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THOUGHT: Be careful if you are using Windows Mobile's Windows Live Messenger Mobile
Posted by Arne Hess - on Monday, 09.07.07 - 12:48:14 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 28076x
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Long time ago, I've ranted about the MSN Mobile Messenger and how unhappy I was, that Microsoft's MSN Messenger was so yesterday because it didn't support emoticons, file transfer, etc - all the latest stuff MSN Messenger for the PC (which is now called Windows Live Messenger) supported.
Then the first Windows Live Messenger Mobile appeared in a closed Beta and I was pretty amazed about the features (in the first Beta) and looked forward the final version which is now available for Windows Mobile devices (as long as the carrier didn't opt-out).

Anyway, as cool as the basic feature set is, Windows Live Messenger includes one feature I don't get - even after the product manager tried to explain it during the last MVP Summit back in March - and this feature is "contacts sync". Let me explain you what contacts sync does, if you haven't used Windows Live Messenger Mobile yet:

Contacts sync synchronizes your Windows Live Messenger buddy list from the Windows Live server to your Windows Mobile device and in worst case it doubles some of your contacts. Let's say you have a contact called Joe User which uses joeuser as his Windows Live Messenger's user name. Then, after the synchronization, you have two contacts in your contacts list - Joe User with all the Outlook details and joeuser with the Windows Live IM E-Mail. Every time you add a new user to your buddy list, this new buddy is synchronized back to your Windows Mobile device, next time you log into Windows Live Messenger from your Smartphone.

Okay, the fact that I have some/most contacts doubled is already annoying enough but it's even more annoying that Windows Live Messenger Mobile can wipe all your contacts from your buddy list and this happened the second time this weekend.
For some reasons, my Windows Mobile 6 Standard (Beta) smartphone lost all Outlook data on Saturday. It even forgotten, that it had an established Windows Mobile Device Center connection with my PC. When I figured it out Saturday afternoon I thought - as painful it is - it's not too bad at all since I have everything synchronized on my PC anyway. However - I made a big mistake: I went online with my smartphone and started Windows Live Messenger Mobile because I was looking for a friend. Seconds after I was connected to the Windows Live server I already wondered that only a few contacts were displayed but I thought it might be a problem with the Live service itself because of the Live Earth concert which was streamed from MSN.
So I forgot the problem and synchronized my smartphone later the day with Outlook to get all my lost contacts, appointments and tasks back to my device. Everything worked well and I haven't lost a single contact, appointment or task.

This morning, when I turned my PC on and logged into Windows Live Messenger, again I found a nearly empty Windows Live Messenger list and I remembered Saturday afternoon when I had the same empty buddy list on my smartphone. And now it became clear for me - Windows Live Messenger Mobile wiped my buddy list:

Because I lost all my Outlook contacts data, which also included these previously mentioned synchronized Windows Live Messenger contacts, the Windows Live Mobile client thought it's smart by also wiping my buddy list - which isn't smart at all and it's something I've never said to do! There was even not a single notification - it just happened.

Actually, this is the second time it happened to me. The first time it happened with the Beta 1 when I saw unknown contacts in my PC Outlook which I've decided to delete. Wasn't clever at all as I figured later out because these were the synchronized buddies and as soon as I synched Outlook back to my mobile device and used Windows Live Messenger Mobile the next time, it wiped my buddy list. Back in December it took me 4 months to get all my contacts back to my buddy list because I hadn't had a backup!

So my advice is the following: If you want to be sure, something like this will never happens to you - better don't use Windows Live Mobile Messenger on your smartphone! If you continue to use it anyway (don't say I haven't warned you) please make sure you regularly backup your buddy list on your PC:

  • Open Windows Live Messenger
  • Click Menu -> Contacts
  • Select "Save instant messaging contacts..."
  • Save the list of your contacts anywhere you will find it later again (and sooner or later - I'm sure you will need this backup as well)

And don't forget to make a backup regularly, at least once a month (or every time you've added a new contact to your buddy list).

For me, Windows Live Messenger Mobile became a love/hate relationship. As much as I like the new look & feel and the new features like support for emoticons and the availability of file transfer (which can become pretty handy - even on mobile devices) I *hate* this contacts sync feature! And don't believe you can turn it off. Even if Windows Live Messenger Mobile asks you during the first setup, you cannot turn it off. Because if you do so - Windows Mobile Live Messenger won't show you your buddy list - because you "have not synchronized" it.

Cheers ~ Arne


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