What are my Lost Hotmail Account and Password Recovery Options?

Hotmail account compromise is common. How to get your Hotmail account back varies based on just what was stolen. I'll review the different scenarios.

As long time readers know I get a lot of reports of Hotmail account theft and compromise. Every day there are reports of everything from simple password loss, to email being sent “From” your email address, to attempts to actually scam your contacts.

Depending on exactly what’s happened, the available remedies may be simple, they may be difficult, or they may be completely impossible: your account and everything in it might be lost forever.

I’ll review the various scenarios, and direct you to related articles on Ask Leo! that cover the options for each.

Forged Email from You

Spam

Someone – usually someone you don’t know at all – getting email that looks like it’s from you that you didn’t send is not at all uncommon. Spammers have been spoofing the “From:” address for a long time, and there’s nothing that you can really do about it. Someone’s sending from my email address! How do I stop them?! discusses the scenario in more depth.

The Overseas Trip Scam

A very common hijack in recent months has someone hacking into and taking over your account and then sending email to all your contacts with a story about how you’ve taken an impulsive trip overseas and are now stranded and in need of money. Someone’s stolen my email account and is scamming my contacts for money, what do I do? discusses this scam and what you need to do.

Spamming your Contacts

Emails Hacked!

Hackers don’t always change your password, and you may still have access to your account while they do too. Most often the first sign that there’s trouble is that your contacts start getting emails from you that you didn’t send that look very much like spam. Whether or not they’ve changed your password and locked you out My Windows Live Hotmail contact list has been hacked, how do I recover? and Someone’s sending email that looks like it’s from me to my contacts, what can I do? both cover this annoying scenario.

Sometimes they don’t even bother sending email but simply sneak into your account and change the “signature” that’s appended to the bottom of every message you send. Now each email you send automatically includes their spammy message. Why do messages I compose in Hotmail now start with an ad that looks like it’s from me? discusses this and its easy fix.

Losing and Regaining Account Access


… it’s often not until the worst happens that people realize how unprotected they really are.

By far the most common scenario I hear of is that one day you simply can’t login to your Hotmail account. Be it having forgotten your password, or having your account stolen, you’re left with no way to access the contents of your email account.

If you’ve simply forgotten your password but have an alternate email address configured then the best approach is outlined in this older article: How do I change my MSN Hotmail password if I forgot it? (it discusses an older version of Hotmail, but the technique remains valid). If you didn’t configure or can’t remember your secret question, then I’ve forgotten the answer to my MSN Hotmail secret question, *and* my password, what do I do? is the article to read.

Finally, if all else fails you can use Windows Live’s own Windows LiveID Account Recovery Help Page. There you’ll be taken through a form where you can “prove” that you are the rightful account owner, and having done so may regain access to the account.

If, for whatever reason, you cannot prove that you are the account owner, you will not be given access, and it’s likely you’ll have lost the account forever.

Changing Your Password

A common solution to many account related problems, or at least a common step along the road to recovery, is to change your password.

How do I change my Windows Live Hotmail password? covers the common and simple “how to” for Hotmail.

Choosing a good password is critical to maintaining the security of your account. What’s a good password? talks about what that means and some of the better approaches to take.

What many people don’t realize is that after an account compromise changing your password is important, but not nearly enough. Is changing my password enough? shows you why and what additional steps are critical.

Closing Your Account

Many people react to account problems by wanting to close their account immediately. Quite often it’s simply not possible, and the rest of the time it’s not necessarily important or even desirable.

How do I close my Windows Live Hotmail account shows how to close your account, but then also addresses another important question: why bother?

How do I get Hotmail to close my stolen account? discusses account theft related scenarios, and what it takes to close an account you’ve lost.

Contacting Hotmail

Hotmail has no phone support. Period. Nor do they have an email address you can communicate with. Hotmail is free and keeping their support costs low is one way they keep it free.

As a result your direct support options are limited, and they’re discussed in this article: How do I contact Windows Live Hotmail customer service?

I’ll also repeat the Windows LiveID Account Recovery Help Page mentioned above as one approach to potentially recover a lost account.

