How-to: Install programs on a Windows Mobile Device

Difficulty: 2

Ss3There are numerous ways in which we can install programs on our devices. We hope to get most of our programs in the shape of a simple Windows installer file which makes installs straight forward and automatic. This is ideal and requires barely any input from the user. Unfortunately, some programs are not so straight forward to install.

As I have been installing a number of programs recently, I have come across many challenges and formats with each requiring their own little tweaks to get them up and running. A common reason for all the different installation methods is that the programmer has created the program but has not had the resources to package it into a nice installer.

This article will cover many methods to install programs onto your Windows Mobile Device. All you need to do is find a program to install, and then follow the corresponding instructions on this page. All are fairly straight forward once you know how to go about it, but can be a real pain if you are new to this.

While this guide is designed using Windows Mobile 5, the same methods are likely to work for other versions of Windows Mobile.

Common File Types:

Executable: When you download a program for your Windows Mobile device, the chances are that it will be an executable file of some sort. The file extension will probably either be an Executable(exe) or a Microsoft Installer(msi). These are the easiest of all types to install on our devices. Once you have connected your device to the computer, you can double click on the file and then ActiveSync or WMDC will open up and look after transferring and installing the program on the device.

The installer generally has a CAB file in it and copies this file to your device, automating the process below.

CAB Files: Another fairly common file type is the CAB file. These are little more tricky to install as we have to manually copy the file to our device and run it from there. The steps are listed below, Skip down to “Install a CAB file or Zip file”.

Zip Files: Zip files are the least common form of installation package. You generally see them when trying to install BETA programs to your device. More often than not, they contain a CAB file or EXE file in them. Other times you may find that there is a collection of files which don’t resemble much. With these files, we also have to manually copy them to our device. Then you run the files from where we copied them to. This gets frustrating navigating through “File Explorer” to launch our programs, so I will show you how to create shortcuts in your “Programs” folder to keep everything neat and tidy.

TSK Files: TSK files are Windows Mobile themes. Using the information below, copy these files anywhere on your device. If you go into your Today settings, your device will detect the theme and add it to the list. Select the new theme, and your device will guide you the rest of the way.

So that I don’t repeat myself too much, join the guide at the heading which is appropriate for you.

To install an Executable:

Launch the executable on your PC


Choose where you would like to install the program on your Desktop. This allows you to uninstall and reinstall your program at a later stage easily.


Exe3ActiveSync or WMDC will open up and install the software to your device.

Jump down to the “On your Device” section of this guide.










To install a CAB File or Zip file with multiple files in it:

Automatic Method: (Updated 29/8/2007)

CabviaactivesyncGet yourself a copy of CABviaActivesync and this will let you install CAB files directly from your desktop computer. This program works with both ActiveSync and WMDC.

Once installed, you can right click on CAB files within Windows Explorer and select “CABviaActiveSync”. The add/remove programs component of ActiveSync or WMDC will then be launched and do the whole job for you. This program really makes installing CAB programs a snap. Otherwise…

Manual Method:


Extract the CAB file or files and place it somewhere on your computer.

Right click on the uncompressed file/s and select copy.

ActiveSync will not allow you to copy directly from the ZIP file to your device.




Open up ActiveSync and select Explore.

You will now see a window showing the contents of your device.






Navigate through to somewhere on your device such as “My Documents” or your storage card. Right click and select paste. If you are installing an application of multiple files, it would be wise to place them in a new folder.


Your files will now be transferred over to your device.

Copy of sshot000

Navigate through to the file/s on your device using the “File Explorer” of your device.

Tap the CAB file.

Continue through to “On your Device” for the next steps.

If you do not have a CAB file, you should have a program launcher on your device, in the folder you created. Try tapping on the files to find the executable.

Go to the end of this article to see how to set up a shortcut in your programs folder.

On your Device: Join in here for all executable/cab files

Sshot001You will be asked if you trust the publisher and asked if you still want to install the program.

Make your choice by either pressing “Yes” or “No”.







Sshot003You will be asked where you want to install the program. Take your pick.

