How to reinstall the Palm desktop and still access pre-existing data

I always organize my applications separately from my data files.

  • All applications go under their default install location (ie: “C:\Program Files”).
  • All data files go under one separate tree (ie: “D:\John”). This allows me to easily migrate from one computer to another, do backups, replace disks, all without worrying if I missed any of my files. So far, so good.

Recently, I had to re-image the C drive on my laptop, and re-install WinXP, which in turn meant reinstalling all the applications. Tedious, but not a worry because all my data was safe on the other D partition, and I had all the original CDs.

For the most part, that worked perfectly. The only gotcha was while re-installing the Palm Desktop (v4.2).

I was concerned that the installer would overwrite my preserved data directory, so I told the installer to use the default user-data directory (ie: put user data under “C:\My Documents and Settings”). Once the installation was complete, I started the Desktop application, went to Tools->Options dialog box, to the “General” tab and tried to change the “Data Directory” to point to my existing “D:\John\PalmPilot” directory. Hitting “OK” failed out saying the directory “cannot be used to store your data because it is being used by another user”. Huh?

Turns out the solution is to:

  1. Shutdown the Palm Desktop application, and close the HotSync task icon in the windows taskbar notification area.
  2. Start “Regedit” (by doing Start->Run, enter “regedit” and click “OK”)
  3. In Regedit, search for the key “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\U.S. Robotics\Pilot Desktop\Core\Path”, and change the data value of this to be the location of your existing data. In my case, I changed the data value to be “D:\John\PalmPilot”.
  4. Save and Exit Regedit
  5. Start Palm Desktop and confirm that it now automatically opens up the data found in D:\John.
  6. Restart hotsync, palm desktop, and verify that you see your data in the Palm Desktop application
  7. Hotsync and verify that changes show up on both your PC and your Palm!
  8. Done!

(Credits: I originally stumbled across this registry hack in a post I can no longer find but I will update this blog if I find it, because they saved my neck. Subsequent searching I also found Both postings were framed around setting up shared access to Palm Pilot calendars. The same registry hack worked for my problem, so I’m posting them here, in case it helps others in the same situation… and so I can find it easily if I need it again in future!)