Summary

Many people get frustrated at the lack of support, lack of options, and lack of resources that are available once they suffer an account compromise of some sort. That’s understandable, but it’s often not until the worst happens that people realize how unprotected they really are.

Are free email services worth it? discusses some of the pros and cons of free email accounts, and How do I safely use a free email account? talks about some of the ways it’s possible to safely use a free email account.

Given my stance on free email accounts What for-pay email providers do you recommend? answers the very common question that results.

Finally, by far the most important way to deal with trouble is to avoid it in the first place. Perhaps the most important article on Ask Leo! is Internet Safety: How do I keep my computer safe on the internet?

There are 52 comments:

  1. amad Reply

    I can t open my hotmail account i need help please if some body can help me I really will apreaciate so much thanks a lot God Blessins you

    Please read the article you just commented on. It answers this question.

    Leo
    17-Oct-2010

  2. Boloboaca Reply

    You have an article named “I’ve forgotten the answer to my MSN Hotmail secret question, and my password, what do I do?”. I have a question, what if i know my password, but from unknown reasons it didn’t work when i input it and my account was blocked, and i don’t have alternate e-mail and i forgot the answer to secret question….but i know the password, i was using it everyday.
    I have followed the steps for recovery and submitted the form with information, but were not enough, so it was rejected, because i don’t remember most of the data i input when i created my account years ago.
    All i need is my account to be unblocked, i repeat, i know the password, i just don;t know the other details, and i know is my fault i never paid attention to all those, but is too late now to change that.

    Any suggestion will be much appreciated!

    Thank you!

    Everything I have is listed above. My guess is that your password is WRONG, that your account has been hacked, and if you can’t remember the information required to recover it you cannot.

    Leo
    24-Oct-2010

  3. magnito Reply

    my old email i lost his password and i made forget password and theres onlu one choice sent to alternate email but i want to back my password by my question and answer

  4. Mohamed Zaghloul Reply

    You have an article named “I’ve forgotten the answer to my MSN Hotmail secret question, and my password, what do I do?”. I have a question, what if i know my password, but from unknown reasons it didn’t work when i input it and my account was blocked, and i don’t have alternate e-mail and i forgot the answer to secret question….but i know the password, i was using it everyday.
    I have followed the steps for recovery and submitted the form with information, but were not enough, so it was rejected, because i don’t remember most of the data i input when i created my account years ago.
    All i need is my account to be unblocked, i repeat, i know the password, i just don;t know the other details, and i know is my fault i never paid attention to all those, but is too late now to change that

    99 out of 100 people who swear to me that they KNOW THE CORRECT PASSWORD – don’t. It’s not because they were wrong, but it’s because the account has been hacked and the password changed. If you can’t provide the backup information that Hotmail (or any email service) requests then there’s no way that they have to know you’re not trying to scam them into gaining access to someone else’s account. They MUST have some kind of reasonable proof that you really are the account holder. If not, you’re just not going to get the account back. Sorry.

    Leo
    08-Dec-2010

  5. marvin hopkins Reply

    Hotmail keeps telling me to update my acc. but I think it cd. be a hacker trying to get my password, What sd I do? tyvm Marvin

    Depends on how they’re “telling you”. If it’s an email message, I’d ignore it. Simply make sure that your account is secure with a good strong password and appropriate recovery options like secrete answers you know, and an alternate email address that works.

    Leo
    15-Dec-2010

  6. Angi Vida Reply

    Dear Leo — I feel like I’m flogging a dead horse here in that I have been reading so many of your responses to the myriad questions posed to you about Hotmail’s so-call “Account Recovery” process. I was also “blocked” after repeated attempts to gain access using my password. I’ve gone the whole nine yards through the irresolvable Windows Live Resolution Center by providing the correct answer to my secret question, detailed Paypal account information with correct transaction ID numbers, correct email contacts and specific details regarding the contents of many of my emails sent and received, although not identifying them by their subject lines because my memory is not photographic — to no avail. The response I received was that they could not validate my account.

