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What’s Up With Microsoft and Email?

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Posted: May 14, 2016 in: Leo's blog
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I'm Leo Notenboom and I've been playing with computers since I took a required programming class in 1976. I spent over 18 years as a software engineer at Microsoft, and after "retiring" in 2001 I started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place to help you find answers and become more confident using this amazing technology at our fingertips. More about Leo.

128 comments on “What’s Up With Microsoft and Email?”

  1. I totally agree with your position. What’s that saying … once bitten, twice shy … I’ll just stick with my Thunderbird.

    • James,
      I have used Thunderbird for quite a while. I use Mozbackup nightly to create a backup of my email file. I use Lightning, the calendar, extensively.

      Most of the time, it has worked well. Even the glitches have been small enough that I did not choose something different.

      Re Gmail, I had to use IMAP to get it to download to Thunderbird.

  2. I use to use Thunderbird for my main e-mail address (through my ISP) but switched to eM Client about four years ago and have been very happy with it. Since I recently signed up with Pinterest, I do use Thunderbird for my @live e-mail. I also have a Gmail account (had to create one when I bought a Chromebook) and also a Yahoo e-mail when I taught.

  3. I use Outlook on two of my 4 machines, and find it does what I want better than anything else. However, I wouldn’t recommend spending any money to get it. Thunderbird works fine for me on my other 2 machines, actually almost identical in functionality for what I do. The only reason I use Outlook is that I got a great deal on Office 365 Pro, and the slight advantage it provides to me plus possibly the sunk cost fallacy 🙂 keeps me using it.

    I liked eMclient. I would have stuck with it except that the free version only handles 2 accounts, and since I have Outlook 2016 and Thunderbird, I couldn’t justify paying for it, although I would have gladly paid it if the integrated calendar function was important to me. Now since I do all my scheduling on my Android phone with Google Calendar, this feature is no longer anything I need a program for on my computers.

  4. “However, I wouldn’t recommend spending any money to get it.” – For home use, I totally agree. For business use, nothing else comes close.

  5. I am wondering why people are insisting on outlook and outlook com.
    Many years ago i decided to give up my hotmail mail address and outlook, after all we don’t need those microsoft products. Reading the article i am getting the impression microsoft is, once again messing up things. I became gmail adept…and i am very pleased with the efficiency.

  6. For many years (1993 to 2010 I think) I used Eudora but then they gave up Eudora for Thunderbird. I had a hard time getting in with Thunderbird, and then switched to Outlook. Maybe I’ll take a look at eM.

    • I think I’ve tried pretty much every email client at some point – from Eudora to The Bat!; from Pegasus to eM Client – but invariably come back to Outlook. IMO, it’s the best by quite a long chalk. For most home users, it’s probably not worth buying Outlook as a standalone product; however, if somebody already has Outlook as part of an Office subscriptions, I think it makes sense to use it.

      • I used outlook for years while at Microsoft (naturally) and for a long time afterwards. My only real complaints are that it’s massive – way more than most people need – and that the data store is in a proprietary format. Loved it otherwise.

  7. We use Outlook at work and I like it. But I’m not about to spend the money for it at home. So I stick with Thunderbird. But I miss Outlook’s calendar function. I realize that Thunderbird has a calendar function, but it doesn’t synchronize across my computers.

  8. Great article on email. I used Outlook (the program) for many years and only stopped because it became unstable when the file size went over 1.5GB and I was forever using the Inbox Repair Tool and praying that it would work yet again. Also, because the email, contacts, calendar, journal etc are stored in one big file bucket every online backup was in the Gigabytes every day when only a few messages had been added. I moved to Thunderbird and use MOZ backup regularly in addition to my online backup. I use the mail app on my W8 laptop when I’m on the road and Thunderbird on my desktop for permanent storage. I have been experimenting with the G-Mail app (interface) to access my non-Gmail email accounts while on the road and am impressed so may retire the Windows Mail app and all Microsoft mail products permanently.
    Thanks for keeping us ahead of the curve.

