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Update: see below for an update to the question I asked of Microsoft. There is support.
So I got really excited earlier today when one of my assistants pointed me at something: ad-free outlook.com. For various reasons, it looked really lucrative and in fact I went ahead and signed up. I want to quickly show you what it’s about and why ultimately I’m still a little disappointed but there’s hope, I guess.
I’ve got a question outstanding to Microsoft to see if we can’t clear something up. Let’s have a look at the sales page for it. So the page talks about ad-free outlook.com, what you get for basically $20/year. The thing, the most obvious thing from its name of course is that you get no ads. The ad panel that’s normally to the right of the screen as you’re looking at email in your account is just gone.
It’s actually kinda cool. The other thing, one of the other things that you get is what they call “no account expiration”; so that means that as long as you keep paying your $20/year, even if you don’t log in to the account, the account won’t be deleted.
There’s also some talk about some additional space I’ve seen in a couple of different places but outlook.com is already very bad about showing you exactly how much space you’re using so it’s one of those things where that one doesn’t really excite me that much anyway.
And to be honest, you know, logging into your account, if you’re paying to keep it up, you should be logging into it periodically anyway. Every three months, every couple of months, whatever it is, you really ought to be logging into the account but that’s none of what got me excited and to be fair, for may people, that $20/year to get rid of the ads in their outlook.com experience, that might make it worth it right there.
The thing got me excited, though, was this little thing down at the bottom that talks about technical support. “If you have a problem with your account, we’ll be there to help with technical support at no additional charge.” Fantastic, I thought! This is one of those scenarios where outlook.com’s technical support, like all free email accounts is slim to non-existent depending on exactly which route you are going on.
And there are definitely continued instances of people getting say, locked out of their account especially when traveling and it seemed like a great opportunity to have maybe something more direct. So, I went in and signed up. My actual Hotmail account, the one that I’ve had, gosh, probably close to 20 years now, is now an ad-free outlook.com account!
Like I said, it’s kind of cool. There’s no ads but I went looking for the technical support. And here’s the problem. The instructions that appear after I signed up for ad-free outlook.com said for technical support go to support.live.com and then look for essentially the Hotmail plus link. So there are two problems with those instructions.
One is support.live.com doesn’t really exist anymore. It does redirect to a support option for Microsoft but it’s not live.com anymore and the other, of course, is that ad-free outlook.com used to be called Hotmail plus but it hasn’t been for quite some time.
The real problem is that on the resulting page, support.live.com, there is no place to click on that says that anything about Hotmail plus or outlook.com – ad free or anything else that would indicate that there’s an option that I should now have access to by virtue of having paid my $20.
So I give this to you for a couple of different reasons: one is if you’re really interested in not having advertisements in your outlook.com experience. If it’s worth $20/year. to you, great. That’s a great way to get rid of it, free up some screen real estate and not have to deal with the advertisements.
Personally, ads don’t bother me that much. I’m kind of used to them; I’m kind of “ad blind” in many ways but like I said, a lot of people feel strongly about it and if they feel strongly enough, maybe it’s worth $20.
Like I said earlier, the “no account expiration” – you know that’s neither here nor there. Like I said, I don’t think it’s something you really should be relying on. I honestly believe that the right thing to do is to log into the account every so often and keep it active that way but this is another benefit.
If you’re looking for technical support, if you’re looking for some kind of “leg up” on technical support, I gotta say that this is really misleading right now and from what I can tell this option really doesn’t exist.
What I’ve done is I have submitted a request in the Microsoft Support Forums, it’s the community forum, where occasionally, Outlook or Microsoft representatives will respond to things with the hopes that there will be a response, that somebody will tell me what’s up with this.
Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place, maybe I’m overlooking something, it could happen. So, maybe I’ll get a response. If I do, I will absolutely update you in the notes below this article on askleo.com. But, one of the other reasons I wanted to give you this example or show you about this, besides you know, warning you off if you’re really looking for technical support. So far it looks like your $20 isn’t going to get it. [Update: it apparently gets you something. See the notes below.]
This is an example of what I’ll call, I don’t know, evolution of a software service. The problem here, I think, is that Hotmail, Microsoft’s email system is very old. It’s been around, well, probably for over 20 years now. And of course Microsoft has been changing and improving the service over the years. They’ve also renamed it a few times. It was Hotmail and then it was MSN Hotmail, then it was Windows Live Hotmail and now, of course it’s Outlook.com.