    I was particularly interested in the discussions about “locked” accounts and your responses to that topic. I created my Hotmail account in 1998. In July 2009, my hard drive crashed and that was the last time I accessed the account — 18 months ago. My account was never hacked by anyone. I finally bought a new computer a month ago, and for the past three weeks I have tried everything to regain my Hotmail account. The period that I had not accessed my account is well over Hotmail’s 270-day deactivation period. I don’t know if their automatic system purged the contents of my account, but the system certainly didn’t purge the account itself as it still exists.

    I’m not sure if this is a legitimate question, but if I were to take my crashed hard drive to a computer technician and, let’s say, it was somehow possible for that technician to resurrect my hard drive, would there be something in my hard drive that could have “captured” my password or some other coding in my hard drive that would be able to help me regain my Hotmail account? I know…I’m stretching with this question, but like so many others here who are supplicating to you for help, I’m also desperate to regain important emails and other accounts that my Hotmail account was attached to. As silly as this next question may sound, is there any way for that technician to “hack” into my Hotmail account using my crashed hard drive?

    By the way, Leo, I have searched every possible query and subject on the internet with regards to this issue and find that you are the only person alive under the sun who is providing people like me with any kind of tangible advice and unrestricted help regarding Hotmail accounts. Out of anyone providing online technical assistance, you are the cream of the crop, and I thank you with all my heart. I will follow your advice and stay away from free email services from now on because they are simply not supported by the companies that offer them. The ongoing frustration is not worth it. Thank you again, Leo.

    As you might expect I don’t hold much of a chance for you getting that account back. It’s *possible* that *if* you said “remember password” way back when that the password is saved on the old drive. I know there are tools to get browser-remembered passwords, and that would imply that it’s stored on the hard disk somewhere.
    That being said, I think this possibility is more likely: it’s not your account any more. By that I mean the expiration happened, and the account was emptied. The email address was added back into the pool of available addresses, and someone else came along and took it. You can’t get itn because all of your recovery information applies to an account that no longer exists – the new legitimate owner of that email address has placed there own recovery information in it.
    So … no, I think it’s lost.

    Leo
    11-Jan-2011
  7. Angi Vida Reply

    Dear Leo — Thank you for your reply! Your first point confirmed what I was thinking, and I will use that avenue as a last resort. As for your second point, I had already thought about that, too! After having “failed” the Windows Live ID account recovery process, I posted those same sentiments to the support team in my Windows Live ID private forum. I also posted that I would be sending an email to my Hotmail account from my Outlook Express email client using my ISP’s email address, which is exactly what I did.

    I then went into my Paypal account, which I could still access on the web, and added my ISP email address to it — and then removed my Hotmail address from it which had been the primary and only addy attached to it. I figured, I didn’t want my Paypal account linked to my Hotmail account since I couldn’t access it anymore. Paypal emailed those changes I made through notifications to my ISP addy.

    Then, all of a sudden, a posting appeared yesterday in my Windows Live ID private forum from a support team member. At first glance, it looked like the same form letter about checking my information for accuracy, but the more I read it, I started to see that his posting to me was more cryptic than anything else. You know that these guys can’t reply to anything we write to them, but I started to see that he had placed a certain emphasis on the words VERIFY and DETAILS by using these words a number of times in his form letter. So I thought about it. I started to think that perhaps a notification email had also been sent to my Hotmail account after I had removed my Hotmail addy from my Paypal account.

    That led me to think about my classmates.com account. A few days ago, I had also accessed my classmates.com account on the web using my Hotmail addy and password. Everything was working fine. When I went to access my classmates.com account yesterday, my password was mysteriously no longer working. When I went to do a password reset for it that would have been delievered to my Hotmail account, my Hotmail username had also been mysteriously purged as it was no longer on classmates.com’s database. So I re-registered, using my Hotmail addy, password and classmates.com profile — and now there are two profiles of me in my high school community group! When I went to change my email addy on this second classmates.com account, it would not accept my password. So, I sent a password reset to my Hotmail account! I have been thinking that when I was puttering around in my classmates.com account, that might have triggered one or more notification emails being sent to my Hotmail account earlier this week.

