Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Exporting your Windows Mobile Contacts

Just before I left Microsoft, I got a new Windows Phone 7 device.  I duly synced it to the company Exchange server and forgot about it.  Once I left Microsoft, I simply deleted the connection in WP7.  That turned out to be a big mistake.  Not only did I lose the email and calendar (which I expected), but it also blew away all my contacts on the phone as well.  That was tragic.  You see, I had been building these contacts in my Outlook and phones for years.  These were mostly personal contacts and lasted across many jobs.  These contacts existed nowhere else in the same form.  Heck, I didn't even have my brother's phone number as I only use my cell phone as my number memory.

Well, it turns out that my old Windows Mobile phone was my saving grace.  Since I had recently upgraded phones to my WP7 device, I had simply turned it off.  However, it had a complete copy of my contacts.  Here is how I fixed it (and will never have this issue again).

First, you need to find and install the excellent little app called PIM Backup.  This app look pretty sophisticated as it will backup pretty much everything on the device, including the contacts which is what I cared about.  Once you backup the device, you should go ahead and delete the Exchange partnership on the phone.  This will wipe the device of all your contacts.  You should simply go and restore the backup at this point and your contacts will be back and in good shape on the Windows Mobile phone.

Next, you should create a new Exchange Sync partnership on Windows Mobile and this time use Google.  It is super simple to setup and there are numerous guides (I followed this one).  You just need to remember to use your full email address for the username and no domain.  I chose to only sync contacts and within a minute, I had all of my phone's contacts in Google Contacts.

What followed for the next 30 mins or so was a simple cleanup of years of contact data.  I made extensive use of the 'Find & Merge Duplicates' option in Google Contacts.

Now, WP7 phones will automatically sync with Google Contacts, so I thought everything would be great.  However, there is one complication with that.  By default, WP7 treats Windows Live as special.  It appears that you cannot choose to ignore your Windows Live contacts and only use the Google Contacts.  This leads to an ugly mess on the phone as you will potentially have duplicate accounts or partial data in each.

The solution is to make sure that your Windows Live account is up to date with the right contacts as well.  For me, this was a simple as opening Windows Live Mail, deleting every single contact in it and importing the contacts from Google Contact.  You can export from Google Contacts pretty easily, so this was a very quick operation.  In about 5 mins time, my WP7 phone was synced and ready with my years of contacts.  Furthermore, this shouldn't be an issue anymore as I know have the contacts stored in both Google and Windows Live.

Next time, I will remember to delete partnerships with great care.