Things You Need to Check Before Installing Software on the Windows Mobile

Installing applications and tools on to a Windows Mobile device can be a little bit daunting at first, particularly for newcomers to the platform.

Prior to the actual act of installing the application, there are several things you need to check. These are:

  • operating system version
  • framework
  • spare memory
  • hardware functionality

Each of these elements of a Windows Mobile device can make or break an installation. A suitable comparison with a desktop device would be trying to install a game that requires a light gun but you don’t have one attached. On a PC, the game will simply be useless – you might be able to run the game, but won’t be able to interact with it. On a Windows Mobile device, the handset will be looking for the peripheral or hardware and if it can’t find it the application won’t run.

Operating System Version

Most Windows Mobile software of any lasting use will be compatible with at least Windows Mobile 5 and upwards. Windows Mobile Professional is the version usually found on touchscreen devices, whereas non-touchscreen devices run Windows Mobile Standard (also known as Windows Mobile Smartphone). Ideally your device should be running Windows Mobile 6 if it is to successfully run a modern WinMo application.

Check your Windows Mobile version by going to Settings > System > About


With the correct operating system, you;’ll find you also need the correct version of Microsoft’s .Net Compact Framework for Windows Mobile. Having this is vital to running any application written for the .Net framework.

Check your .Net CF version via Settings > Remove Programs and identifying the version there – careful you don’t uninstall it, forever!

Spare memory

Windows Mobile Device Information

Obviously you need enough memory on-board to run the intended application; however in many cases you’ll need enough memory to save the installer file beforehand. Windows Mobile phones with an expansion slot can of course have the available RAM expanded usually by the addition of Flash memory.

To check your device memory, go to Settings > System > Device Information > Hardware. To check the current memory usage, go to Settings > Memory

Hardware Functionality

Installing hardware-specific software is going to end in disappointment. A key example would be the recent proliferation of applications that require a g-sensor (also known as accelerometer) which detects the motion and movement of your Windows Mobile device. Devices with this enhancement will run motion-sensitive applications and novelties without problem – however devices without a g-sensor might accept the installation, but they won’t be able to run the software.

(A general rule of thumb – if your phone is a HTC Touch series phone, then you can be pretty certain it has a g-sensor. The Samsung Omnia is similarly equipped.)

It is important therefore to check your handset specifications and the software’s hardware requirements before proceeding to download.

Once you’re happy that the application is suitable for your phone and you’ve downloaded it, the type of file that is downloaded depends on the type of installation that will be carried out.

Installation via .EXE file and Microsoft ActiveSync

Microsoft ActiveSync

Any Windows Mobile application that is an executable file (one with a file name ending in .exe) will need to be installed via Microsoft ActiveSync and a USB or Bluetooth connection with your PC.

First of all, make sure you’ve got Microsoft ActiveSync installed on your PC. The latest version can be downloaded from Microsoft.

Next, ensure your Windows Mobile device is switched on and connected either by USB or Bluetooth to your PC, and that a relationship is established via ActiveSync.

ActiveSync progress indicator
Follow the onscreen prompts

Once this has been done, double click your downloaded Windows Mobile executable (.exe) file to begin installation. ActiveSync will prompt for you to confirm installation, while your handset will require you to OK the installation.

After installation is complete it should be safe for you to disconnect your Windows Mobile device from the PC and run the new application.

Installation via .CAB file

An increasingly common method of installation is via a .CAB file – this method is particularly useful for installing directly to a Windows Mobile device, cutting out the PC connection.

If a PC is being used to download Windows Mobile applications however, don’t be put off – .CAB files can be installed via the ActiveSync managed connection with your device.

To acquire a .CAB installer, either visit the website hosting software form your PC or from your Windows Mobile handset.

Choose installation location

If you’re visiting from your PC, download the file before copying it to your Windows Mobile device via your ActiveSync-managed USB or Bluetooth connection. Ensure you have saved it to a memorable location and when the from PC to handset is complete select the .CAB file to initialise the installation procedure.

If you’re downloading from the website directly from your Windows Mobile browser of choice, save the file and when download is complete select the .CAB file to being the installation.

Final note

Although the majority of Windows Mobile applications no longer force the handset to reset following installation, it is good practice to manually implement this step to avoid errors running the software.

Christian Cawley

Hi - I'm Christian Cawley, Windows Mobile aficionado and writer! I hail from the UK, and when I'm not admiring my Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 can be found enjoying sci fi, classic rock or developing ideas for comic strips.

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