Unfortunately, along the way, they haven’t really cleaned up all the remnants and they haven’t really updated everything that really should be updated. As you can see, the fact that they are talking about support may or may not still be part of what you are getting for your $20. Hopefully we’ll find out. Regardless, I mean if it is part of what we should be getting then they shouldn’t be directing you to support.live.com and they certainly shouldn’t be calling it Hotmail plus anymore. That product is long gone.
This happens. This kind of stuff happens all the time and it actually requires a certain amount of flexibility on our part as consumers to understand that something as old and as changing over time as Hotmail has been, it’s going to have these kind of warts. And warts they are; they are definitely problems that need to be corrected but they haven’t been corrected yet.
Who knows when or if they will be? It’s something to be aware of; something if you can, keep an open mind about as you navigate various online services including those that have been around for a while. Like I said, I will update you to any response I get on the forum post.
In fact, here’s a link to the forum post [now goes to the update below] so I think you should be able to see it yourself to see if I get a response directly. Otherwise, what I’m really interested in from you is it worth $20? Is it worth $20 to get rid of the ads but more importantly, let’s assume for a minute that the technical support option really does exist – that I’m supposed to be getting some kind of increased level of technical support for the $20/monthyear. that I’m paying.
Is it worth it to you? Is it something that you would potentially pay the money for in order to get that higher level of support? I know that it’s going to be an option for some especially if you’re backed into a corner and you’ve got a problem you may consider paying the $20 to be nothing if it will get you a faster or more reliable answer to your question.
But I’m really interested in how many people would be willing to go down that path. So, let me know. As always, here’s the link to this article on askleo.com. That’s where you’ll find not only this video but the transcript to this video, updates as I promised and of course your comments that I read all of them, moderated of course so we don’t have to deal with the usual riff-raff out on YouTube and hopefully we’ll get an answer and we’ll find out.
But like I said, I’m really curious as to how valuable you find or you might find something like this.
So, until next time, I’m Leo Notenboom for askleo.com. As always, remember stay safe, have fun and don’t forget to back up. Take care.
I went looking for an answer, and apparently I have one now.
The first thing I did was to post in the Microsoft Community (forums) for Outlook.com. This was the question I asked:
I just upgraded my Microsoft account to “Ad Free” for $20/year.
The upgrade page – http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook/ad-free-outlook – claims there is additional technical support available. I am unable to find the technical support.
The upgrade confirmation page includes the statement “For technical support go to http://support.live.com, sign in, and then click Windows Live Hotmail Plus”.
I get that Windows Live Hotmail Plus is what the option used to be called.
I cannot find that on the page to which I am directed when I go to support.live.com.
How do I get the additional support that I’m now paying for?
One of the volunteers there then directed me to an outlook.com support link, where I also asked the exact same question. Roughly 36 hours later I received the following response:
We acknowledged that you’ve recently upgraded to our Ad-free subscription and wanted to know how to contact our technical support. We are glad to inform you that you’ve already reached Outlook.com technical support which handles email related issues with Outlook.com. If you have any inbox-related concerns and how-to’s, feel free to get back to us to assist you with your concern.
Other than that, you can contact our Ad-free technical support by signing in to your account at
then select “Accounts & billing” then “Windows and other Microsoft apps & subscriptions”. From there, you will be given options on how to contact our technical support through Chat and Scheduled Call Back.
The bottom line for ad-free outlook.com support
The bottom line is that it appears that “ad-free” isn’t required, but I have no idea if it prioritizes your support response or not.
It appears that the way things currently work is:
For “email related issues”, go here (https://go.askleo.com/olsupport). After signing in to your Microsoft account, there’s a form you fill out with your issue or question. It appears that you do not need to purchase the ad-free option to use that link – it’s available to all.
For other account issues (whatever the response might mean by “other than that”, i.e. “other than email”), then there is this link (https://go.askleo.com/adfreesupport – the link above, easier to type and I’ll update if1 something changes) for online chat, or scheduled voice call-back.
What’s Up With Microsoft and Email? - In the wake of Microsoft's announced withdrawal of support for Outlook.com synchronization with Windows Live Mail 2012, I review some of the implications, including an update to my position on getting free email programs from Microsoft.