  9. I have had a hotmail account since before 2000., and I have a 365 subscription renewed annually.The problem with my Hotmail account is that sometimes I send an email, it appears in my sent folder, but the recipient doesn’t receive it, especially when I work in SE Asia. I am Australian, by the way. So I have to resort to Gmail which works perfectly, but I find it not as easy to use as my Hotmail account. Life is strange. For your information Microsoft now have an customer outlet in Sydney which works well, and also a help desk located in the Philippines where you can actually talk to someone. Some things have improved!

    • “The problem with my Hotmail account is that sometimes I send an email, it appears in my sent folder, but the recipient doesn’t receive it.” – It’s probably in their spam/junk folder.

      • That’s another problem with Hotmail, it’s so popular with spammers that it ranks as a factor in spam filters determining whether the email is spam.

  10. I stopped recommending Outlook a long time ago. Everything is stored in a single PST file and over time it becomes bloated and slow and causes other problems that are difficult to troubleshoot. As for MS free email accounts and apps, I never recommended them and still don’t. Hotmail was a venue for spammers and fraudsters so why would any legitimate person want that email domain? The same goes for Yahoo! Individual free email accounts are best served by either GMAIL or AOL because they just plain work without significant issue. The best free email/PIM client I have found is called essentialPIM. The free version is extremely robust and does everything including Calendars, Tasks, Notes, Contacts, Passwords and Email. It will also sync to multiple devices. If you need more advanced features such as cloud synchronization, multi-user access or more, then the paid version is required. For most people and small businesses, the free version is just terrific. I’ve been using it for years and they have not changed the interface, which I really appreciate as it is very easy and straightforward.

    • There is an easy solution to the bloated PST file issue. Archive. Archive all 2012 emails to an archive. All 2013 to another. All 2014 to another etc. They all show up in your file list, and each is a separate PST so they have NO effect on your speed. You can archive your 2016 email every month if you like (into the one archive file) keeping 1, 2, 3, or 4 months, whatever you like, in your primary PST. And you can choose what to archive – you can keep your whole calendar in the primary and archive just the mail, or whatever mix you want – and the archive facility is built in – and CAN be automated

      As for office 365, MUCH better for most people to buy retail product instead of “renting” – outlook 2003 is still eminently useable – and if you are not on Exchange Server 3003 or higher, even 2002 is perfectly adequate for most people.

      • Clare, thank you! That was my first thought, too. ARCHIVE! Everything runs smoother, and it makes it so much more manageable. You cannot NOT archive when using MS Office Outlook. Not a question of if, but when, the PST file will blow up. And, I agree about Office 365. Same for Adobe’s rentals. Buying is cheaper in the end, and will make for a much more successful experience.

        • “Buying is cheaper in the end.” – Maybe, maybe not. The subscription-based product provides access to a number of things that the standalone product does not: multiple installs/users, cross-device/platform compatibility (iOS, Android, Windows Phone), 1TB of cloud storage, Skype minutes, etc. Which is cheaper really depends on what you want/need and whether you’ll need to upgrade when support ends.

          • Indeed. I believe that the subscription model MIGHT be close to the same cost as buying a new version each time it comes out. For a single machine. The fact that the subscription model allows you to install on FIVE machines makes that a clear win for many people (myself included 🙂 ).

          • … and then there’s the option of buying the standalone products, which may be the cheapest option if you only need a single app for a single machine.

  11. To James B.: If you use Outlook / Office at work, does MS still provide a full Office suite to employees for use on their home machines? IIRC, an employee could get an authorization from their IT guy, and use that to purchase a full, non-commercial, disc for their home use (cost was something like $10 to pay for S&H). I have been using Office on my home machine for about 20 years (having Word and Excel and Outlook on my home machine let’s me do anything I ever need to do). On my Outlook, I have multiple email addresses, many mail folders and extensive mail rules to automatically sort and filter incoming mail. About the only thing Outlook doesn’t do (the old Outlook Express could) is access Usenet (if that’s even still around these days; maybe its gone the way of dial-up BBS’s).

