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ActiveSync - "Combine or Replace" Dialog
By Raj Pillai, Copyright 2003-2004
 Version 1.24  Revised 5/11/2004

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Every Pocket PC user encounters the Combine or Replace dialog box as shown below at some point of time although the Information Type might differ. The information below tries to explain why this dialog box is prompted and the scenario's when this dialog box can appear.


Why Does This Dialog Appear?

When you connect your Pocket PC for synchronization purpose ActiveSync compares the data on the Desktop and the device using something called as "store identifiers" along with time-stamps to determine if the information type has changed.  If the identifiers do not match, then it tries to re-establish the mapping between the Desktop and the Pocket PC by displaying the above dialog box.

What Do The Options Indicate?

The "Information Type:" will list the type of information that ActiveSync has not mapped.  The three options are self explanatory. 

  • The 1st option will simply combine all the information (Pocket PC + Computer) on both the devices.

  • The 2nd option will copy all the information from the Computer to the Pocket PC.  It will replace all the information stored on the Pocket PC.

  • The 3rd option does not synchronize the listed information types.

There is no option which will replace the data on your computer with the Pocket PC data.  The closest way of doing it would be to use the 1st option and combine the data.

Why Did The Dialog Appear?

Lets take a look at the scenarios where this dialog box will appear:

  • When you synchronize your Pocket PC with data for the first time.

  • When you delete a partnership on the Desktop without deleting the information on the device, and then reconnects the device to create a new partnership.

  • When you try to synchronize with a different Outlook profile for the first time.

  • When you move the location of the default Outlook ".pst" file after establishing a partnership.

  • When you synchronize with two computers and perform a replace operation on one computer, and then synchronizes the device with a second computer.

  • When you synchronize after restoring the Pocket PC data from a backup file.

  • When you delete the repl.dat file, which stores the partnership information.  This file can be found in the ActiveSync Profiles directory.  The default path in Windows XP would be:

    C:\Documents and Settings\<<User Name>>>\Application Data\Microsoft\ActiveSync\Profiles\<<<Partnership Name>>>

The Combine or Replace Dialog Appears Every Time I Synchronize:

If you are synchronizing with only "one computer" and this dialog appears everytime you synchronize, then you might need to recreate the partnership. Due to some kind of corruption the store identifiers might getting affected at every synchronization and therefore are not able to map themselves correctly.

To delete a partnership:

1.  Disconnect the Pocket PC from the computer.
2.  In ActiveSync -> File -> Delete Partnership.  Select whether you want to delete your synchronization folder as well.
3.  Connect the device and follow the onscreen instructions to setup a new partnership.

If you are synchronizing with "two computers" and the dialog appears on a regular basis, then it appears that for some reason, the store identifiers for the selected information types is getting affected when you synchronize with the second desktop PC and therefore the first computer is unable to match the identifiers when it compares and pops up the Combine or Replace dialog.

Although the Combine option creates duplicates, as far as I know ActiveSync version 3.7.1 checks for duplicate entries as well and prompts you whether you would like to remove or keep them.  But in some scenarios it is unable to identify the duplicates since the identifiers are different.  If you have a lot of duplicate entries, then I recommend you use the free Outlook Duplicate Remover utility, written by Fr. Simon Rundell.  It is available for download at the following site:

You could verify if the problem is caused due to synchronization with a secondary PC by first synchronizing with either of your computer and then before synchronizing with the second computer, create a new Contact/ Appointment on your device and another set on your Desktop (all having different name or else a conflict will occur) and see if you are displayed the dialog.  In this scenario the information will get updated automatically on both the devices without the C/R dialog since the store identifiers have not been affected.

In such a scenario, delete both the partnerships on the computer and form a new partnership.  You could try the following approach:

Before you leave work, synchronize your Pocket PC and after synchronization is successful delete the partnership.  Go to your home PC.  Delete the partnership on the home PC as well before connecting.  Now connect and then create a new partnership and you might be prompted with the Combine or Replace dialog once select combine since you want the data on your Pocket PC to reflect on your home computer as well.  Once this is done, repeat the steps to create a new partnership on your work PC.

This information should help you understand the possible causes and how you could go about solving the recurring Combine or Replace dialog that appears whenever you try to synchronize with your computer.

Read other articles by Raj Pillai

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