    I’m thinking the posting by the Windows Live ID support team member was a “nudge” to me to provide more of these details about my Paypal and classmates.com accounts. And that is what I did in my private forum — I gave him my classmates.com password and what I did in my Paypal account, and stated I would forward my Paypal notifications from my ISP email addy right back to my Hotmail account in addition to copying those same notifications into my private forum so that he could compare them. I also had gone into my Google gmail account and saw that my Hotmail address was what I had set up as an alternate email address for password resets for my gmail account. So, I sent a password reset from my gmail account to my Hotmail account, and posted that in my private forum, too!

    Now…I’m waiting for a response from the support team at Windows Live ID after having provided them with these additional details.

  8. Angi Vida Reply

    Hi again, Leo! I have an update regarding my classmates.com account. I logged into my current Hotmail account and there was an email waiting for me from classmates.com with the subject line, “You have received a private message!” I opened the mail and it said I received a private message from one of my friends in my high school community group. I clicked on the link and then classmates.com asked for my password. I typed in my original password and then I was…in my account! Then I went to see what email address it was set for, and the address was set for my current Hotmail account, the one I’m signing on with now!

    How’s that for those techies at Microsoft Hotmail?!? Lol! =D They gave my classmates.com account back to me but without my original Hotmail address. The email they used was an old one from one of my high school chums that was sitting in my classmates.com inbox! My friend NEVER sent me that email! I just thought that was amazing! Anyway, I changed my email addy to my ISP addy and changed the password, also. And then I wrote all about it in my private forum, and thanked the Windows Live ID support team for giving me back my classmates.com account.

    But I’m still waiting for them to respond to all the postings I have left them. Thank you, Leo, for letting me share this new development with you! =)

  9. Angi Vida Reply

    Hi, Leo! Those guys on the Windows Live ID team are so insidious! I’m currently using the Windows Live Mail email client. I opened it up and, all of a sudden, I couldn’t receive my emails from my Google gmail account — it’s the one that had been originally set up as having my Hotmail account as its primary alternate address. I then manually tried my password to my Google account and, lo and behold, it wasn’t working! Isn’t that something? So, I sent a password reset, and the reset went to my ISP email address. I reset the password to my Google account, accessed it, and then went to see what email addresses were set up for it…and I see that my Hotmail address has been removed! I then posted in my private forum my objections to the Windows Live ID team for tampering — without my permission or knowledge — into both my classmates.com and Google accounts by removing my Hotmail addresses from them. It seems to me that the Windows Live ID team has no intention of sending me a password reset for my Hotmail account. All that I see them doing is trying to remove every tentacle I have wrapped around my Hotmail account, one tentacle at a time! =(

    I’m not sure why you’re pointing a finger at the Hotmail team – this sounds like a classic case of your account(s) having been hacked into by some third party. I hear about this kind of thing all the time.

    Leo
    16-Jan-2011

  10. maree dib Reply

    Hi my hotmail was hacked as well as nmy facebook everything has been changed , i tried 2 change my hotmail password but they have changed my alternative email is there anything i can do =[

    Please read the article you just commented on. It answers this question.

    Leo
    23-Jan-2011

  11. luke hallum Reply

    Everytime i i sign in to my hotmail account My access is blocked stating wrong email or password details and requests me too change my passwords. I have done this many times but still cant sign in to my account. Is there a time factor contributing to my inaccesss to my account when I try to sign in immediately after resetting my password or what

    All the options I have for you are in the article you just commented on.

    Leo
    19-Apr-2011
  12. Muahammad Owais Reply

    Hi Leo,
    I need my email account that i haved stoped using 5-6 years back.i only know my email address but unable to recover my password. Here what should i do? as i dadly need this account back with my all mails in it. Please help me here.
    Thanks
    owais

    Please read the article you just commented on. All your options are here.

    Leo
    23-Apr-2011

  13. hidek Reply

    My hotmail account is blocked as well. I am following instructions on “Windows LiveID Account Recovery Help Page”, but they are asking Credit Card #.

  14. Ed Couch Reply

    Have done all the hoops possible. Our company has 6 years of information stored on this account. (HOTMAIL) I filled our all the recovery information until it got to asking for a 25 digit number and my credit card information. ??? Maybe they want me to pay to unlock my hotmail, at this point I would gladly pay, however who do I pay, I cannot go forward unless I provide a 25 digit number??? I called windows live, real bad experience, rude and not at all helpful. Can’t believe no phone support for hotmail or at least live help on line. I’v gotten 6 codes none of which helped. My business depends on this account totally. I’m lost need help.

