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!)

20 thoughts on “How to reinstall the Palm desktop and still access pre-existing data

  1. Hi

    Just tried this Jan 28,08 and am very happy to report that the process worked perfectly and saved me a great deal of frustration.

    Like you I keep my data on a second hard drive partition and back up daily to another physical drive with Second Copy.

    Struggling with the best protocol to synchronise two Palm data bases on two computers on the home network.

    Thanks again for this advise, invaluable.


  2. Greetings from Houston, TX.

    I have my computer setup very similarly to you…all data on D:, applications on C:. The Palm Desktop has always been painful to reinstall, for reasons you stated. This hack worked perfectly for accessing my existing user data with no hassle. Thanks for taking the time to post it.

  3. Thank you so much for this very helpful information. Not being the techinical geniuses that everyone else seems to be in the above comments, I was still able to follow your very simple instructions and was able to successfully re-establish a connection with my saved desktop file. Thank you so much for publishing this information. 🙂

  4. as of 9/5/10
    alright thanks man this worked great
    and @ John Leon this isnt a hack, its a simple process but whatever the last time you looked at this page was over 2 years ago haha

    peace ☺

  5. John, thanks for your post. It helped me line up Palm files OK. My Palm data files just went completely awol this last w/e. I have lost 2 months data, gone I don’t know where, now on April backup. (If this has happened to anyone else, I posted details on the Palm HP help blog..)

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    This site will likely have saved my butt. It help me to find my Palm data files after suffering a hard drive failure (RAID 1) that corrupted Win 7 Pro x64.

    Thankfully my extended warranty covered the drives and labor to reinstall WIn 7. BUT I had relied on Palm’s location for the data files (v4.x) and it was REALLY buried inside of Win 7 (Users\Admin\AppData\Local\VirtualStore\Program Files (x86)\palmOne) – thankfully my PC supplier copied the C: drive contents to another folder when they worked on my machine. I hardly use my Tungsten E, but I rely daily on the Desktop installed on my PC to maintain contacts & calendar.

    I am now faced with reestablishing the Pal Desktop on my PC. I know that it works under Win 7 Pro, since it was there prior to this disaster. But this time I’m kind of confident that I can divorce it from drive C: and put it on my Data drive D: which gets religiously backed-up. AND – I may be able to write myself a procedure to reinstate it the next time there is a problem.

    I found the following steps on another site which may help someone:

    To restore from backup, read through and then follow these steps:

    1) Restore this directory from backup. Make sure the
    restored files are read-write (especially those in the MemoPad\
    directory, such as memopad.dat, otherwise Palm Desktop will default
    to creating a new, empty db instead of importing the old data!!).

    2) Make a copy of the restored users.dat file from this directory; step 3)
    is going to overwrite the one here. (This directory might already
    contain a backup of users.dat, but it might be out of date; make
    another backup just to be safe).

    3) Uninstall and then re-install Palm Desktop selecting the “Custom”
    installation type if necessary to point the install to any
    non-standard User Data location. The installation will overwrite the
    users.dat file in the User Data location. Pre-6 versions of Palm Desktop don’t have an option for a “custom” User Data location. Instead, update HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\U.S. Robotics\Pilot Desktop\Core\Path after the installation.

    4) Finish the installation skipping the request for an initial device

    5) Right click on Hotsync in the system tray and exit (it holds onto a copy of users.dat too).

    6) Replace users.dat with the backup from step 2).

    7) Start Palm Desktop to confirm the data has been restored.

  7. Thanks!
    I can confirm that this work on Windows10 too. Moreover, I’ve put my Palm data in a folder in my Dropbox so that they are always synced across computers

  8. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I spent days and days trying to get my data to show up in the Palm Desktop program (Windows 10). Nothing worked until I followed your directions! Now it is all there, and stays there when I close and re-open the program.

