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Am I Too Hard on Hotmail?

No. And it’s not only Hotmail that I’m hard on.

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This is Leo Notenboom for

I’m occasionally taken to task for what some people consider “Hotmail
bashing”. Folks get upset with me for repeatedly pointing out that they
shouldn’t rely on Hotmail.

If you’ve read Ask Leo! for any length of time, you know that I frequently
reiterate how bad an idea it is to keep important information in only a single,
free, email account. And, while I try to be generic and say “free email
account”, I often use Hotmail as an example, or reiterate my opinion when
answering a question that was related to someone’s problems with Hotmail.

There are two issues at play here.

First is that I get more questions relating to problems with Hotmail than I
do with any other service, hands down. In fact I probably get twice as many
Hotmail problems as the other free services – combined.

What kind of problems? Lost and hacked accounts. Accounts that suddenly lose
all email or all contacts. Or scenarios where people can’t login to some
Hotmail accounts from some machines, but other accounts or other machines work

The list goes on.

Folks, I get these every single day. 10, 20, sometimes 50 times
every day. Not so for the other services.

So if you think I’m down on Hotmail … well, I guess I sort of am. But not
because I want to be. Remember, I worked at Microsoft for many years. I left on
great terms, I still respect the company, and I still want Microsoft to
continue to thrive.

But I can’t argue with the data that shows up in my inbox. I know that many
of you have used Hotmail for years without a single problem. In fact, so have I.
But if you saw what I see, you’d be very, very nervous.

The second issue is simply the wisdom of leaving important information in
the hands of a third party with next to no customer support. Again, every day I
hear of people losing contacts, losing email, losing documents that they’ve
saved in email – and having nowhere to turn, and as a result never, ever, being
able to get any of their critical data back.

If you don’t have some way to backup your important information, then
leaving it all in a free service – any free service – or heck, any pay
service – that doesn’t have responsive and responsible customer support, is
just asking for trouble.

HotMail, Yahoo, GMail … they’re all great services, when used
appropriately. Using any of them as the single place to keep all your important
email and contacts is not using them appropriately.

“You get what you pay for” has never been truer if you run into a

I’d love to hear what you think. Visit and enter 11200 in the go
to article number box and leave me a comment. While you’re there, browse over
1,000 technical questions and answers on the site.

Till next time, I’m Leo Notenboom, for

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21 comments on “Am I Too Hard on Hotmail?”

  1. Hi Leo,

    In responce to your “bashing hotmail accounts” I would like to say…

    You mention that it is never safe to keep “important information in only a single, free, email account”.

    Well if people do then why don’t they incorporate the uses of Outlook Express and the newer Outlook as in:

    Outlook Express/Tools/Accounts and the same sort of thing for the newer Outlook Express, using these programmes to download and send all their emails by making the necessary accounts via HTTP etc and having all messages brought to their hard drive which in turn they can then back up as a PTT file to a safe place.

    Please don’t think I’m being rude as I have learnt so much from your web site and you have probably (without my knowledge) talked about this somewhere already? Just thought it was a valid contribution to the subject…? Let me know if ok.

    Hash: SHA1

    Unfortunately Microsoft is phasing out the ability to download Hotmail
    into Outlook Express.

    AND I don’t believe that technique downloads your address book. A number
    of people I’ve heard from have lost all their contacts, so this approach
    would not have helped them.

    IF it works, it’s a partial step, but it’s not a complete solution.

    Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


  3. I saved all my wife’s contacts off hotmail by the simple expedient of opening the contacts list, and copy+paste into a Word document. At least that got the basics off, even if she did need to then re-enter them into her new Yahoo account…

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with all your comments on free e-mail providers in general and Hotmail in particular. My concern has always been the little or no checks made by Hotmail before allowing any man, woman or his/her dog to open an account. From my experience Hotmail users are among the largest proliferators of UCE.

    Keep up the excellent work, Leo.

    Kind regards

  5. Hotmail- a great email account. I have used it as my main email account for at least three years, and it has never failed me. I like the way it deals with unsolicited spam, allows me group mail, and is stable. Could it be the way it is used- or misused?
    Yes, I have another alternative email, just in case. I use them both, successfully.
    And, previously, I have had 3 other accounts, each of which eventually failed.
    Thank-you hotmail.

  6. As you see, I have other email accounts besides Hotmail, which has served as my primary email for at least 10 years or so. Maybe occasionally it has failed me, but so infrequently that it is not noticable I guess. Anyway, it seems that your and others main hangup with free emails is the possible loss of stored email messages. This is something that boggles my mind. While being a frequent computer user, I have never found ANY reason to retain ANY emails once opened, answered or deleted. Why would anyone keep the hundreds/thousands of emails coming in to clutter their computers?? An email is handy for a quickie, but emails can make you slaves to much meaningless tacky correspondence. Seems most emailers really need to get a life! PS Your articles most of the time are right on target, but once I have read, saved or sent (always with credit)one of your helpful articles, then it is promptly deleted.

  7. Leo. just made a comment for the page, and as I have noticed in others entries in the past, the postings are often missing lines of print once they are sent on to the page. Can that be corrected? Art

    Hash: SHA1

    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you mean. Everything looks fine
    to me. (If I saw a problem, you bet I’d fix it :-). I’d need more
    information to understand what it is you’re seeing.


