Windows XP Bluetooth Support : A Rant

As promised, I thought I'd rant a bit about the Bluetooth (BT) support in Windows.

In the beginning there was Windows XP and it had its BT support cut before release, as the standard was very new, and I think that was the right decision at the time.

Then there was XP SP1 which added the provision for BT support, but you had to install the BT stack that came with your hardware device (known as a BT radio). The quality of these stacks varied by vendor, and by OS. My wife successfully used the Belkin BT radio on Windows 2000 to sync her T68i without issue (well except Setup was tricky). Meanwhile I tried the same Belkin BT radio on XP and it couldnt see my P800 at all. I switched to the TDK BT radio and not only could it see my P800, but it came with a P800 Config Wizard to help me set it up. (Bluetooth is so hard to configure that Wizards for specific devices are necessary: sad but true). For all of this the BT radio is exposed to applications as a serial port.

Microsoft released its own BT hardware (mouse and keyboard) which came with a Microsoft BT stack. You'd think that would be the end of it, but no: the MS stack only supported enough for the MS mouse and keyboard. Serial port emulation was missing, which made it useless for syncing phones, among other things. In addition the box has a warning that says you can only have one BT device installed at a time, as the BT stacks conflict. Imagine if printers were like this! So much for plug & play huh?

I liken this mess to the similar mess in the early 90s with TCP/IP and Windows 3.x. Different vendors had different TCP/IP stacks, with different APIs, that were incompatible with each other, making TCPIP app development a nightmare. What solved this? Windows For Workgroups 3.11, which had a Microsoft TCPIP stack. It worked on any net card, and forever solved that problem. It didnt do any favors for the TCPIP vendors of the day, but good riddance, I had terrible experiences with every 3rd party stack I tried.

We need a similar solution for bluetooth in Windows XP: A Microsoft-supplied BT stack, that is fully featured, and supports all hardware via PnP. The answer should be XP SP2 which has real BT support. I did try the first test version but probably shouldn't say what is in there exactly. However I can say that there is at least hope that SP2 will be my BT savior. We'll see.

My car on the other hand is already BT enabled via a tiny add-on hands-free kit. I can make calls and answer the phone in my car all without any cables, leaving my phone in my pocket. Configuration was simple, and It Just Works. I hope one day my PC will offer the same level of BT functionality as my car. If only I could charge my phone over bluetooth...

Disclaimer: these are my personal views and may not be those of my employer, Microsoft.

Comments (34)

  1. Mo says:

    I agree 100%!

    I’ve had pretty much the same problems. Hopefully somebody in a influential position can push an official BT stack into XPSP2 before it gets too far into testing 🙂

  2. Snorrk says:

    Hear hear!

    I’ve had the exact same problems with SP1 as I have a SonyEricsson T610 and a MS BT Intellimouse Explorer.

    Actually the USB BT adapter that came with the mouse doesnt work – the response time was terrible (something like 500ms in 200ms intervals) – totally unusable. On the other hand the built-in BT in my IBM T40 works quite well – but with some annoying delay though :/

    I’d like to point out that the BT support in MacOSX is just sweet grin


  3. Andy Pennell says:

    I upgraded to a newer SP2 test build, and with slight assistance from two kind folks from the BT team I successfuly sunc over BT! Oh yeah! At last XP is going to get rocking bluetooth support.

  4. Steve says:

    So how did you do it?

  5. Andy Hemphill says:

    Can you help a beginner ?

    I brought the MS bluetooth keyboard and mouse, I tried to install SP1 to my XP system, but for some reason it gets about 5 seconds into loading and then just stops … Im not sure what the problem is … please please help !

  6. Andy Pennell says:

    Sorry Andy Hemphill but this is not a support forum, plus about all I know about Bluetooth is right here in this blog.

  7. d says:

    I wouldn’t bother waiting for SP2, the belkin dongle is not supported in RC1.

  8. psyche says:

    I got sp2 the other day and was quite excited about getting the bluetooth stack that I THOUGHT i was getting with the MS BT keyboard and mouse over a year ago. . .

    So far I’ve been able to send pictures to my T610 phone, but unable to send from phone to computer (which is what i really want to be able to do).

    So I remain furious about MS’s BT.

  9. Andy Pennell says:

    S/E software previously installed. Plugged in my TDK hardware, waited for the driver to be installed. BT icon appeared on task bar. Double clicked that, Added my P800 (which had its BT set to Discoverable) with a passkey. This created two COM ports, COM7&8. Double clicked on Phone Connection Link (from task bar) and checked COM7 and COM8. Rebooted. When XP came up, the P800 icon was active on the task bar. As "d" says above, the Belkin radio is not supported in RC1.

  10. Yogesh says:

    I’ve Windows XP/Bluetooth-USB and Nokia 6600. Tough time connecting XP-Nokia 6600. Discovery was easy. Connecting a BT-Serial is tough. Half of the time, i’m not able to connect.

