Had a bit of a disaster at work the other day. I was setting up a new laptop for one of the head honchos at work. Everything was going well, the user was migrating from a Lenovo ThinkPad R61i, with Windows XP & Office 2003, to a ThinkPad Edge 15, with Windows 7 and Office 2007. Quite a big initial change to get used to but worth it. The final job I had to do was sync her HTC Windows Mobile 6.1 phone with her Outlook Contacts, Calendar etc.
I installed the Windows Mobile Device Centre ( a.k.a. ActiveSync 5) and set up the relationship with the laptop. The initial synchronisation started and it said transferring 0/340 contacts. Unfortunately this never got past 0 (after 2 hours of waiting!). My experience with ActiveSync in the past was that if there was ever a sync problem you should clear all the old syncing profiles on the phone and PCs and start again. This is where I made my mistake. The phone contained an old Exchange connection for her previous job. I quickly removed it, she had not worked for the company for years and it wasn’t syncing anymore. However, little did I know that any contacts she had added to her phone after leaving were attached to the dead Exchange account! Microsoft’s handling of removing Exchange accounts mean that any data on the phone is erased “by design” without any kind of options as to what is left on the device. I can understand that from a security point of view. In theory the data would still be on the Exchange server so no big deal. Unfortunately, this option wasn’t available to me. The fault was really that the phone was adding contacts to the inactive Exchange account not the phone’s local contacts. It seems that lots of frustrated people were experiencing similar kinds of loss over at answers.microsoft.com but there seemed to be no workaround to recover them. Read on to find out how successful I was.
Better than nothing
Loosing over 300 contacts is a pretty big deal. I needed a way to recover what I could from the phones internal system. Ideally I could restore from a backup but one didn’t exist.
Top Tip: Back up any data before you have the need to recover it!
Luckily, Windows Mobile is quite an established technology so it has a great community of people who have had to put up with it over the years. I found a tool that helped me recover about 100 of the most recent contacts. Not great but better than nothing.
The tool used was the free DotFred’s PIM Backup application. A simple app that allows you to make a backup of everything in your phone including text messages, call logs and all other files. Here is what to do.
- Connect the phone to a PC with ActiveSync or WMDC installed
- This has less risk if set up on a PC with no Outlook profiles as it won’t try to sync but gives you the ability to explore the device
- Copy DotFred’s PIM Backup app over to the phone’s internal storage using the “Explore” function of ActiveSync
- From the phone, launch the app by double clicking it from within File Explorer
- The app is quite straightforward but a “Quick Start” guide is available and should be read before trying to use it
- Perform a “text based” backup
- Back on the PC copy the backup file from the phone to the computer
- The file is actually a compressed Zip file so extract the contents using a tool like the free 7-Zip
- When unzipped you get about 5 different CSV files (even though they have a custom file extension)
- The files I found useful were the SMS (msgs.csm) and Call (clogs.csl) logs
- Using Microsoft Excel, import the data from the text file
- Make sure you use “;” as the column separator
- Some of the columns that have only numbers in may initially display as 7.43E+9. Format those columns as “number” to avoid this
- From this data you should be able to identify many numbers that have been used on the phone
- To make it more readable you can use the Excel “Remove Duplicates” tool and sort it by the Sender name column
Once you have the numbers you will then need to manually add them to Outlook, your phone or paper-based contacts book!
From now on I’ll be using PIM Backup to backup a Windows Mobile phone’s content before I try to do anything clever with it.