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Enabling push e-mail on your Windows Mobile 5.0 PDA

Even older Windows Mobile 5.0 smartphones are capable of push e-mail, simply by applying a ROM update. We show you how.

Even if you've got an older Windows Mobile 5.0 smartphone, push e-mail may just be a download away.

Ever since Microsoft released the Messaging and Security Feature Pack (MSFP) for Windows Mobile 5.0 (WM5), a torrent of new pocket PC devices have been released with support for push e-mail, a feature that was previously only available to BlackBerry users. We've reviewed two such devices right here on, the HP iPAQ rw6828 and the O2 Xda Atom Exec.

However, many are not aware that owners of older WM5 smartphones (such as the original O2 Xda Atom) can also benefit from MSFP and its various upgrades, simply by applying a downloadable update.

Microsoft hasn't released a universal patch that can be applied to all WM5 devices, but rather has left it up to each individual device manufacturer to incorporate MSFP into future ROM updates. Thankfully, it appears that the vendors went about this in a speedy fashion.

"All the current device manufacturers have released their Direct Push [MSFP push e-mail update] for Windows Mobile 5," said a Microsoft spokesperson.

"If you have a device that is [running] WM5 that was purchased prior to the release of Direct Push technology, all you need to do is go to the distributor's website (e.g. for imate products) and download the latest ROM version and follow the instructions to flash the device."

Push e-mail running on the i-mate JAMin

Since each manufacturer offers its own instructions for installing a ROM update, it's difficult to give a universal step-by-step rundown of the procedure. However, all updates are applied via a direct ActiveSync connection with your PC, and there are a few general precautions you should follow:

1. Backup important files to a PC or memory card - Updating the ROM on your device erases all data. While the ActiveSync utility gives you the option of creating a ROM backup that's stored on your PC before the upgrade process begins, you should also make your own individual backups of important files. This is because a backup made when running an older ROM version can't be restored to a newer version, leaving you without a leg to stand on should the device fail.

2. Start from a clean slate - Reset both your PC and smartphone device before you begin the upgrade, shutting off all active applications.

3. Don't use a USB hub - Ensure that your device is connected directly to your PC via USB, as going through an external USB hub can interrupt the update process.

Caveat - Push is for the Exchange-enabled only
Once you've got the update installed you'll find that there are new messaging fields for inputting your e-mail account details. Before you can fill these out, you'll need to ensure two things: that you've enabled mobile e-mail through your carrier, and that your e-mail server is fully updated.

"With regards to the push e-mail, this only works from an Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2 enabled email server.

"To access POP 3 accounts such as Hotmail & Gmail you can do so, but it will not be push e-mail," the Microsoft spokesperson said.

POP3 account holders can still use the same messaging features as those with Exchange-enabled e-mail servers, however, this will be pull-based e-mail, meaning that the user will have to hit "Send/Receive" in order to download new messages, rather than them coming through automatically as with push-email.

A great visual tutorial on configuring your account settings for personal and corporate e-mail can be found on HP's website here. It refers directly to the iPAQ rw6800, but the instructions apply to all WM5 devices.

If you currently own a previous generation WM5 device and have been thinking of upgrading to a new smartphone purely based on the existence of push e-mail, taking the time to follow the steps above should save you a good deal of money.