Are Free Email Services Worth It?

This is a major update to what I consider one of my most important articles, dating all the way back to 2004 (with intermediate updates in 2010 and 2013).

My answer has changed from “mostly no” to “mostly yes”, with the following important caveats:

  • You must understand the costs.
  • You must understand the risks.
  • You must prepare for disaster.
  • You must take responsibility.

I’ll dive into each of these in detail, but before I do, I’ll share one concrete datapoint: all of my email is currently being processed via free email accounts. Clearly, I believe it can be done safely.

Read moreAre Free Email Services Worth It?

Back Up Your Email Using Thunderbird

Many years ago, shortly after Ask Leo! began, I received a panic-stricken email from an individual whose account had been hacked. He had lost all access to the account and everything in it. His panic stemmed from the fact that, for whatever reason, the only copy of his master’s thesis had been in that account.

It was gone, and there was no hope of recovery.1

Hopefully, you’re not keeping something as important as a master’s thesis only in your online email account. That’s wrong on several levels. But I’m guessing there are things in your account you never want to lose, such as photos, correspondence, or other things you’ve exchanged via email.

The problem is, of course, that if it’s only in your email account, it’s not backed up.

Let’s fix that. Let’s back up your email.

Read moreBack Up Your Email Using Thunderbird

How Do I Back Up My Email?

How do I back up the email I have hosted on Contacts, too.

I hear about attempted account theft often. I hear about successful account hacks more often than I would like. I also hear about account loss for a variety of other reasons as well — again, more often than I would like.

Here’s the problem: most people don’t back up their online account. All their email is stored in exactly and only one place: in that account, stored online on Microsoft’s servers. Remember: if it’s only in one place, it’s not backed up.

And when the online account is hacked or lost for any reason, all that email disappears, often forever.

Backing up your account — or any online email account, for that matter — is critical if you want to avoid the possibility of losing everything.

Read moreHow Do I Back Up My Email?

I searched and found a Hotmail support number, but is it legit?


I Googled Hotmail telephone contact US, and one of the sites that came up was {redacted}, the Phone number on the site is: {redacted}. I called the number on this site and was put by the first caller to someone he described as his supervisor who with my permission could access my computer to resolve the problem.

I followed the instructions from the guy and allowed him to access my computer, then he asked me to open one of my hotmail accounts, which I did. He then showed me on my computer a number of files which he informed me were persons trying to gain access to my hotmail account,  and said that this and other things needed be cleaned out so the laptop could function effectively again.

He indicated that they provide a technical service to Hotmail for its customers.

Is the site a safe one to go to?
Is there a telephone number to contact Hotmail?
Should I allow him to access my computer?
Should I allow him to clean out what he says needs cleaning out?
If not, now that he had access to my computer have I opened myself to any risk and is there something I could do to prevent him from accessing my computer again?

That’s actually an excerpt of a lengthier question I recently received from someone experiencing difficulty logging into their Hotmail / account while travelling overseas, a very common and often unsolveable problem.

His approach seems sound on the surface: search for a Hotmail support number, and see if the person at the other end can help.

Unfortunately, this path typically leads to even worse problems.

Read moreI searched and found a Hotmail support number, but is it legit?

How Do I Force My Email Account to Close on Another Device?

Hello, Leo. I left my Hotmail account open on another device, meaning I logged in on someone else’s computer and forgot to close out. I think the individual left the page open, possibly viewing my email. They have a Mac. I have a PC. Is it possible to figure out if my Hotmail account is open on another computer? Is there any way of closing it out without having access to the other device? Perhaps by changing the password? Does your account have a timeout and automatically close? It’s imperative that this person not have access

Unfortunately, there are several reasons that you don’t want to log in to your email account on the computer of someone that you don’t actually trust. The possibility of walking away while it’s still logged in is really only just one.

Read moreHow Do I Force My Email Account to Close on Another Device?

How can I get my lost Hotmail emails back?

My old emails have disappeared from my Hotmail/ account. I’ve logged into the account on a weekly basis so I know that isn’t the issue. I searched old emails and they’re just gone; anything past 2013 emails are gone which I need to have. What can be done? When I found out and panicked I searched links and saw a link without reading carefully about Hotmail help. It turned out that it was not Hotmail but a company called [company redacted]; they took over my computer remotely before I realized they were not directly associated with Microsoft. Are they legit? Do they do further damage?

Keeping anything critically important in only a free email account like Hotmail is unfortunately a recipe for disaster.

I want to go over how you might have been better prepared for this. I’ll touch on what you might do to get your email back (but to be honest, I’m not very hopeful) and I’ll talk about the service that you let access your machine.

Read moreHow can I get my lost Hotmail emails back?

How do I prevent Hotmail from locking me out when I travel overseas?


Each time I travel overseas, my Hotmail account locks me out because it becomes suspicious of my new location and that someone is someone is trying to hack into it. How do I fix it so that Hotmail will never again lock me out when I’m in a different location than usual?