  15. Lester Reply

    RE: Have done all the hoops possible. Our company has 6 years of information stored on this account. (HOTMAIL) …

    This is such a pity. I’ve never used Hotmail, but in gmail this is easily avoided by using a pop3 connection and Outlook. This will download all your data locally, and you can set Outlook to archive it regularly. I use gmail, but I’ve got years of history in my local archives. Of course, you need to then make sure that you backup your archive. I keep my email data and archives in a My Documents folder. Then its just a matter of backing up My Documents…

    LB

  16. liz Reply

    how does my friend reset her password in hotmail account, if the only email she has is her hotmail and the alternate email address is now obsolete?

  17. Patricia Reply

    I used my computer last night no problems now i have been trying for 3 hrs. can not sign in windows live is blocking me the e-mail they have hasn’t been used since 2008 when I was compromised badly now because of it not working how is it possible to fix my problem

  18. mmnaseer Reply

    I forgot my password and clicked on forgot password, hotmail sent me a reset link on my alternate email address. unfortunately the domain of my alternate email address had been expired and i was unable to get reset link. how can i recover my hotmail account again??? plz guide….

    the article you just commented on has all the options that I’m aware of.

    Leo
    21-Aug-2011

  19. Chris Reply

    O.k., I’ll try to make myself clear. I DO have access to my main Hotmail account but a while back, I was hacked and lost the ability to log in. So, I had to reset the password and here is where the problem is!

    My backup email address is another Hotmail email address, which I had at one time but I never use, so Hotmail canceled it. So when Hotmail sends me confirmations of any kind, they go to to the old, now defunct email address, so I can not get to the notices/emails.

    I ended up emailing Hotmail and begged for help and regained access to my account but now that I want to delete the old backup address and add a different one, Hotmail is sending the notice to the old address for confirmation! BRILLIANT!!!! Now what do I do???

  20. Sit Reply

    my problem is I’ve forgotten my window live ID(use to sing in) because i’ve not been using this account since quite a while but i do remember my password. so is there any option available to recover my lost ID?
    thank you.

    Not that I’m aware of, no.

    Leo
    29-Nov-2011
  21. doris Reply

    is there any way that I can retrieve my old contacts
    under my old hotmail account before they
    switch to hotmail live tks.

    The switch to Windows Live Hotmail was a name change only. If it’s the same account (i.e. same email address) then you should already have them. If it’s another account (i.e. different email address) then you would have to login to that old account to export your contacts.

    Leo
    02-Dec-2011
  22. Zachary Oscar Reply

    Leo,
    When trying to reset my password, I tell it to send me an email. The site informs me that it has sent an email to the following addresses, and gives me something like… “hot****@hotmail.com”. Where is it sending these emails?

    It’s sending it to the alternate address you configured as part of your account. If you didn’t configure it, then perhaps a hacker did.

    Leo
    08-Dec-2011
  23. sunny Reply

    Hi leo How are you my question i had hotmail account bt some one hacked my password of my account can you plz do something or help me out from this situation
    regards
    sunny

  24. Kevin Reply

    Hi! How do I change my phone number in Hotmail? When I try, it wants to send a verification text to my old number. I don’t have that number anymore so I can’t get the text.
    Thanks!

  25. Charlie Reply

    Not that I want to do this..but how do these people steal passwords?

  26. fahad Reply

    Dear Leo
    how r u

    i can’t sing to my email and if i want to ask help
    they asked me for many questions which i did for long time a go like the secret question or name of first pet i a had . so please help me
    the email is : {email address removed}
    regards
    fahad
    please help me Leo

  27. malcolm clark Reply

    dear leo finding this tab again i thought was deleted problems with hot and live mail unfortunately after reset password i comment a sin by trying further passwords as i though no mention on computer about my reset password confusion on my part now apparently banned no more reset password on hotmail live g mail get in not out as it is livemail worked ok then refused error my fault received ok for first one not seen for a few days by then confused hotmail placed ban understand there annoyance and what is done slow in arriving caused panic by me now were do i stand livemail same problem no more filling application form until ban lifted malcolm clark not not asking to clear comment your view constructive criticism

  28. Maha Reply

    how can i change the alternate email address if that alternate email address has been hacked? please help me i am too depressed

  29. Ramesh Reply

    Leo, is there any way possible to change the alternate email address if it is not existent right now. I have deleted my current alternate address (yahoo). Is there any way to setup a new alternate address?

