connections work between the PC and device when the two are connected.

Get Device Certificates

In certain corporate settings, you may need to authenticate your device using a digital certificate before you can connect to the company's Wi-Fi network or Exchange Server. If so, your system administrator will provide it and either configure it for you or provide instructions.

End a Partnership

If you'd like to end the partnership between the smartphone and the current PC, this is the place. The one thing you can't do is end a partnership between the smartphone and a different PC. To do that, you'd have to connect the phone to a third computer.

Two of these options, Connection settings and End a partnership, are available even when the smartphone is not connected to the PC. The others, however, require the device to be connected.