It is sensible to keep a fair bit of Device memory free, though it is desirable to put most programs in here.






Sshot004Your device will then install the program.










Hopefully, you will see that you have had success with a screen similar to this one.








In most cases, you will be able to search your program folder for the shortcut to run this new program. Sometimes a shortcut is not created so continue on if this is the case for you.

Creating a shortcut in your programs folder: 

You may find that you need to create a shortcut to have easy access to launch the application. To do this, do the following…


Find the application/executable on using your devices “File Explorer”

Tap on it and hold down

Select “Copy” 







Ss3Navigate through to Device\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

Scroll down to the bottom of the list, get the free white space.

Tap and Hold Down

Select “Paste Shortcut”





To uninstall programs:

Windows Mobile gives us a number of options for uninstalling programs. We can open “Add/Remove Programs” in either ActiveSync or WMDC. Then we can untick the programs we no longer want on our devices.

RemoveWe can also do this from the device itself by going into the “Start Menu”, selecting Settings and viewing the System Tab. In here is an icon to “Remove programs”. We can select the programs we no longer want on our device and select to “Remove” them.

Things get a little more complicated if we want to uninstall the programs that we had to copy the multiple files to the device. We need to locate the program manually using “File Explorer”. Once the program has been found, hold down on its folder and select delete.

I hope you will now have many successes in installing applications and themes onto your device. There is not a great deal of fun stuff that you can do with Windows Mobile when you initially open up our phone and start to use it. The range of freeware is huge installing some of these applications is a great way to get get the most out of your device. With the programs being so easy to uninstall, try some out. I am yet to find a program that has caused any permanent damage to my phones operating system.

I hope you have liked this article. Please stick around and check out some of my other articles at Inspect My Gadget.

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11 Comments so far »

  1. steve said, on October 18, 2007 @ 5:20 pm

    the clue about how to create short cuts was helpful

  2. Michael said, on January 17, 2008 @ 9:11 am

    While i try to install any CAB file on my PALM windows Mobile 2003 from memory , even using 1 giga mb of memory it automaticaly install the software direct to the main memory, it is not asking me where i want to install it.

  3. Inam said, on April 9, 2008 @ 4:06 pm

    Could you guide me as to how open the Zip files in the Pocket PC.

  4. Chris Duckworth said, on July 22, 2008 @ 6:29 pm

    Inam, some devices come with zip software, others do not. The first place I would look for software to do this is FreewarePPC.
    Alternatively, Rarlabs has a unrar tool for Windows Mobile devices. I haven’t tried it, but it may well do zip files also.

  5. george said, on August 22, 2008 @ 6:36 am

    excellent info enabling complete installation of cab and shortcut on mobile ETEN

  6. Karen said, on January 6, 2009 @ 12:28 am

    Any idea how to install .msi files on my PPC that is running Windows Mobile 5.0?

  7. Chris Duckworth said, on January 6, 2009 @ 8:11 am

    Hi Karen, MSI files are Windows installation files. Connect your device via ActiveSync or WMDC, and then run the executable from your computer. The program will install itself to your computer and then prompt you to copy the necessary files to your device. Then the walkthrough above, should get you the rest of the way.

  8. Terence said, on November 14, 2009 @ 3:08 am

    I am struggling to download software on my windows mobile HTC Touch Pro 2. After extracting the files on my PC, I copied these files on my storage card in my mobile. However, there was no cab file in the list of files. How do I install the program on my mobile. The zip file has a CAB extension. Is this also to be copied on the mobile?

  9. Robert Aksar said, on February 18, 2010 @ 10:44 pm

    Is it possible to install a dictionary commonly installed in a PC into a windows mobile device?

  10. Arinze said, on June 28, 2011 @ 4:33 am

    my windows mobile refused to open any application it wrote …Run tne application first then open the application within,please what can I do someone tell me to install evil application java first

  11. Olabode O.M. said, on September 2, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

    How do i download zip programme file direct to my phone without going through a computer and ‘am also wish to download bible into my mobile phone. Please put me through. My mobile phone type is nokia e5. Thanks.

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