Two days ago I responded to a question from D.K. who somehow managed to wipe out Contacts in both Outlook and a Windows Mobile Smartphone. This is easy to imagine since most people don’t back-up their Outlook data (or anything else for that matter) and Windows Mobile Smartphones have never had a backup via ActiveSync or to a storage card provided by Microsoft. Microsoft assumes that the persistent storage in the Smartphone (and Pocket PCs starting with Windows Mobile 5) keeps data safe from a battery rundown while the IT staff behind an Exchange server keeps your data safe from accidental erasure. But, oh wait, not everyone has an IT staff and Exchange Server to backup their data. Doh! So, why did Microsoft remove even the so-so ActiveSync backup/restore for the Pocket PC too? Remember, Windows Mobile devices are not intended for individual consumers. Look at the Windows Mobile 6 reference guide again. See the users categories? There isn’t one for consumers.
So, if you, like me, do not have IT staff and Exchange Server to safeguard your data, you better learn to be your own system administrator if you plan to keep using a Windows Mobile device. You can start by getting into the habit of making regular backups of your Outlook data so you don’t lose everything one day like D.K. The first thing you need to do is find it. Microsoft created ridiculously deep and confusing directory structures that make it difficult to find files (although Windows Vista’s find helps a lot). Let’s start with what most people use: Windows XP and Outlook 2003 (I’ll cover Windows Vista and Outlook 2007 later). Here’s how to find your data.
- Start Outlook 2003
- Data File Management…
- Most people at home will have one data file named Personal Folders
- Open Folder
- Windows Explorer opens up to the directory with your Outlook 2003 files
- Copy all the files from this folder to one or more backup devices
- I back up my files to multiple places including a USB hard disk drive, CompactFlash card, and a USB Flash Drive. You might even want to burn a CD-R or DVD+R disc once a year or so.
You might also want to consider investing in a Windows Mobile backup software from Sprite or Spb that creates backup files on a flash card in your device. And, again, you should copy the file off the device to your PC in case you lose or destroy your mobile device.