ActiveSync / Mobile Device Center on Windows 10

Published on Wed, 9 November, 2022 | 700 words
Tags: windows mobile windows activesync

It’s no secret I’m a fan of old hardware. The more the technology industry goes down the path of treating device owners as a product rather than a customer, the more I long for the good old days when computers, phones, etc did exactly what you tell them to, and nothing else. I’ve already blogged about my phone, an Android smartphone with no ties to Google, but I still own some old PDAs (essentially a smartphone without the phone) and a couple of Windows Mobile smartphones. I genuinely believe that Windows Mobile 6.1 is still the best mobile OS ever created, so getting some of my older devices working again is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. The issue is ActiveSync. Before Windows Phone 7, Windows Mobile devices didn’t assume always-on internet (it was the exception rather than the rule in those days) so a mobile device was always expected to sync with a proper PC, much like early iPhones were expected to sync with a copy of iTunes. This was before common standards like mass storage existed, so plugging a Windows Mobile device into a modern PC will just give you a ‘device not recognised’ error, even if the cable does physically fit.

Microsoft are actually pretty good with backwards compatibility. I still have software written for Windows 95 running on my Windows 10 system with no issues, and I have an HD-DVD drive designed for an Xbox360 that just plugs into a modern Windows system and gets recognised with no tinkering required. But for some reason they seem to have dropped the ball on ActiveSync. After Windows XP ActiveSync was replaced with the Mobile Device Center, which continued to exist in Windows 7 and 8, and even early versions of 10. However, the creators update for Windows 10 broke the Mobile Device Center. It still exists (it’s probably in your Start menu) but it just won’t run if you have an up-to-date Windows 10 system. This means if you have an old Windows Mobile PDA or Smartphone, the only way to transfer files between it and your PC is to use a Bluetooth file transfer, and installing software on the device isn’t possible (yes, software had to be installed on Windows Mobile via ActiveSync, there was no app store!)

Mobile Device Center running on Windows 10

But there is actually a pretty easy way to get the Mobile Device Center working on Windows 10, and all it takes is a couple of registry hacks.

Firstly, open the registry editor. The easiest way to do this is to press Windows+R, type ‘regedit’ and press enter. The registry editor is a pretty powerful beast that allows you to do some serious low-level modification (and potentially damage) to your OS, so it’ll expect you to allow it admin access to continue.

Windows 10 Registry Editor

Now you’re going to have to find some existing keys and add values to them. In the tree on the left, look for HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE. Open the tree, and find System. Underneath that, find CurrentControlSet. Beneath that, find Services, and finally underneath that find RapiMgr. Click on RapiMgr in the left pane, and the right pane will show all the settings for that key. Right-click an empty area in the right pane to get a menu, and create a new DWORD value. When asked for a name, type SvcHostSplitDisable and press enter. Once the value has been created, double-click it to open, and make sure the value is set to 1, not the default value, which should be zero.

Now go back up the tree until you get to Services. Beneath this, find the key named WcesComm, and do the same with this key as you did last time, create a DWORD named SvcHostSplitDisable, with the value 1.

Once you’ve created these two values, close the registry editor, and restart Windows. When Windows restarts, open the start menu and type ‘mobile’ which should bring the Mobile Device Center into the search results. Open it, and there you go. You can now begin creating partnerships between your old ActiveSync devices and your modern Windows PC.