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ActiveSync in the Enterprise - Common Problems and Solutions
By Chris De Herrera, Copyright 2004
 Version 1.00  Revised 12/27/2004

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During the past four years working with Pocket PCs, I have seen many frustrated users and network administrators working with ActiveSync. This article covers some of the common problems that network administrators may experience while deploying and supporting ActiveSync.

ActiveSync and Outlook Installation Sequence

In order to ensure that ActiveSync will recognize that Outlook is installed, I recommend that you install Outlook before installing ActiveSync. Further I suggest that you ensure that you have installed the latest patches for Outlook by visiting http://office.microsoft.com  and clicking on the Check for Updates link. Further you must launch Outlook and configure Outlook including e-mail before installing ActiveSync. Then install the latest version of ActiveSync which is version 3.7.1 as of this writing from http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/downloads/activesync37.mspx This will ensure that you can synchronize your Pocket PC with whatever version of Outlook you have installed on your PC including Outlook 2003. Also, you should note that only the first PC you synchronize with can sync with Inbox.

User Security for Installing and Using ActiveSync

In order to install and use ActiveSync the user that is logged into the PC must be a local administrator. If you install ActiveSync and you are not a local administrator you will not be able to complete the installation. Further if the user’s security is subsequently reduced you may not be able to synchronize because ActiveSync runs as a user task and it modifies the registry.

Naming the Partnership

When you first connect the Pocket PC and setup the first partnership, you are shown the name of the Pocket PC as Pocket_PC. This is not a supported Netbios name so you may experience problems in the future if you wish to connect to your network directly using a network card. I suggest that you name the Pocket PC a name that is a leading character in the range 'a'-'z' or 'A'-'Z', and the rest of the characters in the range 'a'-'z', 'A'-'Z', '0'-'9', or '-'.

Configuring File Conversion Options

Once you have ActiveSync installed and you have established a partnership, I recommend disabling file conversions for Word and Excel in ActiveSync. I recommend disabling the file conversion because there have been reports of issues converting Office 2003 file formats. The Pocket PC can read and write the desktop file formats so this will not cause any problems for users however the Pocket PC cannot read password protected files. To disable the file conversion, connect your Pocket PC and launch ActiveSync on your PC. Then click on the Tools – Options menu followed by the Rules tab and then click on the Conversion Settings button. Then you can select the .DOC and .XLS formats to change the conversion settings.

Software Firewalls can Prevent Synchronization

If you install a software firewall on your PC, you must allow ActiveSync to connect to the internet. I suggest attempting to disable the firewall to confirm that you can synchronize. If you can synchronize then ensure that you have authorized ActiveSync to use the internet. The internet in this case also means using TCP/IP. There are two programs that ActiveSync uses called WCESCOMM.EXE and WCESMGR.EXE. Both of these programs must be allowed to use TC/IP to allow you to sync. If you are using Windows XP and have installed Service Pack 2, please review the article I wrote in the last issue in case you have difficulty synchronizing. If you have another firewall such as ZoneAlarm, Norton Internet Security or Norton Personal Firewall, feel free to visit ActiveSync Troubleshooting Guide Firewall and Proxy Issues.

Synchronizing Multiple Calendar or Contact Folders

By default, ActiveSync does not support synchronization of multiple calendar or contact folders. However you can synchronize them using 3rd party utilities including Pocket On Schedule and read only synchronization using Pocket Lookout. If you are using Outlook 2000 or Outlook 2002 then you can use Microsoft’s Pocket Contacts Synchronizer.

Multiple Users on a Single PC

ActiveSync does not allow multiple users to login to a PC and synchronize like you may expect. The first user that connects is able to use ActiveSync normally. When the second user logs into the PC, if the Pocket PC is in the cradle, ActiveSync will attempt to setup another partnership because the default partnership Pocket_PC is in use. To work around this issue, I suggest installing ActiveSync Keys by Information Appliance Associates from http://www.pocketpcfaq.com/applications/ and configure ActiveSync to connect Pocket PCs as Guest Only. This allows all other users that login to not have to remove the Pocket PC from the cradle in order to avoid the new partnership wizard. Don’t worry you can still sync with the original partnership because it is already established.

Multiple Pocket PCs on a Single PC

You can setup multiple partnerships on a single PC. However you must make sure that each partnership is given a unique name. You cannot synchronize more than one Pocket PC at a time with your PC. This is a design limitation of ActiveSync. However, you can use your PC to charge multiple Pocket PCs but only the first one plugged in will sync. If you wish to charge your Pocket PC, I suggest only plugging in one per port because the Pocket PCs require all the power the USB port can deliver to charge.

Multiple Partnerships with one Pocket PC

One of the most common requests I see is whether or not a user can synchronize their Pocket PC with three or more PCs. By default, ActiveSync will only support synchronization with only one or two PCs. However you can install 3rd party utilities to allow for more partnerships. These utilities include SyncMgr, Many Partners, and Pocket Multi Partnership Sync. For a more complete discussion of the issues with multiple partnerships see http://www.pocketpcfaq.com/faqs/multiplepartnerships.htm.

Conclusion

With these tips you are more likely to have fewer problems installing and using ActiveSync in your enterprise. However if you do experience issues not covered in this article, I recommend visiting The ActiveSync Troubleshooting Guide.

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