    • hi Renee;

      Glad those instructions worked for you. That is now two people who confirmed the instructions work on Windows10, which makes me happy!!


  9. Hi

    Can we do it Without hotsync, we dont have our tungstein palm but we use the program on the computer. After installing Windows 10 we can’t see anything on the computer 🙁

    Do you Think if we do it your Way we Will get it back?

    Sorry for my bad english, I am Danish 🙂

    Kind regards

  10. Just another note on Palm and Dropbox.

    Palm Networking

    We use Dropbox for our common office files across 3 to 5 networked office computers. (XP, 7 and 10) The Dropbox file is not necessarily shared through our office network using the windows “share” function. Instead, each computer is set up with a desktop shortcut that opens the same Dropbox data, and is synced in real time on each computer through each computer’s installed Dropbox.

    For Palm, ( we’re using 4.1) we keep the Palm data in a Dropbox folder as a common repository for addresses etc. ( we don’t use palm devices; we just use Palm Desktop…. It’s super fast to open and extremely handy) Each computer links to the same common Drobbox palm data using the same Palm user name on each computer and is setup to read the data as per the registry hack John describes in his initial post. ( a longer process is described here)

    So now, each computer user on our network can add to or edit our common company files, which will then update through Dropbox.. The only gotcha is that we must cultivate the habit of closing our Palm software immediately after each use. This way we are reasonably sure two computers will not be reading the same data at the same time. No real problem if they are …. unless someone wants to edit or add a record. Since Palm writes the data back to the same files (overwrites), last person to close the shared data file wins. So, for instance, if I add or edit a contact and close my Palm, if another computer has the Palm software open, when they close their Palm, it will overwrite my edit.

    Of course, each user can also add their own personal User data using the Palm Edit User function. (top right) That data is probably better stored in the default Palm directory on the local computer. They will then have their “personal” files and also their “common” Dropbox networked files.

    This method of “Palm Networking” works great, but it’s not perfect. Truly networked files prevent file conflicts by warning that someone has the same file open and asking if you want to open read only or etc. Not so with this method of “networking” Last file closed is the next anyone will open.

    I haven’t explored what will happen if an offline computer makes edits and later does a Dropbox sync, when meanwhile another offline computer has made a different change. I’m assuming it would produce (user’s) “conflicted” files. But, since each computer would be looking for the original data, I suppose Palm would just ignore the renamed conflicted files, and still revert to “last Palm closed data wins”.

    For this reason, we periodically create our own backup folder (also in Dropbox) and copy our Palm data there, safely away from the active files. This way we can just copy them back using John’s method if there’s a problem.

  11. Palm Desktop 4.1.4 – Installing as a standalone program under Windows 10

    I picked Palm Desktop version 4.1.4 to help me manage my personal and professional life. I stayed with that specific version, Palm.exe 4.1.4 because it is compact(600Kb), very reliable, responsive and works very well under Windows 10. Palm Desktop 4.1.4 came out in 2005. The earlier versions of Palm Desktop were not good enough while the newer versions had issues. Because version 4.1.4 is so lenient every bit counts, a single byte can contain numerous parameters like colors and categories. I am using Palm Desktop as a Personal Information Manager. I use the four core applications that are Contacts, Calendar, Memos, Tasks. In my configuration, I have one Master computer to keep Palm Desktop up to date. I also have multiple Windows 10 computers that have access to shared Palm Desktop data. I synchronize the data using the network. The role of the Master Computer is to keep the Palm Desktop database uptodate, create backups and copy data to a shared directory on my router on a very regular basis. The shared directory just could have been located on a file server since I am using UNC(Universal Naming Convention). Because there is no built-in mechanism to lock files, multiple users can launch Palm Desktop but they should not modify data. Only the Master computer should be used to update Palm Desktop. For a router I use an RT-AC68u with a USB hard disk attached to it. It then becomes a NAS(Network Attached Storage.)