  12. I have used nearly all the email solutions mentioned above at one time or another and have no major complaints with any of them except the ones provided by Microsoft. When Outlook Express went away along with Windows XP nothing has satisfied me since. I am disgusted with the perpetual process of updating, upgrading and changing of something that isn’t broken and doesn’t need fixing. I’m done with Windows Live Mail and about to be done with
    I have been using Thunderbird Mail for some time now and will continue using it as long as it’s available. I might give the free eM Client a trial run…

    • The Windows 8 mail client was a complete dog; the Windows 10 client ain’t too bad. In fact, it’s actually quite nice.

  13. I started using Hotmail in 1998 and over the years, as it became “uncool” to have a address, I kept trying other services…and coming back to Hotmail because I liked it the best. I started using Windows Live Mail when it first became available and have loved it. One of the things I was looking forward to was the update that Microsoft was going to offer for it when Windows 10 came out. Oooops!
    I’m not sure what to do now. I have a copy of Office 2003 with Outlook 2003 that I can use for now. However, support for it has ended, so not sure how much longer I can use that. I don’t really have a need at this point for Office, so I don’t want to buy or subscribe to it. is OK but not as good as the desktop client.
    Here’s the thing, I use an Iphone and I have my contacts synced with Outlook, so I kind of need to stick with Outlook for the contacts. I tried the Mail program that came with W10 and I can’t believe that anyone that knows anything about computers declared that it was a program ready to release. I also tried Thunderbird and it seems acceptable, except for the problem of syncing the Contacts. I found some 3rd party solutions but that seems like bringing in a complication that I don’t want. I will keep an eye out and hope that an alternative shows up. Thanks for keeping us up to date.

    • You don’t really need “support” for a product to use it. When is the last time you had a problem with a MS product and actually called MS for help on it??? I have a client still using office 98. (outlook 98 won’t play nice with exchange 2012, but is fine for POP email. 2003 I think is much better for imap. (and a requirement for later exchange email)

      • Support in this case doesn’t mean being able to get personal help form MS. It means that if any bugs are discovered, they won’t be fixed. If these bugs are security related and open your computer to malware, then your computer is at risk. Unsupported programs which access the internet such as browsers, email programs, or in fact, any program which accesses the internet even to update are particularly at risk.

  14. I have Outlook (the program), but don’t use if for reading email, I go to (yes I’m dating myself). Before I retired I used Outlook (the program) at work and it worked great. I’d like to use it at home, but the setup seemed tricky. As a follow up, you might address how to set up Outlook for home users.

    Thanks. Keep up the good work!

    • “I’d like to use it at home, but the setup seemed tricky.” – It’s real easy. You shouldn’t have any problems.

  15. Hey Leo, thanks for this and all you do. I’ve used MS Office since Windows 97. But there is no way I will upgrade, again, to Window’s 10. I experimented w/it on my experimental, extra PC and it’s stuck there but I actually *need* an external dvd drive which I can never recover w/out givng them even more money. I cannot buy any software and install it on that PC, old or new. I don’t use any “free” MS anything ever. It’s an oxymoron. I lost access to all of my email on that machine as well. I tried Outlook 365 which was too expensive and I loathed it. I don’t use “cloud” for much of anything, it’s not only a pita but it’s insecure – if they can hack the USGovt. they can hack me. I still use Office Home & Business w/Outlook 2010 and backup with ABF. Not easy but at least I have backup to 8 billion emails. I hope this makes some sense, I’m typing and listening to you at the same time and read some of the comments as well. I vaguely remember Thunderbird, I’m stuck with Outlook simply because I’ve used MS Office for my business since 1997 which had OE and have saved as much as possible since that time which also includes all of my self created business forms saved in word docs. (That’s why, naysayers). My one experiment with Corel which I used when my business was really taking off – a wonderful program for business, calendars, wordperfect, accounting , PeachTree, is almost impossible to access now via my current MS programs unless I pay for the upgrades every year and even that is not too helpful and they have no email.

  16. I really don’t get it! I use for all of my email and it works fine. I have five screen names for different functions. Why would I use Outlook, the Office program, at all? Never did get it and don’t now. What are you gaining from using Outlook that has never been of importance to me. ??

    I don’t know what Windows Live Mail 2012 is. Should I care ? Is that part of an Office program?

