With the number of handheld devices continually growing, you are likely to be supporting either Windows CE or Palm OS devices very soon, if you’re not already. In this article, I will briefly examine the synchronization process for Windows CE handhelds and then discuss resolutions for several common synchronization problems.

Connecting your Windows CE device to the PC
Connectivity between a Windows CE device and a PC is typically achieved by using a synchronization cradle attached to the host PC by a serial or USB cable. Simply placing the Windows CE device in the cradle will allow the PC to see the device and establish a connection. Windows CE devices can also connect via an infrared port, provided both the PC and PDA have one. Hardware, however, is only half of the synchronization equation. Software plays a crucial role, as well. Below are two of the more common synchronization applications used with Windows CE devices.

Microsoft ActiveSync
ActiveSync 3.0 allows you to connect your Windows CE 2.0 or 2.11 Handheld PC, Handheld PC: Professional Edition, or Palm-size PC to your desktop (Windows 95/98/NT or 2000) for synchronization. You can synchronize your PIM data with Schedule+ 7.0a (included) or Outlook 97/98/2000 (not included). Microsoft has made the user interface similar to Windows 98, and ActiveSync no longer requires RAS to synchronize. This allows you to connect to the Internet via proxy, modem, or VPN without a conflict. You can download ActiveSync 3.0 for free from Microsoft’s Web site.

IntelliSync from Puma Technologies
Intellisync® software from Pumatech provides direct, two-way synchronization between your PC and Windows CE, Palm platform, and Pocket PC handhelds. Intellisync can synchronize your calendar, e-mail, contacts, and tasks with the personal information management, contact management, and groupware applications. You can download the Intellisync® trial version here.

Resolving common synchronization problems
With synchronization’s basics under our belt, let’s look at some problems that frequently occur when synchronizing a Windows CE device.

Connection speeds do not match
It is important to match the connection speeds on the CE device and the communication’s port used by the host PC for connecting to the handheld. If these speeds do not match, then synchronization is unlikely to occur. The port settings are one of the first things I check when presented with a synchronization problem.

Figure A shows how the connection speed can be changed on a Windows CE device.

Figure A

The process of setting the communications port speed on the host PC will depend on the computer’s operating system. The communications port setting on a Windows 2000 machine can be changed by clicking Start Settings | Control Panel | System, then the Hardware tab, and then Device Manager | Ports | Communications Port | Port Settings (see Figure B).

Figure B

Errors starting with “8000”
Error messages that start with 8000 point to a problem synchronizing with Microsoft Outlook. The recommend fix is running ScanPST (Inbox Repair Tool) to resolve any issues with your Outlook PST file, which contains your personal Contacts, Calendar, and Tasks. Because its location varies depending on your installation of Outlook, the easiest way to locate the ScanPST utility is by performing a search for “scanpst” on your hard drive.

ActiveSync log files can offer clues
If you’re using Microsoft’s ActiveSync, several logs located in the \Windows\temp directory can help you solve difficult problems. I find the most helpful of these logs is Wcesetup.log. This file indicates whether the ActiveSync installation succeeded. The Wcescomm.log file is also helpful because it shows any current connection problems. However, the Wcescomm.log file is cleared each time you restart ActiveSync, so you may have to reproduce your problem to get an accurate logging of the problem.
If you have a quick tip for resolving a Windows CE synchronization problem, share it with your TechRepublic peers by posting a comment below or writing to David Williams.