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ActiveSync is a great synching tool - it manages the connection between your Windows Mobile device and each PC it connects with. A version is found on both the Windows PC and your WinMo handset, and while the desktop version manages the transfer of data between your PC and your phone, the handset version manages the transfer of data between your handset and every other device that wants to sync.
Whether you use Microsoft Exchange, a third party push email solution or a USB-powered remote desktop tool, it is managed by the Windows Mobile mini version of ActiveSync.
As technology has developed, Mobile ActiveSync has remained pretty much static, but with Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 Microsoft have included a very important and useful enhancement.
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Faster Data Synchronization
With increased data capacity and space for a variety of expansion cards (usually MicroSD but other types are supported across the vast range of devices), Windows Mobile handsets are commonly being used as much for storage as they are for mobile entertainment, portable office solutions and of course phonecalls.
The enhancements available to the USB to PC connection therefore are vital to this change in culture - but there is one other very useful change introduced in Windows Mobile 6.1.
With various types of data and connection speed ActiveSync is unable to sync data due to bandwidth issues on some versions of Windows, and under some operating system group policies.
If you're using Windows Mobile 6.1 or 6.5 and find that ActiveSync tends to just hang or fail entirely, this can easily be remedied.
On your handset, go to Start > Settings > Connections. Here, look for the USB to PC icon, and open. (Depending on your version of Windows Mobile 6 and various shells and UI enhancements, this might be tricky to find, but it will be there.)
In the USB to PC screen you'll find a radio button - ActiveSync (Sync with Outlook) - and a check box. By default the option Enable faster data synchronization comes already checked. However it can cause problems forcing ActiveSync to utilise a high speed connection. Clearing this check box and clicking OK to leave the screen will resolve these issues. A device reset will help too, enabling Windows Mobile to register this change fully and ActiveSync on your PC to disconnect and reconnect when necessary.
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Faster File Transfer
Also available via the USB to PC screen is an option to use your phone not as a synchronized media or office device but as a Disk Drive. By selecting this option, ActiveSync is disabled and you Windows Mobile device becomes a new external disk drive for your PC or laptop, offering fast file transfer between devices and the benefits of the increased storage offered by your MicroSD card.
Finally, the most important option is found at the foot of the screen. When checked, Ask me first... gives you the option of selecting between ActiveSync and Disk Drive when your Windows Mobile handset is connected to your PC. Each option is very useful, and the selection is vital. However it can be disabled by unchecking, forcing either ActiveSync or Disk Drive as the default option.