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Installing Applications from a Host Installer without a connection to a Host PC


Applies To

  • Windows CE 2.0, SP1
  • Windows CE 2.11, 2.12, SP1
  • Windows CE 3.0


Many Windows CE applications are distributed in an installer file which must be run on a Windows based PC running Microsoft ActiveSync. If you are unable to connect your Handheld PC to the PC to synchronise you will not be able to install the application using the automated installer.

This article described how you can obtain the Windows CE Cabinet installation files which can be uploaded to your Handheld PC in order to install the application without using ActiveSync.

NB: This article is not applicable to Windows CE 1.0x

How-to Guide

Host installers are a method of installing applications to Windows CE based mobile devices without requiring the end user to have any more technical knowledge than to connect their H/PC to the Host and how to use the stylus.

At the heart of any Windows CE installer are Cabinet installer packages. For more information on Cabinet installation packages see CESD-S-0047. The Host installer program will copy the files required for use on the H/PC as well as integrate it into ActiveSync's remote installation services. The trick in bypassing the ActiveSync is to extract the files either after you have installed the application. Or directly from the installer without even running it on the Host.

NB: The processes explained here are not going to work with every Host installation package. There are many Installer environments. Some of which are easier to bypass than others.

There are two procedures list here. One entails installing the host package. The other attempts to bypass it.

Obtaining the Cabinet files after installing on the Host

Host Installers all have to interface with Microsoft ActiveSync. There for if you can bypass the ActiveSync check at the beginning of the installation, you will be able to locate the files on the hard disk and then copy them to your Handheld PC by other means.

When beginning the installation if you are presented with the following error:

Windows CE Services Error

In some cases you will be able to bypass the error by clicking different areas of the interface after the error. Try clicking the cross in the top right corner, cancel instead of OK or other combinations to try and bypass the error.
For additional information on bypassing the Windows CE Services not found error, see CESD-S-0085.

If you succeed the installer will copy the files onto your Hard Disk. You will usually find them in either:

  • x:\Program Files\Microsoft ActiveSync\<application / manufacturer>
  • x:\Program Files\Windows CE Services\<application / manufacturer>

Where x: is the drive letter with your Operating System is installed on

In some occasions the host installer will copy the files into a manufacturer / application specific folder directly under x:\Program Files\.

You simply need to copy the Cabinet file that is appropriate to your version of Windows CE and your H/PCs processor to your Handheld PC device as is outlined in the Cabinet Installer guide.

Extracting the Cabinet files directly from the Installation package file

Some file decompression and extraction applications. Such as WinZip, WinRAR and 7-Zip are able to look inside some .exe installation packages. With such a utility you can bypass the Host Installation and directly extract the Cabinet files. As a starting point, it is recommended that you install the free 7-Zip program onto your computer.

1. With 7-Zip installed, right click the Host Installation .exe or .msi file

2. Select '7-Zip' from the right click and from the pop-out menu click 'Open archive'

3. Look through the contents of the .exe or .msi files for the .cab installation files. Depending on the installer application that the .exe contains. The Cab files extracted may not be Windows CE Cabinet files. They may be Windows data store files, which use the same compression techniques but do not contain installer scripts. If data stores are extracted then you will have to obtain the Windows CE Cab files by other means.

4. If you see a list of Cab files who's file names contain Windows CE version or processor type information. You simply need to select the cabinet file relevant to your Handheld PC follow the Cabinet Installation guide CESD-S-0047

Download: 7-Zip