  30. connie Reply

    @Ramesh,
    It’s easy to change the alternate email address if you can access your account. And if so, do it right away. If you can’t access your account, unfortunately, you are going to have to follow the different options outlined in “Losing and Regaining Account Access” above.

  31. joseph mitchell III Reply

    cannot send yellow bar asks for characters yet i see no way to submit them

  32. RASHID Reply

    my email acccount has been blocked, hotmail giving me the option your account has been blocked and giving me the option for sending the code for access the id and showing me the id of some one {email address removed} plz get resolve my problem.

  33. vaishali Reply

    my alternate email id has been deleted. it was a hotmail id. so even if i want to delete it or add a bew one confirmation is sent to the deleted one…

    what should i do…

  34. Sarah Reply

    I entered into the recovery screen of Microsoft but when I try to process the request I get the message that the account that was last used on 2011 no longer exists.
    I have important data to retrieve, how should I proceed?
    ——
    Sign in
    Recover your Microsoft account
    Please fix the errors below.
    What Microsoft account are you trying to get back into?
    ******** The Microsoft account you’ve entered does not exist. *******************

    Email address Where should we contact you? Enter an email address that’s different from the one you’re trying to recover.

    • Connie Delaney Reply

      Hey Buda. As mentioned in the article, there is very little anyone can do about that. It can only be a lesson for the future if you don’t have any retrieval paths set up.

  35. Guilherme Reis Reply

    I have a big problem please help me, I have a Hotmail account which i stopped to work with when i started to use gmail.
    well, not knowing Hotmail has changed to “outlook” and I don’t even remember my password. the funniest thing is that I use on my facebook account my hotmail address so I can have access. everytime i try to log in in outlook they say my email is wrong. what should I do?

    • Leo Reply

      You need to follow the instructions in the article to try to recover your Hotmail password.

  36. c howell Reply

    computer vs cell phone !!!!! I had to change password on computer Microsoft did that My cell phone flashing can not sign in login failure username or password incorrect. I removed the account then clicked to add account (same Hotmail address entered ) did not work still says incorrect username or password, I want to recover Hotmail password or change it and please I have tried Microsoft support online /phone/forum/ NOT helpful MSN not helpful ( hours then days I have researched Results headache stiff neck and ready to throw any tech product I have into the lake ; not working can’t not use it why continue to pay for product that no one can resolve and useless

  37. ashley garcia Reply

    Hi! i am trying to get back an important email from a hotmail account i no longer use and dont remember. is there a way i can find my old email address? btw i know my password and security question.

    • Mark Jacobs Reply

      You could try contacting people you know who might have your email address in their contacts lists or old sent or received emails.

  38. Jaap Dijkema Reply

    I have my e-mail deleted, but want to open it again. Is that possible?

    • Leo Reply

      You deleted your Hotmail account? Depends on how long ago, but the short answer is typically: no. You’ll need to create a new account.

  39. Natia Reply

    I have three email addresses in Windows and I stupidly put the alternate address as those email too! And the security questions given to me are emailed to the alternate email addresses which do not exist. For example I created an account for {removed}@live.com but then the alternate email address is {removed}@hotmail.com (which does NOT exist) and yet windows live still emails my security code to {removed}@hotmail.com!

    • Leo Reply

      I removed the email addresses since the instructions clearly state not to post personal information. This article has your recovery options. I don’t have more for this situation. Sorry.

  40. Jean Nichol Reply

    my wife had an hotmail account that she may have used sometimes ago that begin with the letter C…..@hotmail.com. She used as her Apple ID and now she needs it in order to trade the phone at the Apple store she cannot remember what it was. Please help.

    • Leo Reply

      If you can’t recall your own email address then I know of no way to recover it. Sorry.

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