    • Both outlook (the program) and Windows Live Mail are programs you run on your computer to download yoru email to your computer. Using accessess your email via the web.

    • “Why would I use Outlook, the Office program, at all?” – To centrally manage multiple accounts? For offline access? For backup reasons? Better attachment handling? More comprehensive management/organizational features? An email client is the best option for some folk; webmail is the best option for others. It all depends on what you need/want.

  17. If I understood the article on the PC Magazine site, you are NOT losing the accounts you already have, nor will you for the foreseeable future, only the ability to add more. If you are the average Joe Kilobyte using it for personal and not business purposes, you may be just fine.

    I don’t see what WLM 2012 even has to do with my recent W7 installations as I can’t even find it listed when I go through my IE settings.

  18. Given the history of MS free email clients and given the increased usage of tablets, smartphones and portable computers it is wise to consider web based email programs such as GMail, Yahoo, Apple, etc. Because of increased travel, I switched to Gmail several years back and could not be happier.

    • The only problem with “webmail” is you have no offline access to existing email, and no “permanent copy”. If and when MS decides to totally dump Hotmail, you will lose everything off the server.

      For business email, a real mail client SOMEWHERE is almost a necessity to ensure you have a trail.

      • There is a best of both worlds solution. Use the web interface for your general email work and install an email program which you run periodically (best daily) to back up your emails.

      • This is one reason I so strongly recommend that even when using WebMail that you have a desktop client that you fire up from time to time to make a backup of your email. (I’m not concerned that MS will dump hotmail, I’m more concerned about account theft and the like.)

      • “For business email, a real mail client SOMEWHERE is almost a necessity to ensure you have a trail.” – That’s not the case at all. It’s very common for businesses completely outsource their email, using hosted solutions coupled with web access.

        • If you substitute the word ‘backup’ for ‘trail’, this statement would make more sense. Webmail provides a trail unless that trail is lost, in which case you need a backup. That’s one reason to use an email client with IMAP. Your computer is a backup for your online emails and your online emails are a backup of your email program’s data.

  19. I like the Outlook desktop client. I can switch between personal and work. If I didn’t have that I would just go all web and use Gmail. I think the days of desktop email clients are almost over. They were needed in the days of dialup modems where you would connect, download your email and then disconnect. Compose responses, connect and send. Another good option is just use a phone or tablet with whatever email client it has.

    • They are also useful and necessary in order to back up your emails. GMail, Yahoo and are very good with keeping your email, but there are cases, for example, with hacked accounts where you might lose your account. For general email management the web interface is great, but run the email program periodically to download a backup copy of all.

      • I simply auto-forward all emails from Gmail to with the latter then acting as a backup. It saves on storing GBs of old emails locally.

  20. Two questions, Leo:
    First, is Thunderbird still supported? I remember reading (several years ago, and I can’t remember where) that Mozilla was no longer supporting Thunderbird, so I wonder about even using it.

    Second, since I have Outlook 2013, how do I go about exporting emails, accounts, contacts, etc. from WLM to Outlook on a 64-bit system? Google searches seem to indicate that the 32-bit Outlook, but not the 64-bit, will allow you to move your email from WLM to Outlook with no problem. I understand that switching to Thunderbird is easy-peasy, but I’d like to use Outlook, if possible. After all, the money’s already spent….

    • Active development on new features was, I believe, stopped, but my understanding is that it’s still being maintained otherwise.

      The easiest way to migrate is to install Outlook on the same machine as WLM and you should have an import option. Once you have your email in Outlook’s PST files, you can then copy/move those to another machine running Outlook.

    • Thunderbird is still being supported in that they are fixing any discovered bugs. What they are not doing is adding new features. From all of the complaints I’ve been reading from people about changes in Windows and other products, this is probably a good thing. No new features means no frustration learning a new interface and fewer bugs cropping up.

      • I suspect that Thunderbird will go the way of Eudora. Unlike Firefox, it generates practically no revenue and, as more people make the transition to webmail and/or become increasingly reliant on mobile and want a consistent and seamless experience across platforms, it’s likely to become more and more niche. Further, the break with the Mozilla Foundation is likely to result in development slowing even further due to decreased funding – and it’s already starting to look a bit tired and dated.

