This website is using cookies. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. More info. That's Fine
HPC:Factor Logo 

Error: "<filename> is not a valid Windows CE application" when trying to install software


Applies To

  • Windows CE 1.0, 1.01
  • Windows CE 2.0, SP1
  • Handheld PC Professional, SP1
  • Handheld PC 2000
  • Windows CE 4.0, 4.1, 4.2 .net
  • Windows CE 5.0


When you attempt to install a Windows CE application onto your Handheld PC device after uploading the installer to your Handheld PC or after downloading it directly to your Handheld PC you receive the following error message

'<filename.exe>' is not a valid Windows CE application

Upon tapping OK the dialogue clears the screen and the Installer fails to launch.

More Info

When installing software or running executive (.exe) files on a Windows CE device it is important to understand the relationship that the programming of that file must have between both the Windows CE Operating System and the Processor (CPU).

Solution 1: For any application to run on your Handheld PC, you must use a file which is written (compiled) specifically to match the Windows CE version (CE1, 2, 3 etc.) , the Platform version if applicable (Handheld PC Pro, HPC2000, Pocket PC 2002, Windows Mobile 2003 SE etc.) and the processor architecture used on your device (SH3, SH4, MIPS, StrongARM, XScale etc.).

Only once all three criterion are met will a program run on your Handheld PC.

For example a Jornada 720 uses a StrongARM processor, running on HPC2000. HPC2000 runs on top of Windows CE 3.0, as does Pocket PC 2002. Despite the fact that Pocket PC 2002 and HPC2000 use the same Windows CE version, and that you have a StrongARM Pocket PC 2002 program - it will not run on HPC2000.
The Jornada 720 will not be able to run any SH3, SH4 or MIPS program, and will not be able to run any Windows CE 4 or 5 program.

If you are attempting to run a program for an incorrect CPU on your Handheld PC you will receive the error message stated at the beginning of the article. Ensure that you have downloaded the correct file to match your Processor and Windows CE version / Platform.

Solution 2: Many Windows CE software applications are distributed in Windows Installation packages. Although it may look similar, Windows CE is an Operating System based on an entirely different code base than main stream Windows releases. Unlike applications written for Windows 98 which can run successfully on Windows Millennium and XP. Applications designed for running under Windows cannot be executed on a Windows CE device.

Your Windows CE Handheld PC was designed to be a Portable Digital Assistant (PDA) or a companion device to your system, and as part of this was intended to connect to and synchronise with your Windows PC. Many software developers will release their Windows CE software in an installation package designed to run on the Windows of Host PC.
By doing this, the Synchronisation client application with then install the correct version of the Windows CE software on to your device - meaning you do not need to worry about finding the correct CPU and CE version of the program.

If the Windows CE application comes in a host installer you must either install the program from the Host PC using the synchronisation software for your H/PC (H/PC Explorer, Windows CE Services or ActiveSync) or obtain a CAB file for installation directly on the device.

Host installer icons

As a general rule an application with one of these icons is a host installer

See Also

Windows CE CPU ID Strings: CESD-D-0004
Installing Windows CE Applications from the Host: CESD-S-0046
Installing Windows CE Application using a CAB file: CESD-S-0047
Installing Windows CE Applications manually: CESD-S-0048
Obtaining Windows CE CAB files from the Host Installer: CESD-S-0049