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I've lost my Hotmail password, can you help get it back?

Boy, do I get this question a lot. Several times a day, in fact. And it’s
almost always in one of the following forms:

  • Someone has hacked my id and I want it back.
  • I need my password someone hacked on to it.
  • I tried to log on to instant messaging but I can’t remember my password
    or my secret question.
  • Someone reset my screen name password.
  • I can’t log into my own email account. Please help me recover my
    password.

And it’s almost always in regard to a free email or instant messaging
account.

Usually these questions are accompanied with dire pleas because all their
contact information is in the account, or there’s absolutely critical email
that they can’t get to, or some other life, career, or relationship-threatening
situation.

I get them over and over again, many times, every day.

There’s usually nothing anyone can do to help, but let’s walk
through the options you do have and how you can prevent the problem
in the first place.

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I’ve written about similar situations before in “
Someone has stolen my email account. What can I do to get it back?

I’ll reiterate some of the points I made there.

One of the first things I recommend is to call your ISP customer
support immediately. Unfortunately that’s not an
option for free accounts
, because as I’ve written about
elsewhere, there’s almost no customer
support available for free accounts
. You’re on your own.

Try to reset your password. Usually that’s done by answering a
“secret question”. As you can tell by the examples, by the time people
come here, it’s often because they’ve forgotten the answer to their
secret question. If you’re on a free email service and there’s no customer
support
, you’re pretty much screwed at this point.

Let me be extra clear on that point:


If you’re using a free email service such as Hotmail, and you forget or
lose both your password and the answer to your secret
question, you are screwed. There is no customer support to help you,
and I certainly have no way of helping you.

“There’s usually nothing anyone can do to
help… “

If you are paying for the account you’re having problems with, you
should, as I said, immediately contact customer support for
that service. If you’re paying for your account and there’s no
customer support, move your account elsewhere.

Before you abandon your account: do look to see if
others are having problems logging in. For example, the recent
upgrade to MSN Messenger
has caused a lot of people problems. Most
often these problems are temporary, and resolve themselves after a
while. But once again, with the free services, you’re getting what you
paid for, and there may be no official communication relating to
service problems.

So how do you prevent this from happening in the future?

  • Don’t use free email accounts for anything
    important.
    It’s not
    worth it.
    If your free email account and all the information in it
    went away tomorrow, would that be a problem for you? If so …
    move now.

  • Choose good passwords. It’s tough given the number
    of accounts and passwords we all need to remember, but the fact is
    choosing a hard-to-guess password and changing it regularly are
    important steps you can take to avoid someone stealing your
    account.

  • Remember your secret answer. I’m kind of surprised
    I even have to say this, but when you create an account that asks you
    for a secret question and answer, don’t treat it lightly. It doesn’t
    have to be true, just make sure it’s something you’ll remember in a
    year or two when (not if) you have a problem.

  • Don’t use “remember me” when logging in. At least,
    don’t use it unless you’re positive it’s safe. If someone else
    walks up to the computer (be it in an internet cafe, or in your bedroom
    or office) and “remember me” is selected, they can now login as you
    without knowing your password. And then they can change your password,
    locking you out of your own account.

And as always, scan for viruses and spyware regularly.

And finally, and again to be clear:


I cannot recover or change your password for you. I cannot email you
your password. I cannot reset your password or your secret question.
It’s simply not possible. Requests for me to do so will simply be
ignored.

If you’ve lost your password, you don’t remember your secret
question, and your service has no customer support – you’re done. Go
create a new account somewhere and hopefully learn from the
experience.

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5 comments on “I've lost my Hotmail password, can you help get it back?”

  1. Typically you cannot. You can try working with your ISP to analyse your email headers, but it’s often difficult to trace back to a person, or even a specific machine. It typically requires the cooperation of the *senders* ISP as well.

    Reply
  2. I’m closing comments on this article, because it’s just turned into a stream of requests for exactly what I’ve said I cannot do.
    So to be extra clear:

    I CANNOT GET YOUR PASSWORD BACK. PLEASE GO READ THE ARTICLE FOR THE ADVICE I HAVE TO OFFER.

    – Leo
    17-Mar-2005
    Reply

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