        I doubt Thunderbird will go away any time soon, but I suspect it’s going to become less and less relevant and less and less popular.

        • The first mention of Thunderbird being dead was in 2012. It is still alive. Don’t forget that it is an open source project, which can be maintained by a community rather than a company. No single group can decide that an open source project is dead now. I’m pretty sure that thunderbird, or a fork of it, will continue to exist and be maintained, even in the improbable event that it would be given up by the actual developers. Open source has a totally different development trail than propriety (even free as in beer) software. In fact, open source that has been successful such as thunderbird, will live on, even if it is forked, which probably means that if ever thunderbird as such disappears, an e-mail client which will be highly comparable and compatible, will continue as open source.
          Thunderbird has a great collection of plug ins, of which enigmail is probably a very important one. Thunderbird is also the standard e-mail client on ubuntu.
          As an e-mail client, I don’t know what you’d need more.
          Eudora was not open source. That’s why it is dead.

          • “Don’t forget that it is an open source project, which can be maintained by a community rather than a company.” – While software can be community-maintained to an extent, it nonetheless requires a cash source – like the $300 million the Mozilla Foundation earns each year from Firefox’s search providers.

            “Eudora was not open source. That’s why it is dead.” – Actually, it was open-source – or, rather, it eventually became open-source – and the open-source version was based on Thunderbird!

            As I said, I don’t think Thunderbird will completely cease to be any time soon, but I do think it’ll become less popular/relevant as more people transition to webmail and mobile and want seamless cross-platform compatibility/syncing. Further, the fact that the Mozilla Foundation will no longer be propping it up will likely result in development slowing which will mean it’ll fail to keep with other mail clients.

      • I’m not sure your statement is correct regarding new features. I just got a Thunderbird update a couple days ago and when it started it said that it now was doing something different (I thought it said something about “nightly” but I could be wrong. I didn’t understand what it was trying to say, so I ignored it). But I notice the buttons have new icons and it behaves a little different when I compose.

        If this is not new features, I don’t know what they are:

  21. Thank You Leo for all the years of intelligent computer help you give—-you are the ONLY one I ever go to and I refer all my friends to you—-I’m so sorry to have to say how “sorry” the Microsoft help is——that is the main reason I appreciate you so much—-I know what you say is true and tested—–Thanks again—-

  22. The only thing consistent in this life is D & T.
    Charles Darwin observed change and authored a book about it.
    I am sticking with Microsoft and just going along with their changes and confusing nomenclature..
    I find overall sticking with the major players easier in the long run.

  23. Leo,

    I see it again and again and again. I see it everywhere. But no one ever explains it.

    What do you mean when you say a vendor has “stopped supporting”?]

    A Newbie

    • It would mean that the company that wrote the software does not want to keep updating it. So they stop supporting it.

    • One problem with unsupported software is that newly discovered bugs won’t be repaired. If some of those bugs turn out to be vulnerabilities whuch allow malware to be installed on your machine, the hackers will learn about it and your machine is at risk.

    • It means that while the program continue to work, any newly discovered bug will no longer be fixed. No new versions, ever. Also, typically, it means that they will no longer answer questions or provide technical support.

  24. An advantage of Thunderbird over Outlook is that ‘folders’ are separate files, so daily incremental backups save only the folders that received mail on that day. To further reduce the size of backups, for a folder that receives a lot of mail I make a subfolder ‘old’, and move old mail to it once a year or so. The contents of the ‘old’ folder are still easily accessible for browsing and searches.

    • “An advantage of Thunderbird over Outlook is that ‘folders’ are separate files, so daily incremental backups save only the folders that received mail on that day.” – Which is one of the reasons that archiving should be used in Outlook. That way, only the “active” PST changes, while the larger archived folders do not. Much like Thunderbird, really!

      • “That way, only the “active” PST changes, while the larger archived folders do not. Much like Thunderbird, really!”

        Not really.

        In Outlook, as soon as you receive a single email, even if you delete it, the whole of your active email file has its (Windows) archive attribute set, so it will be added to incremental backups. In Thunderbird, only the Inbox (and any folder to which you move the email) will have the archive attribute set. So, typically, only a very small percentage of your total email files will be added to incremental backups.

