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By Chris De Herrera 
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Overview of ActiveSync 4.0 Features and Installation
By Chris De Herrera, Copyright 2005
 Version 1.02  Revised 9/21/2005

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Introduction

With the recent release of Windows Mobile 5.0, Microsoft has released a new version of ActiveSync. ActiveSync 4.0 continues to build on prior version of ActiveSync with some significant changes for Windows Mobile 5.0 devices including support for synchronizing Media, support for USB 2.0 devices, Internet Explorer Favorites synchronization for Smartphone. These updates are only available for Windows Mobile 5.0 devices.

Compatibility

ActiveSync 4.0 supports older devices such as the Pocket PC 2002, Smartphone 2002, Windows Mobile 2003, Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition and Windows Mobile 5.0 devices. Also, you can install ActiveSync 4.0 on PCs running Windows 2000, Windows XP (Home, Pro, Tablet, Media Center, x64), Windows Server 2003 (including IA64 and x64). ActiveSync 4.0 supports Outlook 2000, Outlook 2002 and Outlook 2003. If you are running Windows 98 or Windows NT you will not be able to install and use ActiveSync 4.0. Microsoft has focused on making sure that existing ActiveSync applications install and work correctly. So applications that use their synchronization providers also work correctly with ActiveSync 4.0. Also, applications that close ActiveSync such as Killsync ( http://www.pocketpcfaq.com/applications/ ) still work.

Limitations

Right now ActiveSync 4.0.0 Build 4343 is a pre-release designed for developers to test their applications with Windows Mobile 5.0. I do not recommend that existing users that do not have Windows Mobile 5.0 devices install ActiveSync 4.0 unless their OEM provides it with their device. ActiveSync continues to support the same features that ActiveSync 3.x did with some exceptions. With ActiveSync 4.0, Microsoft has dropped support for synchronizing with TCP/IP (which includes Wi-Fi, GPRS, EvDO, 1xRTT and Ethernet) because of known security issues (ActiveSync sends data as clear text and AirScanner Reports Possible Equipment ID and Password Hack via Network with ActiveSync 3.71 and 3.8 - http://www.airscanner.com/security/activesync371.htm ). Also, ActiveSync 4.0 does not support Backup/Restore of the device’s data.

Windows Mobile 5.0 Limitations

When you sync Windows Mobile 5.0 (WM5.0) Pocket PCs you may experience the following differences with prior versions of ActiveSync.   ActiveSync 4.0/WM5.0 does not allow the user to specify the frequency of synchronization.  Previously with ActiveSync 3.x and older devices you could specify the option to sync continuously, on connect or manually.  ActiveSync 4.0 does not allow the user to select categories of Calendar, Contacts or Tasks that they want to sync.  Previously the user was able to select all or certain categories to sync with.  If you sync via Infrared, you will notice that there is no option to disconnect.  I had to perform a soft reset or uncheck the option File - Connection Settings for the Infrared port while the Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC is synchronizing.

Installation

You can install ActiveSync 4.0 over prior versions of ActiveSync 3.x. When you upgrade, you will retain all your existing partnerships with your other Smartphones and Pocket PCs. The installation process is similar to prior versions. Just follow the prompts and you will be prompted to enter your name and company, and you are able to choose where to install ActiveSync. Once ActiveSync is installed, you may be prompted to reboot.

Also, ActiveSync 4.0 now supports Windows Profiles to store specific settings. The support of profiles allows users that share their PC or network users to avoid renaming their device to setup synchronization. Also, if you are using Windows Media Player 10 and a Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC or Smartphone, you can choose to synchronize songs or videos to your device.

Firewall Configuration

ActiveSync continues to use TCP/IP to provide synchronization. You must ensure that your software firewall allows ActiveSync to use TCP/IP or the internet. If you are using Windows XP, Service Pack 2 or Windows Server 2003 and you have chosen to use Microsoft’s firewall, ActiveSync will configure itself as an exception. If you are using a 3rd party software firewall on your PC then you need to allow WCESCOMM.EXE and WCESMGR.EXE to use TCP/IP with the following ports: 5678, 5679, 990, 26675, and 5721.

Repairing ActiveSync 4.0

If you install patches, service packs, Outlook or Windows Media Player 10 you may need to repair ActiveSync 4.0 for it to work correctly. To repair ActiveSync, click on Start – Control Panel – Add/Remove Programs and select Microsoft ActiveSync 4.0. Then click on the Change button. The wizard will walk you through the repair process. You will need to close all your applications and reboot to complete the repair.

Uninstalling ActiveSync 4.0

If you have to uninstall ActiveSync 4.0 and want to reinstall ActiveSync 3.x, you need to use Add/Remove programs to uninstall ActiveSync 4.0. Then you need to delete the C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\RAPI.DLL file. Then you can install ActiveSync 3.x normally. Please note that uninstalling ActiveSync 4.0 will delete all your partnerships.

Debugging over Ethernet or Wi-Fi

If you are developing using Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2 and a Windows Mobile 5.0 device, you can debug using TCP/IP.  A Microsoft blog explains how "Debugging on CE5.0 device without ActiveSync".  Please note that these procedures will not allow non-developers to sync via TCP/IP.  Also, the timeout of 3 minutes to connect may be frustrating for some developers.

Summary

So if you are using a Windows Mobile 5.0 or are a developer focused on creating applications to support Windows Mobile 5.0, you should upgrade to ActiveSync 4.0. For existing ActiveSync users, I suggest that they wait until Microsoft announces the final version of ActiveSync 4.0 prior to installing this upgrade.

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