  11. adib kadi says:

    thank you very msuh

  12. Jacco de Leeuw says:

    A standard stack is long overdue. Mac has it, heck, even Linux has it. I just bought my first BT adapter: under Windows the v1.0 driver only support the PAN profile, which makes it next to useless. Whereas under Linux it worked out of the box. So I’m going to return it and get a different brand.

    People will be in for a surprise when SP2 is released. Will the new BT stack support their hardware? I fear that there will be no driver updates for el cheapo devices from SE Asia.

    I’d say Microsoft screwed it up on purpose. Not invented here syndrome…

  13. I’ve got the BT stack in SP2 working fine. I can sync bth a Palm and a Pocket PC to it wothout too much trouble. However, I;d really like to be able to surf the Internet on my Palm via a Bluetooth connection to my PC. However, the BT stach in RC1 lacks a LAN profile. The PAN profile does not work for this.

    Any idea if the final release of SP2 will have a LAN profile?

  14. Robmc says:

    I have had minimal success with XP SP2 and my T616, I have connected to the net thru the bluetooth modem but I have to reset it up each time I want to use it. I have not been able to Xfer pic from phoine to PC…….

  15. Igor says:

    Like most people in this discussion, I’ve experienced the "wonders" of SP2 RC1 Bluetooth support. After spending 2 hours on the phone with D-Link Customer Service about my brand new D-Link DBT-120 Bluetooth USB adapter, I gave up. Microsoft driver says that the device is working great. The D-Link software (the thing that configures synchronization between phone and Outlook) says the adapter doesn’t exist. I’m determined to send the adapter back.

    I wonder, does anyone know if Microsoft published a list of Bluetooth adapters officially supported in SP2? I don’t want a repeat of my D-Link incident. Thanks.

  16. Gino Latino says:

    Got the Dell Inspiron 5150. Need help and support s/ware for BT.

  17. Andy Pennell says:

    I am now running RC2 (Release Candidate 2) and am pretty happy with its bluetooth support. My TDK USB adaptor still works fine, plus now my old Belkin USB adaptor works too.

    However its a pain having a USB radio hanging out the back of a laptop, so I’d prefer to use my internal bluetooth adaptor. Right now Toshiba don’t have a compatible driver for my Toshiba M200 Portege: I hope they fix that before SP2 RTMs.

    The remaining issue for me is the bluetooth profiles that the MS stack supports. On my phone it offers me Dial-up Networking and virtual COM port. The latter means I can sync Outlook, which is great, but the other BT services (e.g. headset, hands-free etc) are not offered in the MS stack, which makes it far less useful than the 3rd party stacks like Widcomm’s.

  18. Ibrar says:

    Hello i dont know whats going on here but i want to know that is it possible that usb to bluetooth adapter which work on any system having winxp without installing driver in any system if so email me the company and model thanks

  19. Andy Pennell says:

    Ibrar, not sure what you are asking. You always need a driver for hardware. If by winxp you mean XP SP2 then lots of drivers will be included with the OS. If you mean pre-SP2 then you are SOL as XP had no built-in bluetooth support at that time, hence zero drivers.

  20. Hi,

    I want some help on how to use a simple VC++6.0 application with bluetooth support.

    I have installed Windows XP SP1 but the Bluetooth Api’s are not visible to me and i dont know where to locate the library and the appropriate header file for bluetooth support.

    Please if anybody can help.



  21. VAIO Guy says:

    Used to find it very irritating when Sony VAIO Support stopped bundling BT support for it’s Z1 range. All VAIO models with onboard BT before the Z1 running XP SP1, you put the driver disk in and hey presto! Blue Space worked, Vcoms installed no problem.

    The Z1’s aaarghhhhhhhhhh! Suffice to say VAIO-Link were far from helpful. "You have to put our build back on…." Well sorry VAIO-link most corporates put their own build on machines. Eventually we got a patch to cure the problem, but for a while it was a whole lotta frustration.. and at the time we couldn’t tell users well it’ll be fixed in SP2…SP what????

  22. Hal says:

    It still does not answer the question on why pairing is lost on reboot. Most of the time I have to reinstall and pair up again to get my BT GPS to work.  SP2 corrected nothing.

  23. Dylan says:

    Does anyone even have the specs for what profiles this stack supports? The SPP is still the clumsiest implemetation out there. Apparently it has not improved in Vista.

  24. Dave Waddell says:

    This stack works flawlessly with the DBT-120 on Vista. Others do not BlueSoleil (BSOD’s every time), WidComm doesn’t work (tries to use MS Generic instead of its own driver).

  25. William says:

    Almost gave up hope, but I found a way to install Microsoft native Bluetooth stack for Windows XP (SP2).

    Syncing my Windows Mobile with my notebook using Microsoft’s native Bluetooth stack. No need for a third party drivers 🙂

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