One of the most popular articles on this site is this post about “hacking” the Motorola w370, a mobile phone distributed by Tracfone, a prepaid cellular provider in the US. The phone recharges via a standard “Mini USB B” connector, the same type of connector used to connect most digital cameras to desktop computers. However, with this particular model, the USB connector is connected to a standard charging unit; you cannot use a regular USB cable to charge the phone.
Or can you? jimcofer.com reader Andy left a comment in the original “hacking the w370” post that said this:
I was able to get my phone to charge off of any windows XP or Vista computer. To do this you need to download Motorola End User Driver Installation which you can find here http://www.modmymoto.com/guides/e2/getconnected.php When you plug into a USB port it will detect the phone and install the drivers (first time only). Now I hardly ever use the wall plug.
I can confirm that this works, albeit with a couple of caveats. First of all, the hyperlink to the required software on the page Andy links to gave me a 404 error. I found an updated version of the drivers at this page. And, in testing this software out at home, I think I found an even easier way to install the phone on your computer and enable charging via USB:
1) Download this file to your desktop and unzip it.
2) Attach the w370 to your computer via a standard USB cable with a Mini USB B connector.
3) When Windows prompts you for a driver, select “Install this software manually” and then click “Next”. Choose “Do not search, I will choose the driver to install” and click “Next” again. You’ll then be prompted to select which type of device you want to install; choose “Modem” and click “Next”. You then be presented with a window that has a list of manufacturers on the left hand side and particular models on the right hand side. Click the “Have Disk” button, and navigate to the folder you unzipped in step 1. Click on any of the .INF files listed, and choose “Motorola USB Modem” when asked to choose a device. You will probably get a warning box saying that the software might not match the hardware; this is OK, just click OK to continue.
4) When the Add New Hardware wizard is complete, unplug the phone, wait a few seconds, then plug it in again. You should see the following listing in Device Manager:
Your phone should now charge off of the USB port on your computer!
I’ve tested this on my main rig using the method in Andy’s comment, as well as another computer here at the house using my “shortcut” method. Both were running Windows XP Professional SP3.
Hopefully this is only the tip of the iceberg! I’ll mess around with this in the next few days and see if I can do anything more interesting than simply charging the phone via USB.
Lastly, I want to send a big THANK YOU to Andy for sending in this comment! You rock, dude!