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Lost your Symbian applications?

Update 2008-11-15: Sadly, I lost my apps again. This time it seems the installed apps folder was wiped out, along with data. Looks like another re-format is needed. This is very frustrating. None of my other mobile devices have been this unreliable. Being a long time user of Nokia phones, I’m very disappointed in Nokia. I’m using an N81-3 with latest firmware, and a Kingston 4Gb micro-SD…

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I got a Nokia Symbian phone about a month ago, and I soon discover that one major annoyance is that applications installed on the memory card may disappear. After a few trials and errors, and having had to reformat the memory card a few times (and painfully re-installing everything), I deduced the following:

  • The Nokia Symbian OS apparently keeps a filesystem cache on the card. It is this cache that causes the card to get corrupted.
  • This worked for me at least the last time it happened to me: When the applications appear to be lost, and re-inserting the card doesn’t seem to work, remove the card and do a filesystem check. I use Linux, so it’s fsck for me. I don’t know about chkdsk/scandisk/whatever. The recovered lost clusters are from the Private folder and are probably the newer one. fsck will put them in a folder called “000”. Rename the “Private” folder to something else and rename the “000” to “Private”. Do another fsck to ensure the filesystem is all nice and proper. Re-insert the card and hopefully you’ll find the apps all back again.
  • Based on the above observation, I believe it is probably a good idea to backup the “Private” folder every now and then.
  • The right way to remove a memory card is as instructed by the phone – remove the card first and then click ok. I don’t know what are the chances of filesystem corruption if you don’t adhere strictly to this procedure, but better safe than sorry…
  • When re-inserting the card, wait for a while. Don’t rush to open the Applications menu.
  • Don’t remove the card while in the Applications menu. I believe the last time I corrupted my card is because of this. I think you should not remove the card while using the file browser too. Likewise, don’t re-insert the card when in these places too.
  • Removing the card every now and then may not be a bad thing, so that all apps are closed and all open data flushed to disk, provided you heed the above point.
  • You may want to check your filesystem everytime you need to take out the card.

Please note that the above are empirical observations and some of them may simply be superstitious behaviour from a paranoid soul. Your mileage may vary. I hope this is the last time I lose my apps. Boos to Nokia and Symbian for coming up with such a lousy OS design.

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