First, I don’t think that you can change that feature in Hotmail. I honestly don’t know of a way to stop it from locking you out when you travel overseas.

But to be honest, my take is very different. I don’t think you want it to stop.

Read moreHow do I prevent Hotmail from locking me out when I travel overseas?

How Do I Make a New Hotmail Account? Or Account?

How do I make a new Hotmail account?

Hotmail was replaced with You probably already know this; that’s where you now go to access your Hotmail email.

You can create your new new email account using – and maybe even make it a email address.

But first, there’s a step that is apparently not quite as obvious to as many people as we might expect.

Read moreHow Do I Make a New Hotmail Account? Or Account?

What Are’s IMAP, POP3, and SMTP Settings?

How do I use Hotmail or with my desktop email program? It wants something about POP3 and SMTP. What should I put in?

With the proliferation of devices running their own email programs, settings for POP3, SMTP, and now more frequently IMAP are a popular request for the various email services.

For a long time, Microsoft didn’t provide the ability to connect to a desktop email program, but they added it to Hotmail a few years ago. With the transition to as Hotmail’s replacement, that functionality remains.

Read moreWhat Are’s IMAP, POP3, and SMTP Settings?

How Do I Use and Clear Contacts and Auto-complete Suggestions?

I am finding the new very annoying. How do I find my list of addresses and save a new one? When forwarding, I have to click through a whole load of addresses to get to the ones I want and then, delete the ones that I did not want. It wastes a lot of time. is the online replacement for Hotmail. It’s unrelated to Microsoft’s Office Outlook  email program. attempts to provide a clean, easy-to-use interface for managing not only your email, but your contacts, calendar, and (with the addition of SkyDrive) your data files as well.

Unfortunately, cleanliness or simplicity only goes so far. You’re not the only one who finds the displayed contacts and email addresses confusing when you compose a new email.

Let’s look at how it all works.

Read moreHow Do I Use and Clear Contacts and Auto-complete Suggestions?

How do I change my Hotmail or password?

I cannot get to the Account Summary or Options page for my Hotmail account. I needed to change my password.

As Microsoft updates its mail offering, some of its features are moving or changing.

As I’ve mentioned before, if you have a Hotmail (or, as it’s now called) account, you should expect change. Change happens. Sometimes, it’s small and other times, it’s quite dramatic – such as how you change your password.

I’ll walk through the steps to change your password in the current (as of this writing) design.

Read moreHow do I change my Hotmail or password?

How do I automatically forward Hotmail in

I’m changing email accounts, but I don’t want to lose people who have my Hotmail address. How do I automatically forward Hotmail messages messages to my new account at a different provider?

The recent forced switch-over to the user interface left many long-time Hotmail users upset and dissatisfied. Many are considering leaving behind, except that this would mean abandoning their email address.

Fortunately, it’s very easy to automatically forward Hotmail messages or any email that comes into your account to another email provider.

Read moreHow do I automatically forward Hotmail in

How Do I Print an Email in (Formerly Hotmail)?

This is another of those “representative” questions that I get a lot; more than I would expect, to be honest.

But when you think about it, with all the changes that Hotmail users have been through in the last few years, it’s understandable that the latest change to would lead to a lot of confusion.

It turns out it’s not hard at all to print an email in You just need to get used to looking in a new place for some additional options.

Let me show you. (Now with video!)

Read moreHow Do I Print an Email in (Formerly Hotmail)?

How do I change my Hotmail alternate email address?


The email address I used for recovery is no longer valid. I can’t figure out how to change my alternate email address.

Your alternate email address is a critical bit of information that you’ll need if you ever lose your password, or if your account ever gets hacked.

It’s good of you to note that your current one is invalid – if you no longer have access to your alternate email address then it’s just as bad as, perhaps even worse than, not having set up an alternate email address at all.

I’ll show you how to change it.

Read moreHow do I change my Hotmail alternate email address?

What are my Lost Hotmail Account and Password Recovery Options?

As long time readers know I get a lot of reports of Hotmail account theft and compromise. Every day there are reports of everything from simple password loss, to email being sent “From” your email address, to attempts to actually scam your contacts.

Depending on exactly what’s happened, the available remedies may be simple, they may be difficult, or they may be completely impossible: your account and everything in it might be lost forever.

I’ll review the various scenarios, and direct you to related articles on Ask Leo! that cover the options for each.

Read moreWhat are my Lost Hotmail Account and Password Recovery Options?

Hotmail says my password is incorrect, but I know it’s right. What do I do?



I get this often enough that I want to use this question as an example and provide a summary article for the situation.

This has nothing to do with Hotmail’s “nonsense” at all.

It’s pretty clear what’s happened here, so I’ll point you to a number of my previous articles that all might apply in your situation.

Read moreHotmail says my password is incorrect, but I know it’s right. What do I do?