This is going to be a long rant about the new Nokia PC Suite Content Copier backup file format and how its software is NOT compatible with previous versions and there is no mentioning anywhere from Nokia (other than the fact they changed the backup file format stated in their help).

My wife recently upgraded from her Nokia 6230 to a brand new Nokia E61. She really liked the personal information management (PIM) features and that it had a full QWERTY keyboard.

Before switching to the new phone, she backed up the old phone’s content using the Nokia PC Suite Content Copier and it created a .nfb file which seems to contain all of the information.

After she got the new E61, she wanted to restore the data (mainly the Contacts with their phones and all) to the new phone, so she fired up the PC Suite only to find out that she needed to upgrade to a newer version (v6.82.22).

We upgraded, run Content Copier again and wanted to restore the files and then all hell broke lose…

The Content Copier pointed to another folder, not the one that her previous version used to store the backups (which was in My Documnets\My Backups folder). No biggie, so we searched for the term “nokia” around the machine and found the place where it kept the backup file (the one with the .nfb extension).

I pointed the Content Copier to that folder (that’s the only thing you can do) and it didn’t recognize it.

A little Google-ing and a little RTFM and apparently in the latest version of PC Suite, Nokia switched the format of the backup file to .nbu. Previous versions used two files, one with a .nfb extension and one with the .nfc extension. The new versions use one file with the extension of .nbu and according to their help (the one provided with the Content Copier) it contains both of the data of the .nfb and .nfc files.

They did not provide any help or way of figuring out how to restore an old backup in any way or form and it wasn’t even available after a lot of searching around the web.

There are a few pointers on the web in the Nokia forums for others with the same problem (you can searched with other terms and get lots more).

Luckily I’ve stumbled upon this program which can export all of the data from the .nfb files into plain text (and also extract the images and videos backed up in the .nfb file). There are also a Perl module and a Python library that can read and write .nfb files.

The best way to overcome the problem was to import the contacts which I now had in plain text into Outlook and sync Outlook back to the phone.

You can import CSV and tab delimited files into Outlook, but since my wife used the phone’s memory, it meant that we now had multiple numbers like cell phone number and home number assigned to the same contact (at least in some of them) and Outlook (and Excel for that matter) had problems figuring out how to map things.

So, I’ve cooked up this little Python script which converted the PHONEBOOK file (the one that contains the contact entries) into a CSV file. I probably messed a few of the fields there (and I’ll post some info on the PHONEBOOK file format later) but it worked.

We edited the entries in Outlook, synced the phone and finally had most of the data. My most you ask? because even though my wife specifically asked to also backup the SIM card, it did not do that and we lost a couple of contacts. Luckily the majority was in our hands.

I’m a VERY long time Nokia user and I think (most) of their phones are REALLY great but this is simply negligence. There is no other word I can think of at this moment to describe this situation.

So you’ve upgraded your software, great. But there is NO reason for you NOT to read your old backup files. You can generate the new ones but people, have you heard about backwards compatibility? Nokia is usually well knowned for their backward compatibility in user interface and other areas, but apparently someone screwed up big time with the newer version of PC Suite.

Why not read the old backup files? Why not say that I need to do this and that to convert them? Why not supply and program to convert them? This is not how things are done. Even Microsoft allowes you to open Office documents that were written in previous versions of Office. Come on, that’s one of the basic things you do!

What will other less technically savvy people would do? Start to re-generate their contact list?

Even if Nokia does have a way of doing it and they haven’t made it VERY clear for NORMAL users (I’m not included as a normal user, of course) how to find such a program (or guidelines) and use them its really really bad.

These are the sort of things that makes people switch to another cellular phone vendor.

I do hope someone from Nokia is reading this and will take care of these issues for the next version of PC Suite. It will also be nice to make sure that when someone sells you a brand new Nokia cell phone the customer is aware of what needs to be done to restore everything back to the new phone.