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 Outlook.com Email?

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How do I back up the email I have hosted on Outlook.com? 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 Outlook.com 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 Outlook.com 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 Outlook.com Email?

How Do I Edit a Reply?

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I’ve been told by a mailing list moderator that when I reply to a message sent to the list, I need to edit the reply to remove most of the original message. I don’t see where or how to edit a reply. What am I supposed to do?

That’s not an uncommon request. Even though you might not see it, most email programs include the original message as part of your reply. If you don’t edit the reply yourself, your one-line response might be accompanied by the entire original message that everyone’s already seen.

The problem, of course, is that exactly how to edit the entire reply often isn’t obvious at all.

Read moreHow Do I Edit a Reply?

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

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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 / Outlook.com 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?

I see lots of failed attempts to login to my account, should I do anything?

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Hi, Leo. I was changing my password tonight on Hotmail and went into a section I never noticed before called recent activity. I was shocked to see that in the past two weeks there were a ton of failed attempts from nearly every country on the map that had tried to login to my Hotmail account. Is this normal? Should I be scared? Should I close the account? I’ve had this account since 1997 so it has lots of information about me in different folders. Thanks.

Honestly, what you’re seeing doesn’t surprise me. I do have some suggestions on what you should do, but closing your account isn’t one of them.

Read moreI see lots of failed attempts to login to my account, should I do anything?

How Do I Make a New Hotmail Account? Or Outlook.com Account?

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How do I make a new Hotmail account?

Hotmail was replaced with Outlook.com. 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 Outlook.com – and maybe even make it a Hotmail.com 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 Outlook.com Account?

How do I automatically forward Hotmail in Outlook.com?

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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 Outlook.com user interface left many long-time Hotmail users upset and dissatisfied. Many are considering leaving Outlook.com behind, except that this would mean abandoning their Hotmail.com email address.

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

Read moreHow do I automatically forward Hotmail in Outlook.com?

How Do I Print an Email in Outlook.com (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 Outlook.com would lead to a lot of confusion.

It turns out it’s not hard at all to print an email in Outlook.com. 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 Outlook.com (Formerly Hotmail)?

How do I open an .isc file in Outlook.com?

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So Hotmail changed its name to “Outlook”…fine. The problem that I’m having is that someone has sent me a “.isc” file which is apparently an Outlook-part of Office calendar. Is there some way to view this file with in Outlook (previously Hotmail)? It seems like if they are trying for a seamless integration, there would be. If they are just trying to annoy us,… well, that’s working.

So the naming is very, very unfortunate. I really cringed when they first announced Outlook.com.

The bottom line is that Outlook.com (formerly known as Hotmail) is not related to Outlook, the desktop email program that comes with Microsoft Office. It sounds like the .isc file needs the Office desktop program. It’s part of Outlook the program, not Outlook.com.

But wait … there may be something else going on here.

Read moreHow do I open an .isc file in Outlook.com?