        In Outlook, there’s no convenient way (as far as I know) to search all the mail from a particular correspondent throughout the current and archived .pst files. In Thunderbird, the corresponding operation is very easy.

        • “In Outlook, as soon as you receive a single email, even if you delete it, the whole of your active email file has its (Windows) archive attribute set, so it will be added to incremental backups.” – That’s true. But if you use archiving to keep your PST to a reasonable size, it really isn’t too much of an issue.

          “In Outlook, there’s no convenient way (as far as I know) to search all the mail from a particular correspondent throughout the current and archived .pst files.” – Outlook’s search options enable you to do just that. It couldn’t be easier.

  25. Sure am glad you clarified towards the end that it was a downloadable program (did not know it existed) which is the issue. You really had me going for a few minutes because I recently switched over entirely to an email address because it would not change if I change internet providers and so it could be accessed on the web if needed and . Buy the way I am retired but continue to use Outlook (the program) as I did for many, many years as an engineer. I would not be comfortable using any other and very happy with it.

    • Again, the terminology you’re using is wrong. There is no “downloadable program”. There is downloadable Outlook (NO .COM), and there is the web site.

  26. Used MS all my work life.
    Since retiring 3 yrs ago have explored all Google has to offer, and been mightily impressed.
    Mail, calendars, browser, good enough “office’ equivalents for all my needs, journal, note taking (Keep) etc…
    Everything free, and everything always synced and backed up with PCs, tablets and phones.
    Always works faultlessly – Why would I want anything more?

    • Yeah, Google’s productivity offerings are really solid and, especially when combined with a Chromebook, make for a very low cost computing solution.

  27. Used WLM for many years and enjoyed it’s simplicity and ease of use. Then a year or so ago began having problems keeping it running. So switched to Thunderbird which is very similar in function and appearance and am happy once again. Plus many added features.

  28. I’ve used Hotmail since the mid-90s. Same address. Of course, now, it’s We used MS Office Outlook at work for 15 years, and I was very happy with that in a professional setting. About two years before I retired, my employer went to Google Mail, and most everything Google was planned, mostly because it was “The Thing” and it was cheaper than a Microsoft licensing program. Google is horrid. There was so much work to do to get its security (both from outside threats, and from Google’s own cloud and agents) up to standards for our sensitive information. I have a Google personal account only because of my Android devices, but I use it for nothing but apps. I will never use Gmail. Now that I’m retired, I’ve kept my Hotmail address and use and the Outlook App for Android (which is clunky and limited, but MS does seem to be listening to and implementing feedback). I pay $20 per year for ad-free on, and while they are now reneging on some of the benefits (storage space, natch), I don’t plan to change. I’ve never been hacked (knock wood), have lost my inbox only once in 21 years, and use MS Outlook 2010 (I was able to buy it on the employee plan for personal use before I retired) to archive and back up. Should I be forced to change, I would guess it would be Thunderbird. I’ve used Firefox for as long as I can remember, and have no complaints. I appreciate the info Leo shared here; from what MS sent about the ad-free, I didn’t get the whole picture with an ominous, or possibly ominous, outcome. In the end, MS is a huge bureaucracy and all bureaucracies fight to maintain themselves at any cost to those they serve. It’s probably not profitable in any sense of the word to provide “free email” and when cutting back, it’s the most likely candidate. It’s not like MS will stop distributing a free Internet browser, and I don’t think Google’s “office applications” are robust enough to knock MS Office off the map. Things change in five minutes, so I’m going to just hold on for awhile. For $20 per year, I still feel as if it’s a good value!

