How to recover deleted Windows Mobile contacts after removing an Exchange connection

imageHad 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.

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