Tutorial: Install Software CAB File to Pocket PC / Windows Mobile Smartphone

The following tutorial is for Windows XP Users. Windows Vista users should visit:

How to Install CAB File Software to Windows Mobile in Windows Vista

The .CAB file PocketGoogle.cab is stored on our Windows PC's desktop and is ready to be moved to our Pocket PC, but how?  We'll tell you...

Most software for Windows Mobile devices (Pocket PCs, touchscreen Windows Mobile Smartphones and non-touchscreen Windows Mobile Smartphones) is downloaded as an executable .EXE file. These files run within Windows, then install themselves on your Pocket PC or Windows Mobile Smartphone via ActiveSync.

Sometimes, however, a program is downloaded as a .CAB, or cabinet, file. These files are designed to run and install themselves within Windows Mobile, and must be transferred to your Pocket PC or Smartphone before they can be installed.

In this tutorial, we'll show you how to install applications distributed as .CAB files on your Windows Mobile device.

NOTE: For the purposes of this tutorial, we'll install Pocket Google on a Dell Axim X50v Pocket PC; however the same process works for non-touchscreen Windows Mobile Smartphones. The filename for the installer is PocketGoogle.cab.

Step 1: Moving the .CAB File to Your Windows Mobile Device

Our first step is simply transferring the .CAB file to the Windows Mobile handheld. The installer file PocketGoogle.cab is located on our Windows desktop.

To begin, connect the handheld to your Windows PC using a USB cable or cradle. Allow the synchronization process to complete. Inside ActiveSync, click the Explore button on the toolbar:

Use the Explore feature of ActiveSync to view the files stored on your Windows Mobile device just like you would view the contents of a folder stored on your computer's hard drive...

The Explore feature of ActiveSync is very useful; it provides access to the files stored on your Pocket PC or Windows Mobile Smartphone inside of the Windows OS.

With the Mobile Device screen open on your desktop, left-click and hold the .CAB file, and drag it to the Mobile Device screen, then release the mouse button:

Drag and drop the .CAB file from your Windows PC to the Mobile Device window.  Dragging and dropping files from your PC to your Windows Mobile device is exactly like dragging and dropping files from one folder to another within Windows...

That's it. The file has now been transferred to the mobile device.

NOTE: If you copied the file to a subfolder rather than the root "Mobile Device" folder shown above, you'll need to note the .CAB file's folder location for the next step.

Step 2: Install the .CAB File's Software

Now that the .CAB file has been copied to your Windows Mobile device, we're ready to install the program.

On the handheld, tap Start > Programs > File Explorer. If you followed the instructions above and moved the file to the root Mobile Device window, navigate to the My Documents folder:

Use File Explorer to view files stored on your Pocket PC / Smartphone.  Just like "My Computer" on your Windows PC, File Explorer allows you to manage, run, edit, copy or delete files stored in your device's memory...

You should see the file you transferred in the My Documents folder. When you find it, tap it with your stylus (or, on a non-touchscreen smartphone, highlight the file and hit the OK key). The .CAB file will begin the installation process. Follow the instructions on screen, which may vary from program to program:

Allow the installation process to complete...

Your software has now been installed and is ready to use:

Installed software, in this case Pocket Google, show up as an icon in the main Programs menu...

Final Thoughts

In some cases, opening a .CAB file and installing the software contained within will cause the file to be deleted when the installation process is complete. In other cases, you'll need to manually delete the .CAB file using File Explorer. Leaving the .CAB file in your handheld's memory will take up space, but is perfectly safe.

If you're more comfortable moving files to your Windows Mobile device using a flash memory card and a memory card reader, feel free to do so. This tutorial covered the ActiveSync method of transferring files in the interests of universality (since some users don't have card readers in their PCs).

It is also possible to download software contained within a .CAB file directly to your Windows Mobile Pocket PC or Smartphone from the Internet. If you download the .CAB file directly to your device, simply begin at Step 2 to install the software if it doesn't install automatically.

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