    • Meant to add, I recently tried the Windows 10 update on my 14-month old Dell Inspiron laptop, after both Dell and MS assured me that my computer was ready. The upgrade went smoothly, except none of the peripherals would work – spent hours deleting and reinstalling drivers. Never got my Neat scanner/software to work, even though there is a Windows 10 version. Had trouble with another hobby program, too. The wireless was painfully slow (not sure why!) and it was, in total, a very unpleasant experience. Since MS touted the “rollback” within 30 days, that’s what I did. Blue screens of death. Was able to get to a DOS prompt once, but then the wounded Windows took over again, and nothing worked. MS said it was Dell’s issue, Dell had nothing to offer beyond what I’d already tried (and, frankly, there was a huge language barrier!) except to wipe the drive and do a clean reinstall. Luckily, all my data was backed up to cloud so I lost only a few files that I can download again. SO, point being, ain’t no chance in Hades that I’ll be going to Windows 10 for a “free” email program!

  29. Hi Leo

    Can you kindly mention something about how Microsoft is taking most of our free OneDrive cloud space away from
    it’s users . First they generously gave us 15 gigabytes of free storage space . Now they are reducing that to 5 gigabytes
    of free space . Why should we trust their free Windows 10 offer ??

    • As I said in response to your other comment….

      Microsoft has clearly stated that Windows 10 will cost nothing during lifetime of the device on which it’s installed; no such assurances were made as to how long the 15GB OneDrive offer would last. No company is ever going to offer a set amount of storage for a set amount of money forever. Online storage companies will periodically amend their rates – or increase or decrease the amount of free capacity they offer – in the exact same way that, say, electric companies amend their rates. Things change.

      Microsoft did, by the way, enable people who already had a 15GB limit to retain it. They simply needed to opt-in to do so – and the deadline for opting in was, I think, January or February of this year.

  30. I hate to ask this, but can’t you just set up Windows Live Mail 2012 to check hotmail and others as a pop3 account? I did this and it seems to be working fine.

  31. Hi Leo, Good Article.

    I can actually explain exactly why this happens, but it’s a long story. From the point of view of Microsoft as a Software Vendor, it makes perfect sense. It’s those pesky unintended outcomes.

    I’m an IT Pro, so I have a corporate view of Microsoft. I agree that Microsoft’s actions often look mysterious to a personal Windows user. One has to remember that corporate users are where Microsoft makes all their money. The Mac-vs.-PC arguments usually come down to this: Apple makes products for Personal Users, and lets business users connect them if they can find a way to connect to the corporate network. Microsoft makes products primarily for businesses, and does it better than anyone ever has, or ever will for a long time to come, but still recognizes its debt to the personal users that gave the Microsoft Corp its start. It’s a really honourable way to do business, and there’s no reason to apologize for it.

    1. The Problem
    Microsoft continues to evolve its Windows ecosystem primarily to give an unrivalled experience to corporate users. In the course of doing that, they find some features that no longer fit in the new paradigm, or they move from Client (PC) to Server. Corporate Users get a full and consistent release of Windows Client, Windows Server, Office, Cloud Services, and networking. As long as we continue to upgrade according to Microsoft recommendations, and pay them well, they take very good care of us.

    But personal users only have the Windows PC portion of the whole ecosystem. On a home PC, the same Windows code that’s included in the Enterprise version they sell to Corporate Customers is kind of out of context. Windows can seems a little incomplete to a personal user because they are not plugged into a Windows network, and do not have Office or cloud services like OneDrive for Business, CRM, Big Data, Internet Of Things, etc. Businesses do.

    Outlook Express illustrates the problem precisely. Businesses use Outlook, period. Outlook Express was added to XP purely for personal users that didn’t want to pay $600 for Office Professional. As far back as Office for DOS 3.1, cutting edge product development has gone into “real” office, and it has evolved brilliantly and has been the unquestioned best work environment on the planet. It has moved from x86 to Pentium to Core processors, and 16- to 32- to 64-bit, flawlessly. It has stayed in line with the best human factors engineering from green-screen to tablet. On a regular basis, Microsoft needs to push their corporate clients to a new ecosystem standard or pricing model. If Microsoft didn’t, their support costs would bury them. Yes, believe it, customer and technical support for software costs LOTS more than the cost of developing the product in the first place, even more for Personal than Corporate users (who have IT departments). You may still own a PC with DOS, but good luck finding anyone in Microsoft support that can even spell “DOS”. They have no legal obligation to help, but even then they’ll give you thousands of dollars worth of best efforts, if they can. