That’s just one of several questions that arrived recently in response to Microsoft’s announcement that their Windows Live Mail 2012 desktop email program would no longer support Outlook.com-based email accounts, including email addresses at hotmail.com, outlook.com, msn.com, live.com, and more.
Naturally, this took a lot of people by surprise.
As it turns out, the dire warnings, while certainly significant, may not be entirely accurate. And, of course, the warnings fail to mention some very viable alternatives that don’t involve Microsoft.
Microsoft sent the following message to email addresses accessed using Windows Live Mail 2012:
The message continues, offering the following alternatives in addition to Outlook.com web access:
- Switch to the Windows Mail app in Windows 8, 8.1, and 10.
- Upgrade to Windows 10, if you need to, so you can get the Windows Mail app.
- A free one-year subscription to Office 365 so as to get Outlook 2016, the desktop email program. (Presumably, after that year, normal subscription charges would apply for Office 365.)
And there’s a deadline: June 30th, 2016.
As it turns out, they’ve glossed over (as in failed to mention completely) a few other alternatives.
Outlook.com on the web
OK, they did mention this, but I want to reiterate it: you will still to be able to access your email by visiting outlook.com in your web browser. All your mail will still be there after June 30th.
This might be a fine time to consider that as your primary means of accessing your mail.1
This is the plan requiring the least effort. Everything’s there now, and you can continue to use it just by going to outlook.com in your web browser.
Any other desktop email program
What the announcement failed to mention is that POP3, IMAP, and SMTP services will continue to work. I confirmed this with Microsoft support:
… this is only applicable for Windows Live Mail. Meaning, if you are using other email client or mail app, this will not affect the program or your account itself.
What this means is that you can, if you like, switch to a different desktop email program completely. I generally recommend Thunderbird, but any email program capable of POP3, IMAP, and SMTP will do just fine. There are many, many, many different email programs that you might consider, and now might be a perfect time to do so.
All you need are Outlook.com’s IMAP, POP3, and SMTP settings. I recommend using IMAP so as to have all of your email available both in the email program and online at outlook.com. Unfortunately setting up a new email program will cause all of your email to be downloaded again.
What you’ll lose: IMAP, POP3, and SMTP are email-only protocols. That means your address book will not be carried over. You can export your contacts from Outlook.com on the web into any email program that has an import function. Contacts and address books, and moving them from one system to another, remain an exceptionally weak link in how we handle email.
I recommend you set up a desktop email program, even if you never use it directly. By that I mean that if you elect to take the first option – start using Outlook.com on the web as your primary way of accessing email – fire up a desktop email program configured for that account periodically to download your email as a backup.
Any other email service
There’s nothing that says you need to stick with your Microsoft email account, and you’ve got several weeks to make the transition to another account and email address.
This doesn’t really make anything easier, or preserve more than any other technique. I bring it up primarily because these kinds of changes – suddenly dropping support for a popular email program – tend to irritate some folks to the point of wanting to leave the service completely.
If that’s you, this would be the time to do so. Gmail’s been working great for me for years.
I recommend that you do not close your Microsoft account, as it’s likely to be tied to services you still care about. Particularly if you’re using it log in to your Windows 10 PC, you want that account to remain active. But you can deal with your email elsewhere if you like.
And yes, Windows Live Mail 2012 still works
Just like Outlook Express, you can keep on using Windows Live Mail 2012 to access your Microsoft email account. And like Outlook Express, it is no longer being updated – no bug or security fixes.
By default, Windows Live Mail 2012 uses a private protocol to the Microsoft servers to access your mail. It’s this protocol that allows it to synchronize not only your mail, but your contacts and whatever else as well.
It’s also this private protocol that Microsoft
is disabling on June 30th has disabled which is what will cause Windows Live Mail 2012 to stop working for those accounts.
You can “switch” to using IMAP and SMTP. As I mentioned above, Microsoft email accounts continue to support POP3, IMAP and SMTP. Windows Live Mail 2012 also supports POP3, IMAP and SMTP. So we can simply use manual configuration to add the account using IMAP (the closest in functionality to what you have now), and SMTP.
Unfortunately there is no way to change the existing account configuration. I actually recommend that for now, you leave it alone. Instead, add the account again (I’ve verified that you can add it twice), but this time, make sure to select “Manually configure server settings”, and then set the IMAP and SMTP information by hand.
What you’ll lose: once again, IMAP, POP3 and SMTP are email-only protocols. That means your address book will not be carried over. By leaving the old account in Windows Live Mail 2012, you should be able to use that address book. And like setting up a new email program, configuring the account a second time will cause all of your email to be downloaded again.
You have many options
As you can see, you have several options beyond what Microsoft has suggested.
While it’s no surprise they would prefer you migrate to their more current offerings – updating your operating system if necessary to do so – the good news here is that there are more options that don’t involve such drastic steps.
The bad news, of course, is that doing nothing is not one of the options.