    Here is the detailed procedure that was used to achieve my goals:

    1- Install Palm Desktop using PD414esetup.exe fromCDs. It is also available from…/PD414esetup.exe. It is burried under support for Palm Desktop 4.1.4. When prompted for a user name type your full name like Firstname Lastname. Your name will be used to create a data directory for a specific user. It will be composed of the first six characters of your last name followed by the first digit of your first name. It will look like this: LastnaF. It will first be created on your master computer. This name is important because it is linked to the full name that was entered during the installation. Repeat the installation process for all non-master Windows 10 computers. When launching Palm Desktop for the first time, you may be probed for the same user name that you typed as Firstname Lastname. Always use the same “LastnaF” for all computers running Palm Desktop. Skip the HotSync operation when probed. Some extra configuration will need to be performed.
    a) From the properties of the icon on the compatibility tab, ensure that the option to “Run this program as admin” was selected.
    b) Start->Task Manager->Startup tab->Highlight HotSync->Select disable.
    c) Start->Task Manager->Startup tab->Highlight PalmOneProductRegistration->Select disable.
    d) Hide unused application icons from the Palm Desktop interface like Media and Versamail.

    2- Create a Shared directory to be used by all your Windows 10 computers except for the Master computer: Run Regedit and by modifying one location. HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\U.S. Robotics\Pilot Desktop\Core\Path, and change the data value to be the location of your existing data. In my case, I changed Path to the data value to be \”ROUTER”\PDshared where Router represents the shared directory you would like to use for all your Windows 10 computers except the Master computer. When Palm Desktop is started for the first time it will probe the user to create a user. Just type four first name and last name. It will create a users.dat file that will be stored in the directory above \LastnaF. All computers including the Master computer must use the same \LastnaF diectory. You can check that the directory was created properly by checking Tools->Options->General->Data Directory: it should indicate: \”router”\PDshared. When launching Palm Desktop for the first time, you may be probed for the same user name that you typed as Firstname Lastname if it does not find users.dat on the shared location.

    3- The bulk of the data is contained in 4 files only. The are located in a directory located under ..\palmOne\LastnaF\”application”.
    a) Copy address.dat to PDshared\LastnaF\address.
    b) Copy datebook.dat to PDshared\LastnaF\datebook\
    c) Copy memopad.dat to PDshared\LastnaF\memopad\
    d) Copy todo.dat to Pdshared\LastnaF\todo\
    A configuration file can also be copied to the same directory if missing. It is called uiprefs.dat. It usually does not change so if it is present there is no need to overwrite it.

    • hi Philippe

      An excellent excellent writeup. I dont have a windows10 machine, but these instructions look clear and detailed. Very nice work. Hopefully this will help others.

      Thanks for sharing.

  12. Hi John,
    Seeing this old blog gives me hope. Someone who really knows Palm Desktop! I know that it is long out of date, but I really like the Palm calendar and I have several years of diary data on mine. This was backed up on two computers, my desktop and a laptop. But a computer tech servicing my desktop, lost the desktop program. I have a start up CD, in fact I have two of them, which I loaded onto the desktop, but I am unable to Hotsync to it from my Handheld Palm. It goes through all the motions on the monitor, using the Handheld’s proper name, but no data is transferred.

    I still have my calendar data on the handheld and on my desktop, but I would be more comfortable if it where still backed up on two computers. Can you give me any advise?

    John Metcalfe

  13. John,
    I have read these blogs, but I am still befuddled. I have been using Palm Desktop 4.1.4 for a long time. Then with the Windows 10 update (Version 1903 OS Build 18362.295) about two weeks ago I lost all of my data. Fortunately I had several backups of the data. But then I saw 6.2 and decided to try that version of Palm Desktop. I finally did “Run as administrator” and got most everything back. However, some how I’ve got a Microsoft Access mdb file as part of my data. I don’t use Microsoft Outlook or Access. How do I get rid of that

Leave a Reply