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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 26775x
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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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Posted by Jef on 09.07.07 - 13:52:28

I too had struggled with the WLM early on, but I found the best way to work with it is too delete ALL your local contacts on your phone.

Why?  because the duplicates issue is annoying, and I found it much easier to sync all of my contacts from my Live Contacts and manage them via Live Mail desktop or Windows messenger.

So now if I hard reset my phone, which wipes my phone contacts,  I just reinstall WLM and sync my contacts back.  I don't even sync with Outlook anymore for contacts.

It also gives me the added bonus of being able to maanage my contacts from virtually anywhere and have my phone be upto date.

Though I did find a bug with WLM that if you don't have any local contacts it keeps telling you there is a sync error, so I have 1 dummy contact which resolves this issue (I am on WM5), so I don't know if it exists in the WM6 version.

Always backup your contacts though smile

Posted by Arne Hess on 09.07.07 - 14:29:33

Jef, interesting thought but I'm not going to copy 700 contacts to a service if my main data source is the Outlook PST file on my PC. From here I'm managing my contacts, writing them E-Mails, inviting them to appointments, track the history, etc. If my Outlook isn't synced to Windows Live I have to manage 2 different databases and you can believe me, I will *never* sync my Outlook against Windows Live. Imagine if Windows Live thinks it's a "good idea" to wipe my Outlook? I have all my business contacts there and if I would lose them, I could close my business. That's one reason why I backup my Outlook PST once each week.

The workaround you are going is indeed an interesting one but I think Microsoft has to give users the option how to sync (or not sync) databases and the current way of syncing Windows Live with my smartphone only adds pain to me. I mean, Windows Live Messenger is also not syncing with Outlook on the PC, so why to do it on my smartphone?

Posted by Felix on 09.07.07 - 16:21:20

Happened to me once as well with my S710. Since it happened, I'm not using WLM anymore.

Posted by roma on 09.07.07 - 16:59:30

Same happened to me, all messenger contacts gone after a re-installation of my outlook contacts. Other thing that happened to me and I found extremely annoying is this: I live in The Netherlands, my Smartphone has also +200 contacts from my work. At work we use Vodafone as corporate mobile provider. Installing Live Messenger also automatically (!) sends invitations to all Vodafone Messenger users. Meaning all my work contacts got an invitation from me to join Vodafone Messenger by Text message. Not that my colleges knew what Vodafone Messenger was since we have no data plans on corporate phones, and even so, most of them do not know of the exictence of Vodafone Messenger. They do now know I use Messenger. Think of all the questions I got after the weekend. No more Live Messenger for me.

Posted by You Are Owned on 09.07.07 - 23:04:59

Big brother wants to own your contact list. Big brother says it's good to synchronise your contact list. Big brother says you MUST change your mind and love this feature. Big brother heard you didn't like this feature but big brother doesn't care about what you like. You MUST like what big brother likes.

Posted by Danny King on 10.07.07 - 15:23:16

I have a HTC Hermes which I updated to Windows Mobile 6.0 Final, not a beta, and I've never had this "issue".

The only thing I got is a few people having two entries in my mobile's phonebook because I'd already put their phone number in and they were on my Live messenger account.

I simply moved their numbers over to their MSN entry and that was that. Never had a problem since. I make regular PIM, contact list and outlook backups anyway as a matter of good practice and habbit, but most of the issues people have mentioned here I've never experienced.

One word, Beta.

Posted by bnycastro on 11.07.07 - 07:20:38

is there no way to disable the syncing of Windows Live Messenger desktop and Windows Live Messenger mobile version?

Posted by Arne Hess on 11.07.07 - 17:34:52

No, there is no way to keep the accounts/buddy lists separated. Only workaround is to create a second Windows Live Messenger account. However, this account syncs your buddies into the contacts database on the device which is next time synced to the PC.

Posted by jørn on 24.07.07 - 03:29:35

This "feature" is just plain stupid...

And now it suddenly stopped working altogether. "Synchronization failed." No suggestion whatsoever to WHY it failed.  I have a suspicion it might be because in order to activesync with my company Exchange server I had to agree to some security settings that won't allow Live Messenger to sync with my addresslist also...

"Feature" -> SHOWSTOPPER!

Posted by Lutz on 26.07.07 - 15:22:03

I've got another one.  I first let Messenger do its dirty deed (and confirmed it is working). Then I setup the ActiveSync connection with my work PC and told it to "Replace all information on device with that on desktop". 

Now the messenger contacts do not show up in Outlook (good) but the Messenger shows everybody as offline, even those contacts that are clearly online,  and doesn't allow me to start any conversation. (bad).

Has anyone seen similar behavior? Any ideas?

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