How To: Install Windows Mobile 6.5 Right Now

The bad news: Windows Mobile 6.5 won't be coming out for a while, and you'll be expected to buy a whole new phone to get it. The good: You can actually install it today, on your HTC phone. Here's how.


Why should you upgrade to Windows Mobile 6.5? Disregarding the mixed coverage the OS has gotten—which tends to compare it to more modern software like iPhone OS and Android—6.5 is much, much better less terrible than 6.1, especially for touchscreen phones You've probably heard about the new graphical start menu and fantastic Titanium home screen; they're great, but there's a lot more to appreciate. IE has been updated; all menus are now finger-friendly; the whole system has inertial scrolling; there's been a system-wide cosmetic refresh. That's not to mention the upcoming Windows Mobile Marketplace, Microsoft take on the App Store. On top of that, at least in my experience, it's pretty snappy.

Dozens of Windows Mobile 6.5 Beta ROMs are floating around the tubes, collected, tweaked and prepared for your use by the kindly souls over at XDA Developers, from whom I've adapted this How To. Despite their unofficial-ness, they're really quite good—the fancy new interface elements are buttery smooth, and as a whole, and enough bugs have been stamped out to make 6.5 solid enough to use as your day-to-day OS.

This How To is based around my experience with a GSM HTC Touch Diamond. The process is largely the same between the few handsets that can run 6.5, but for the sake of brevity, I'm sticking to one handset, and its QWERTYed brother, the Touch Pro. For further guidance on other phones, head over to the XDA forums (CDMA Touch and Pro, Touch HD, Sony Xperia, Samsung Omnia)


Also, the necessary disclaimer: this tutorial reaches deep into your phone's software, which means there's a (slim) possibility that you'll brick your phone should anything go wrong. If you're worried, read up on the risks here. Otherwise, follow closely and you—and your phone—should be just fine.

What You'll Need:

• An HTC Touch Diamond or Touch Pro (GSM only. Folks with CDMA handsets—that's you, Sprint and Verizon—go here or here.)
• A (free) account at XDA Developers
• A Windows Mobile 6.5 ROM (Lotsa choices here: Diamond, Pro)
• A Windows PC, set up to sync with your handset
• A device flashing utility (Both)
• A bootloader (Diamond, Pro)
• A device radio (Diamond, Pro—Make sure to download from the "Original" list, not the "Repacked" one.)


Before you get started, you'll probably want to back up your contacts and personal info. I'd recommend PIM Backup, which I've used for years. Or you could try Microsoft's new, free online service called My Phone. This How To will replace all your device's software, so if you have anything worth keeping, you'll need to back it up.


Installing the bootloader:

Many of you have probably updated, or "flashed" your devices before, but this will have been with an official, signed utility from either your carrier or handset manufacturer. What we're doing today is installing unofficial software, something which your handset isn't currently set up to do. Our first order of business, then, is to install a new bootloader, called HardSPL, on the device, which will allow your handset to load software from third parties, i.e., your sweet, sweet Windows Mobile ROM. Let's go:

1. Connect your phone to your PC, and establish an ActiveSync (on XP) or Sync Center (on Vista, or Windows 7) connection to your device. You don't need to set up any sync rules—just makes sure the connection is active. You can check this by looking for a bi-directional arrow in your phone's taskbar.


2. Extract the bootloader you've downloaded, and note the location (see "What You'll Need" for links)

3. Find your extracted files, and run the executable file (usually called "ROMUpdateUtility.exe" or something like that.


4. Follow the instructions, carefully. The software performs lots of checks to make sure you don't goof this up, but make sure you a.) have at least 50% battery left in your phone b.) the correct bootloader c.) a host computer that won't shut off, go to sleep or otherwise interrupt the process. Heed! Or else there may be bricking.


5. Wait! You'll see paired progress bars on your phone and computer screen. This part of the process doesn't take that long, since you're only updating a small piece of software.

6. Restart your phone. The small text in the corner of your Windows Mobile splash screen will have changed to something unfamiliar, but don't worry about verifying your new bootloader. If you ran the utility to completion and the device restarted on its own, it's more or less a sure thing that you're upgraded.


Installing a new device radio:

This is the most esoteric part of the process, so I'll try not to get too deep into the nuts and bolts. Basically, your device has firmware that manages its various antennae, letting you connect to cellular networks, GPS, etc. Installing a fresh Radio onto your device usually won't make much of a change in how your phone works. it just lets us—or rather, your soon-to-be mobile OS, manage your phone's communication capabilities freely. Some radios can improve reception on certain networks, or even connect to entirely new mobile bands. For more info on that, I'l refer you again to XDA.


You'll probably notice that this process is seems an awfully lot like the last stage: that's because it is. Since we're "flashing" different parts of your phone's software in each step, the core utility, and general technique, is quite similar. Anyway!

7. Pair your phone with your PC, like you did in step 1.

8. Extract your downloaded radio files and note their location

9. If the radio came with its own bootloader, skip to step 12.

10. Extract your downloaded bootloader, noting location.

11. Copy the extracted radio file—it should have an .NBH extension—to the directory where you've put your bootloader.


12. Run the bootloader, as in step 3.

13. Follow the instructions, as in steps 4 and 5.

14. Let the phone restart. Nothing much will have changed, but you may need to perform some minor network setup. Don't worry too much about that now, since you're about to wipe your whole device.


Flashing the ROM, i.e. Installing Windows Mobile 6.5

This is when we get down to actually installing our new OS. This is the step that'll take the longest, and it's the biggest leap of faith, since you're replacing your device's main software. Luckily, if you've come this far, it'll be a snap. Same process, different .NBH file. Onward!


15. Pair your phone to your PC (this is the last time! promise!)

16. Extract your downloaded bootloader, again, to a different location. (Or you can use the same copy you used to flash your radio; just make sure you delete the radio file from the directory)


17. Extract your Windows Mobile 6.5 ROM, which should be an .NBH file of about 80-100MB, to the same directory that your bootloader is in.

18. Run the bootloader, and follow the instructions. Same warnings as before—don't let your PC or phone sever the connection at any point.


19. Sit and wait. This time it'll take a bit longer, but shouldn't top 15-20 minutes.


20. Your phone will reset, and you should see a fresh Windows Mobile 6.5 splash screen. It might look hacked or unprofessional—don't be alarmed! The guys who so graciously put together these ROMs, which often take a good deal of tweaking, leave their marks on the software in various ways. Anyhoo, you'll have to let your phone run through a set of initialization routines for a little while. Just follow along.

21. WinMo should automatically guess your carrier and apply the appropriate connections settings. If not, you can do it from the device's Settings page, found in the top level of the new start menu. As for the settings parameters, Google is your friend.




Congratulations! You are now the proud, semi-legal owner of a Windows Mobile 6.5 smartphone! It's hard to imagine wanting to switch back, but if you do, just repeat the above process with a different ROM. There are plenty of 6.1 installs, including the official carrier versions, available from the same place you found your 6.5 download.


XDA Developers

So that's about it! Please add in your experiences in the comments-your feedback is a huge benefit to our Saturday guides. Good luck with your flashing (firmware only, please), and have a great weekend!


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