Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

How do I get a Hotmail password reset if my alternate email address is invalid?

I can’t login to my Hotmail account. I think it’s been hacked. I tried to do
a password reset using my alternate email address, but it turns out that it’s
an old email address that hasn’t worked for years!

How do I get my password reset if I can’t access the alternate email
account? How do I get my account back?

You may not be able to.

We’re going to try, but I want to be very clear that in cases like this, it’s
not uncommon for the account to be lost forever.

This is why I so strongly recommend backing up email, making sure your
account is properly secured, using it securely, and not sharing your account login information with anyone, ever.

So with that dire warning and admonition out of the way, let’s see what we
can do.

]]>

Normal account recovery

On the Hotmail sign-in page, there is a link that you would normally use in a situation where your account has been lost or compromised:

Can't access your account link

Click that and you’ll be taken to a page with three options:

Hotmail Reset your password page

The only real action in all three of these options is to reset your password. Clicking that, you’re asked to enter your Windows Live ID – in other words, your Hotmail email address – and do a “type the characters” exercise to prove that you’re not a computer:

Password reset: indicate which account and prove you're human

Click Next and you’ll get a list of options:

Hotmail password reset options

Important: Your list may be different.

In fact, it almost certainly will be. For this account, I’ve set up two alternate email addresses, my mobile phone, and a “trusted PC” for password reset operations.

Normally, I’d choose Email me a reset link. This would be sent to all of the email addresses listed as alternates and upon receiving that link, I’d be able to set my new account password.

No viable alternates?

If you cannot login and none of the alternates are valid or available, your only choice is to contact Hotmail customer support:

Contact customer support password reset option

You’ll be asked to provide a working email address at which Hotmail customer support can contact you:

Contact customer support contact form

The next page includes a form on which you can provide information about the account:

Hotmail recovery information form

Enter as much information about your account as you possibly can. The Hotmail team will use this to confirm that you are indeed the proper account owner and should be given access to the account.

If your information is incomplete or wrong, you may not get access.

Not only that, but the Hotmail staff is not allowed to tell you why – doing so might give a hacker additional information about the account that could make their next attempt at hacking successful.

After you’ve given your information, you’ll get a confirmation message:

Your information has been submitted
We’ll send an email to {email address} to let you know if you’ve provided enough information to recover your account. It usually takes us about 24 hours to review the information submitted. If you’ve already submitted a request, we’ll close that request and take a look at this one.

What if I’m still denied access?

If you cannot login…

If your recovery options are invalid or do not work…

If the customer support request to access your account is denied…

I know of no way to gain access to your Hotmail account.

All that I can suggest is that you move on. Set up a new account and hopefully learn from this experience.

Learn? What’s there to learn?

You and only you are responsible for the security of your account, using the account securely and backing up any important information that you might keep in it.

As you’ve experienced, everything can be lost.

Therefore:

  • Set up and keep current your password recovery information, such as alternate email addresses, mobile phone numbers, and whatever other techniques might be provided by Hotmail, to allow for account recovery.

  • Use your account safely. Don’t share it with friends. Choose good, strong passwords that can’t be guessed. Don’t use it on open Wifi hotspots unless you know how to keep that connection secure.

  • Backup your important emails, contacts, documents, and whatever else you have associated with your Hotmail/Windows Live account.

And above all, remember that Hotmail is a free service; sometimes, you get what you pay for.

Postscript

As you can see from the example above, I have two email addresses and a mobile number associated with this example account. Within moments of filling out the customer support form that I showed as your last resort steps, I received an SMS message as well as an email message to each email address, which would have allowed me to regain access to my account.

Set up those alternate email addresses now before you forget.

And keep them up to date.

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Tech problem solving & safety tips & a weekly confidence boost in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow

Slow Computer?

Speed up with my special report: 10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow, now updated for Windows 10.

NOW: name your own price! You decide how much to pay -- and yes, that means you can get this report completely free if you so choose. Get your copy now!

9 comments on “How do I get a Hotmail password reset if my alternate email address is invalid?”

  1. I’m amazed at how many people don’t use the provided security features provided by all email providers. I’ve been with @msn.com, which is also part of the Windows Live Team. This is my business email address. I also use gmail and yahoo, as disposable addresses, and have for many years. They all provide very good security measures. I have never had any problem with any of these, and if you have the security measures in place, you will be notified when anyone attempts to make changes to your account. Free or paid services, all are only as safe as we ourselves make them. Good work Leo. Kudos to the repeated replies you provide for email address recoveries. Excellent newsletters and advice.

    Reply
  2. Oops… I think you have a typo…

    “… doing so might give a hacker additional information about the account that could make their next attempt at hacking unsuccessful.”

    Reply
  3. Not a typo at all, too much information isn’t good, and can be harmful 🙂

    And yet, it was a typo – since corrected. Smile

    Leo
    11-Jan-2012
    Reply
  4. I am amazed that Hotmail can stay in business with all the problems the members have. Or this question could be a hacker trying to gain access to somebody else’s account. I hope people do not give their real mother’s maiden name or high school name as that information if freely available to close friends and family and of course schoolmates, etc. The one drawback is trying to remember the fake answers years later. Of course, another Hotmail password question should be here in a week or so. I dumped Hotmail over 10 years ago. My current email is now 99.99% spam.

    Reply
  5. Your suggestions did work to get the Hotmail email back. The problem is that the alternate Email is bad and to enter an alternate Email in Hotmail you need to confirm the alternate Email with the original Alternate Email that does not work.
    Therefore next time there will be a problem with the Hotmail Email there will be the same problem again and again.. Wish they will allow a different way to enter an alternative Email and have it verified..

    Reply
  6. i can’t get reset password in my alternate email. may be when i make alternate i did nt verified. but hint of alternate is look like my alternate email and em sure dat. but im still not getting reset password email in my alternate email account. any software for recover to send reset password to my alternate?

    Reply
  7. that was no help, it just says everything I’ve gone through while trying to restore my account. What’s the solution? This article only explains the problem.

    Reply
  8. I’ve been trying for 3 days to get into my BLOCKED account now. Can someone please tell me whose idea was it to block accounts? I want to find him and murder him

    Reply

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.