ActiveSyncMobile devicesWindows Mobile Device Center

Failing to connect mobile devices to computer using USB

I have a mobile device running Windows Mobile 6 which I use for synchronizing my contacts, tasks and appointments with Outlook running on my office laptop (yes, running Windows Vista). Now, since a week my mobile device stopped connceting to my laptop, much to my agony. So I tried al the options I could find on the internet for solving my issues.  There are a large number of forums (some of them run by Microsoft) with are a lot of questions about connections between mobile devices to computers, either using Windows Mobile Device Center (WMDC) or ActiveSync.

I’ve read quite a number of these posts, and in general they seem to focus around very similar issues. Possible solution suggested by other forum members do not sound very convincing and constructive, but rather ad hoc.

Issue with connecting mobile devices to computer

Let’s see my quick analysis (after trying about everything and the kitchen sink over the last two weeks).
Unable to sync mobile devices (either running WM5 or WM6, although the latter seems a bit more stable) to computer (of any sort, using ActiveSync with XP, or WMDC with Vista). It worked fine before with most people, including me.

Windows Mobile Device Center / ActiveSync

In general ActiveSync or WMDC is unable to connect. Looking at the devices in Device Manager, you will notice that the appropriate driver could not be enabled / installed (it should do so when you connect your device). With WMDC this will be the Windows Mobile Remote Adapter, which will be marked with a small triangular yellow icon that stated that the driver failed to install.
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Solutions or workarounds?

Forum members (and people elsewhere on this planet) propose a number of solutions – although workarounds would be a better name for it, e.g.:

  • Remove driver (Windows Mobile Remote Adapter or RNDIS) using Device Manager and connect again. For most people, including me, no luck. The driver tries to reinstall again and fails miserably again.
  • Flick switch on device in Settings > Connections > USB to PC. This seems to trigger something for some people, but not for most people, including me.
  • Re-boot your mobile device. Tried that to, and with me quite a large number of people with all kinds of WM6 devices. Again no luck.
  • I’ve tried to hook up my phone to another computer. No luck.
  • I’ve tried to hook up someone else device on my computer. Seems to work.
  • This might lead to the conclusion that it’s my device that’s broken down. Sadly I refuse to come to this conclusion as I was able to connect it to my other computer (which I don’t use for business purposes, so sync there is no option). Also, lots of people face the same problems, and it’s hard to believe that all of these devices are damaged.
  • Even tried using different cables to connect – as expected no result.
  • Bluetooth is not an option. The first connection (to establish a partnership) needs to be through a cable.
  • Look at the log files. Although I’m a software developer, I couldn’t get anything useful from it.
  • I am wondering though if maybe Windows on my computer holds a reference to the device ID for my device or similar references, and thus keeps on trying to install to same faulty driver instance over and over again.
  • Re-install Windows on computer. This would be my very last resort, as I run a large number of tools, including Visual Studio, which takes quite some time to re-install. So haven’t tried that. But, from other posts I’ve read that even people who went that far had no luck.

Concluding

My personal conclusion is simple: connections between mobile devices (yes, WM5 or WM6) and computer using USB is extremely shaky. It occurs to me that people that were able to apply any of the forementioned workarounds succesfully are just plain lucky.

To my honest opinion, these are issues of Windows / WMDC / ActiveSync, and are not issues of any of the devices used. So no need to throw out your Windows mobile devices and buy an iPhone. It surprises me that, with a rapid growing market of Windows based mobile devices, some many of these issues keep occurring over and over again. One might suggest that Microsoft should handle connections issues with the highest priority (which they probably are)? But then again, you could be lucky. Go ahead, make my day!