DO NOT use Windows Phone 7 as a mass storage device

Virtually every Windows Phone- and mobility-oriented web site and blog is publishing information about how to access the storage on your Windows Phone from a Windows PC as if it were a normal mass storage device. Some are even recommending this practice.

Please listen very carefully. Do not do this.

Microsoft very specifically designed Windows Phone not to be used in this way. The software giant is no stranger to mass storage, obviously, and if this wasn’t going to cause problems, they would of course have designed Windows Phone otherwise.

Here’s what Microsoft corporate vice president Joe Belfiore said to me on this topic the day after the Windows Phone 7 launch event in New York late last month:

“Windows Phone is not a mass storage device. It’s a Zune device. The data on the phone must be consistent, and [the system] needs to be able to identify items in storage. We don’t want the user to have to do that stuff manually. Yes, some may want to. But we wanted a synchronization system that was simple and easy and does metadata mappings automatically.”

This entry was posted in Windows Phone. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to DO NOT use Windows Phone 7 as a mass storage device

  1. jkavanagh58 says:

    I have heard the complaints from others I have been talking to about Windows Phone and even Zune from day one. While I agree I miss my Creative H320 because I could use it as a storage device and since I paid for it I should be able to use it. I am sure this argument will be trumpeted even more regarding how the phone handles the “removable” storage such as the microSD. I have too many USB drives as it is, personally I don’t want my phone to be used to tote around files other than pictures and my office docs. I think its a hard transition, I still have a CD case full of system recovery and other utilities and slowly that is being less relevant as I port and update those tools to USB keys. I think if WindowsPhone gets tighter SkyDrive integration, the need to hack to store files becomes a moot issue.

    • paschott says:

      I disagree on SkyDrive reducing the need for transporting files. You still need a data plan or access to WiFi in order to use it. I think it’s a good idea to integrate, but with data plans becoming tiered, I don’t see them as ideal for transporting files. I also seem to remember there’s a limit on the size of the file that can be stored, though I could be wrong.

      I do tend to agree that I don’t want to use my phone to transport files for others – most people won’t have the drivers and USB Drives are getting cheaper all the time.

      • jkavanagh58 says:

        Yes data plans are the barrier but, what type of files? What large files and how are they consumed? I guess where I am going with Skydrive or other online storage, most of these “large” files are better consumed on a computer. Again I am curious what the need is and how it ties to a phone.

  2. paschott says:

    Just curious – is there actually any real data on what will happen if the device is used for mass storage other than this “it wasn’t intended for that” answer? I’m not planning to do that – seems like more of a pain than it’s worth – but I don’t see anything here other than a “we didn’t intend for that” type answer.

    I’d love to know if there’s an actual reason other than this. Will it corrupt files? Will it degrade performance? Like I said – no interest in doing this myself at this time, but I’d love to know the details.

    • AK says:

      I was wondering this, too. He’s like, “DO NOT DO THIS. It wasn’t what we wanted you to do.”

      Is there any actual downside, or is it just “If you do that and screw something up, it’s your own fault.”?

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        I’ve been warned that doing so can ruin the data integrity on the phone and cause reliability issues.

      • My guess is that it won’t hurt anything. Beyond that, when you start hacking around and you get into trouble, don’t complain that you had to reset your phone. That is problem I see with folks. I hear “I tried to install xxx Mod and I had to reset my phone, Android sucks” quite a bit from semi technical friends. Point is, if you want to hack around and play and accept the consequences freely, go for it. If you are not willing to wipe and reset, leave it alone.

    • charleshuegli says:

      Yes, I am also curious. What happens if we do? Then, based on these consequences, we can make our own judgement. Please, Mr. Thurrott, give us information rather than orders.

      • jkavanagh58 says:

        I can’t speak for the author but I didn’t take it as an order, but much rather a warning. I mean the rumors are that using the internal storage as a drive can brick the phone and if you choose to, then at least the potential problems had been advertised.

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        Right. I mean, please. It’s your phone. Enjoy that. :)

      • jkimrey says:

        In all due respect Charles, I would say that the post IS information rather than “orders”.

        The information is that Microsoft has stated that accessing the phone as a mass storage device via the PC is a bad idea.

        The consequence of doing so is (potential) data integrity issues. Usually these type of issues can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, over differing periods of time.

        All I know is that when Joe Belfiore told Paul there would be issues with using various memory cards in the Samsung Focus, there were a lot of people who didn’t feel that would happen.

        Experience has shown that Mr. Belfiore seems to know what he’s talking about. I, for one, appreciate hearing what he has to say on the various issues, which is the *information* that Paul is providing.

    • nulldev2010 says:

      #1: For performance reason, the synchronization software (Zune in this case) may depend on the fact that files are not moved around by the user. If the assumption is broken, the sync may not be performed correctly. For example, I use Microsoft’s SyncToy tool to echo file changes from internal HD to external HD (as a regular backup) and if I delete some files from the back-up media manually, it seems to confuse SyncToy’s incremental backup state and the future backups are not reliable.

      #2: WP7’s software keeping track of media files may get confused?

  3. moonman says:

    RAID. I think that says it all. You just don’t yank out one of your RAID volumes. Except if you want to end up with corrupted files…

  4. strykergt says:

    This line worries me. :(

    “Windows Phone is not a mass storage device. It’s a Zune device. ”

    Does this means they are not going to treat the WP7 as an enterprise level OS ?

  5. Mike Cerm says:

    I know that the iPhone sort of changed the landscape in this regard, but I prize user-accessible file-system as one of the defining characteristics of a smartphone. Locking users into using ANY media management software (be it iTunes or Zune) does not actually benefit users in any way; it’s basically just another layer of DRM.

    I actually like the idea of having media management software to handle syncing, as opposed to dragging an dropping music and playlists onto my devices. However, on a smartphone, where you’re editing documents, viewing PDF’s, and so on, there should be a drag-and-drop way to put such documents onto the little computer in your pocket.

    If you ask me, this little registry hack makes owning a WP7 device a possibility. It’s encouraging to know that Microsoft could just flip a little switch in a future update and provide this much-needed feature.

    • Unfortunately, they will probably flip a switch in the other direction to disable this ‘hack’. Since that isn’t what they want it to do. It is more likely that you will see some sort of document sync added to the Zune software.

  6. gpsarakis says:

    You know what MS could do for this? They should toss in a “storage app” or feature and let users allocate X number of GB of the phone to act as a usb storage device, this would not get touched by the rest of the phone so that nothing can get messed up etc, and people can then use it to carry around files from on PC to the other.

    If it’s media files though, I don’t see the issue with just using the Zune PC software to sync them, keep in mind if something like video sync is taking long it’s probably because the Zune PC software is transcoding it so it’ll play on the phone. If all you do is drop media files on the phone via the USB mass storage method you don’t know if those video files will even play, even if they are .avi, that means nothing since .avi is just a container for other things.

  7. Pingback: WinExtra’s Daily Brief: Deals Deals Deals | Paul O'Flaherty

  8. Pingback: Microsoft: Windows Phone 7 NOT to be Used as Mass Storage Device | Windows Roundup

  9. Pingback: Access files on your Windows Phone 7 device without the Zune software [Updated]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s