Guide: Setting up Wireless sync with Windows Phone 7

No doubt, one of the coolest features of Windows Phone 7 and the companion Zune Desktop software is the ability to sync wirelessly. For years we've had to endure tethering our devices to our computers, loose USB wires everywhere, etc. (Even more ironic if you remember wireless syncing in ActiveSync before they removed it).

Consider this more of a walk-through/what to expect than a true "setup guide" only because Microsoft made it so easy that you really should have no problem figuring it out. Still, we'll show a couple screen shots of the process as well as tell you what you can expect. In short, it's a great feature and once you have your GBs of music loaded, you'll want to use everyday.

Read more after the break!

The first thing you'll want to do is sync up with the cable. You need to be wired before you go wireless. This is smart too as the first few syncs could be large if you're tossing over a few gigs of video and music; wireless is better for what I would call "maintenance syncs" where your updating content, adding a few new albums or photos, but not your whole library.

Once you have tethered synced and you played with your new phone for a few hours,  you should notice under the Device section a little "help balloon" window telling you about wireless syncing. If not, it's there under Settings where you can always enable or disable the service. (Settings --> Phone --> Wireless sync)

The best method to have all of this work is to have a home-network or Wifi already set up that both your computer and phone are connected too. Nothing fancy, you don't need to have any special settings that I know of, just as long as the computer and phone share the same internet connection.

Next you just follow the guided steps, verify the network and let it attempt to connect. You should then get a success window. Now leave your phone plugged in to the AC outlet or cradle if you have one.  Finally, about 10 minutes later, you'll hear that familiar ba-dun sounds from your PC like when you just connected a new USB device. Your PC will search for a driver and install it. This is the only time it happens as it is the first wireless sync. After that, you should be good to go! It's not a manual sync, so just let it update every once in awhile. It's also transparent, meaning you won't really see it syncing--it doesn't take over the PC nor the phone, it just happens and you won't notice. Beautiful.

What to expect: Microsoft has really made this "idiot proof". Both the process to set it up and how it runs is pretty hands off. Your phone will only sync with your computer when plugged into an AC outlet for more than 10 minutes. Odd restriction, eh? Perhaps not so much. They obviously are enabling a framework whereby you can wirelessly transfer media, but they don't want people's battery to deplete either. I think this makes sense though I could imagine a few people grumbling about the requirement.

From the PC side, you can at any time drag and drop media (pictures, videos, songs, or things purchases from the Marketplace including software) and it will be pushed to your device. The idea of having your phone on a cradle, charging and you at the computer should be enticing one--now you can add that new album, sync up that movie for the commute tomorrow, etc. without having to touch your phone. So far, the process is working out smoothly and Microsoft has a done a great job here so we strongly encourage you to use this feature.

Hit us upp with any questions in comments.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Great feature, and works well for me. Hell of a lot better than on BB OS6. I would have liked to see a pre installed app that allows you to use your WP7 as a Zune or Xbox remote, I imagine these will become widely available in the Marketplace in the future though.
  • I've seen apps that let you control your Windows Media Center PC from the phone, and there's also just shown up a app that lets you cnotrol your Windows Home Server as well it seems, though I don't think they're in the marketplace yet. A Xbox 360 remote would be interesting but I don't know if devs have access to the APIs needed, we'll see when MS starts rolling out updates and exposing more APIs to devs, things like sockets for example.
  • One thing I'm surprised at: plugging in a Windows Phone 7 device in an Xbox does...nothing. Nothing shows up, nothing happens. Figured there would be some tie in, guess not yet.
  • I think to justify the high marketplace prices for games, the average consumer would like to get more for his/her money.For £5 I want a game with serious playability with more than 2 difficulties.Would love to see WP7 devices to be able to transfer game saves from the 360.
  • Yeah, I had one such app back in '05 so I hope we'll see one (hopefully official or very well-designed and full-featured) in the Marketplace soon. As far as wireless syncing, this is a great feature that I frequently use on my Zune. I just wish I was able to download podcasts OTA without having to sync to a particular computer. Also, Windows Phone can't access hidden wifi networks - does that affect wireless syncing?
  • "Also, Windows Phone can't access hidden wifi networks - does that affect wireless syncing? " only if your network is hidden, then you can't connect in the first place, ergo sync. but if you're network is visible, it's pretty robust. I imagine the "hidden" network thing will be fixed in the first service update to WP7.
  • Hidden SSID's cause more trouble than they are worth, from what I understand. I think MSFT's stance on hidden SSID is that you should not do it and the company says doing so is a "bad idea." I would not count on a "fix."
  • I've heard that stance before but I don't know if it should determine WP7's ability to connect to hidden ssid's. They can proscribe the practice but it should be taken into account that 1)a lot of people find themselves in situations where they have little or no say on ssid visibility, i.e. their workplace and 2)smartphone users (esp ATT customers) have become increasingly dependent on wireless networks when they're out-and-about.
  • Do you have to be logged in (and presumably have the Zune software running) for the wireless sync? Back in the day I think I tried running ActiveSync as a service so I didn't have to always log in.
  • I haven't tried it with the software closed, but my assumption is yeah, it needs to be open. There is a "Zune service" app that runs and when you plug in a device, it auto-launches Zune Dekstop. Same thing may happen with Wireless sync. Will look into it.
  • On my zune hd I can force it to start a wireless sync, even if it is not plugged into a power simply, can this be done on windows phone?
  • Pretty sure no, will look into it though.
  • HELP!
    How do you sync Outlook 2010 Calendar and Contacts? It's hard to believe Microsoft would leave this feature out. Thank you!
  • Not working for me. It never sends the files. I'm gonna try again and report back.
  • Leave it plugged in for awhile. Apps take a while to propagate for some reason--not as fast as media.
  • Has anyone had trouble syncing after a first successful sync? We were able to wireless sync content from our phones after the 10 minutes idle time plugged into the wall charger. But it seems to be flaky - It hasn't synced in a couple of days and I'm certain that nothing has changed on my PC or phone.. wireless connectivity is good. It just doesn't seem to be triggering the wireless sync after the 10 minutes of idle time plugged in w/ >50% battery life. Thanks in advance.