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Using user swappable External Storage with a Windows CE device


Applies To

  • Windows CE 1.0, 1.01
  • Windows CE 2.0, SP1
  • Handheld PC Pro, SP1
  • Handheld PC 2000
  • Windows CE 4.0, 4.1, 4.2 .net


When you add a storage device to your Windows CE based Handheld PC a new folder will appear in My Handheld PC. This guide describes how to use external storage.


Windows CE devices all contain a limited amount of internal memory. If you want to expand the amount of storage space that your device contains you must purchase an external storage card. This usually comes in the form of a Solid State CF Card.

Storage isn't Memory

Windows CE devices run using a combination of RAM and ROM. The ROM contains the Operating System, providing an always available platform for the H/PC to run from. When in use, the ROM is copied into the RAM as Program memory.

Program Memory is a predefined area or Partition of the H/PCs RAM. The Program memory is used for executing programs, loading drivers and storing anything that is needed for processing.

The remainder of the RAM is called Storage Memory.

Storage Memory is an area of the RAM where you can write files and store data. Any file you copy onto your Handheld PC, including installed applications - as well as your PIM information synchronised from Microsoft Outlook is stored in this partition.

Handheld PCs allow you to change the ratio of allocated Program and Storage memory using the System applet in the Control Panel.

System Applet Memory Settings

Increasing the amount of Program Memory will increase the performance of your device, but reduce the amount of information you can store internally.

When you want to increase the amount of Storage Memory you will insert a CF card. CF Cards and other types of external storage have no bearing on the Memory Display in system properties. Only the Internal RAM is addressable by the system. External Storage can only be used for holding more data and installing more applications.
You cannot store your Outlook information on the CF card, or any other system database.

Using CF Cards

To Windows CE a Storage card is simply a folder in the system memory. You can view the Storage Cards currently in your Handheld PC via the Device tab in the System Applet (HPC2000 / HPC Pro) or in the General tab (CE1 & 2).

System Applet Device Information

If you are running your device on battery power when you insert a Storage Card, or if you soft reset on battery power with a CF card inserted you will be prompted if you wish to enable the card.

PC Card Battery Warning

The card will not be enabled unless you select yes. If you select No, the card will not be using battery power. If you later wish to use the card, eject and reinsert the card.
There is no way to disable the warning message.


When you wish to access the Storage Card, the process is similar to accessing a floppy disk on your main computer. With one exception.

Windows CE does not support the use of Drive Letters (A:, C:, D:, E: etc.) like mainstream Windows does. The Storage Card is simply a sub-folder of the file system. To access the card you simply open it's directory.

  • Open 'My Handheld PC'
  • To open the first storage card double tab 'Storage Card'
  • To open the second storage card and subsequent cards double tap 'Storage Card #'

The first storage card inserted into the Handheld PC will be assigned the name 'Storage Card'. The second will be 'Storage Card 2' and so on. There are ways to lock the names of the storage cards. Please see the Support section for more information.

The Storage Card folder then acts in exactly the same was as any other folder on your device, or indeed folder on your main PC.

My Handheld PC

You can install applications onto the CF card, just as you would into the main memory of your device. When installing through ActiveSync, you will be prompted if you wish to install the application into the default install directory. Choose no and select Storage Memory when prompted.
For more information please see the guides for Installing applications on to Windows CE in the support section.

Known issues

Boot Time Applications Cannot be installed onto CF Cards

If you wish to run a program at boot time (After a soft reset) you cannot install the application on to a storage card. This applies to Drivers, Hardware Utilities and programs with execute shortcuts placed in the startup folder. This symptom will occur irrespective of the power state of the Handheld PC as the CF Card will only be enabled once the H/PC as finished booting.

The desktop wallpaper will fail after a soft reset if stored on a Storage Card

If you store your desktop wallpaper on Storage Card, the wallpaper will not be displayed after a soft reset of the system. Irrespective of the battery state. Your desktop may appear blank or distorted.
To resolve this for that session:

  1. Right tap the desktop
  2. Select 'Properties'
  3. Toggle the wallpaper selected in the drop list
  4. Tap OK
  5. Your desktop wallpaper will now be restored