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


  9. Leo, if the Hotmail/Yahoo addicts don’t like the truth, they don’t have to listen. You say it in a simple, logical, real-world style that depicts the reality today. I know — I’ve been in that trench. Let the whiners whine and don’t dwell on them. If they don’t like the content, they can change the channel.

  10. This comment is probably more appropriate for your article on POP3 and SMTP settings however since I can’t comment on that page I’ll leave a note here about Windows Live Mail Beta available at

    It offers free access to Windows Live Hotmail through a similar email client to Outlook Express and works with other free email clients such as Gmail etc. I’ve found it very useful in enabling me to check all my accounts in one place and its completely free.

  11. Leo,

    I’m sure that by now you’ve heard about new Hotmail Live. If you thought that hotmail was not good, try this new one. It SUCKS big time! HUGE!

    To make it even better, I was switched to this new version without my request or warning. And I can’t find my way back. COuld you please help me to reach an appropriate department to reverse the switch?

    Thank you so much for your generous help!!

    Gennady Shenker

  12. I agree hotmail has it’s issues as do others. I have changed my hotmail versions a few times and have been able to change back (contact support to get directions if you can’t figure it out). I currently use the newest live version and love it. I have had issues (always after a rebuild)and support was very fast and superb in helping me correct the situation (although that would be related to the amount of info you provide them with) I have seen worse issues like a yahoo mail account that a friend hadn’t used in at least six months and she had well over 100 lude and unknown emails. Some were so disgusting I wouldn’t even think to quote them. There is no such thing as a perfect service paid or not, so deal with it. If you hate it so much…….then find one you hate less!!!! Instead of whining……….do something about it.

  13. After having extensively used hotmail, yahoo and gmail, I can say that it is a personal preference as to which is the best. They all constantly evolve and upgrade.

    As far as I am concerned, I like them for different reasons. I have my friends circle in yahoo messenger, which is by far the best messenger. But when it comes to mail, i love the simplicity, milder page colour, folder option etc of hotmail. Gmail ofcourse is very good too, but is slightly user – unfriendly. But the load speed is so fast. And also the search. Plus the attitude of constant improvement. Still, I prefer hotmail as of now. I do not believe in keeping all the mails. If someone hacks, it is the end of your life. I prefer to keep important files etc in a separate, secret email account from any of these, thats just a dump box, which i log on to once in a month or so.

  14. My parent’s e-mail was shut down over 3 days ago by Hotmail and we have not heard anything from customer service despite repeatedly filling out customer service form. Is there even a customer service? No, I don’t think you are being too hard on Hotmail. I myself will migrate to somewhere else. However, my parents have a lot of important e-mail and they can’t get their contacts or e-mails from Hotmail as it says Account closed. Access Denied. Is there any solution to this? Please help. Thank you.

    In what’s comingup on five years of Ask Leo!, with Hotmail related disasters happening almost from day one, I have yet to find a solution to the situation you describe.
  15. Kami, ms overcharged me due to some mess up internally with their ad manager, didn’t tell me they were locking me out of my mail and everything while they were figuring it out, still waiting on my refund too. Here’s the number for the MS Office Live at least they may be able to give you another number.
    Good Luck !

  16. I called that number that the person on the phone rudely asked me if I had a website or a paid subscription. He was so rude and unhelpful. He said that Hotmail receives so many e-mails and I will just have to wait. I have been waiting for a week and a half. They have not responded to me despite writing to them five times. How come they say on their website they will get back to us in 24 hours? How can they write that when they have not got back to me for a week and a half. I don’t know what to do. Hopefully, my parent’s account will get reopened.

    I know what to do: stop using Hotmail for anything important.


  17. Hello again, Leo!

    No, no, you’re not at all hard on Hotmail or Microsoft. I appreciate all the help and your expertise which you provide so eloquently to others here on your website. You are spot on about everything you’ve written about Hotmail’s undependable free email service (along with a few others) that I highly recommend every one of your readers to follow your well-informed advice.

    Since losing my 10-year Hotmail account almost two years ago, and having undergone Hotmail’s wretched “Account Recovery” process with negative results, I was forced to switch over to my cable internet service provider’s email service which truly has “live” 24-hour technical support. I can telephone my cable provider at anytime and talk to a real human being, and that’s a beautiful thing! =)

    As for Hotmail, I had to conclude that my old account had somehow been hijacked and stripped. And then … I just waited. I would periodically check to see if my username might ever become available again since I made the assumption that nobody was actually using that account, and that Hotmail might someday purge it and put it back into the general pool.

    Well, Leo, I am happy to report that that day arrived yesterday! My username became available again and I recreated the account. Of course, there was nothing in it as everything that had been contained in it was gone. But, more importantly, that account had been my online identity which was tied to many other internet accounts and websites which I had been connected to. Now, I can begin the process of restoring my identification by which other websites recognized me. However, I will continue entrusting my cable provider’s email service for use with my most important emails and sensitive information.

    Thank you again for all your help and direction! You are THE BEST!


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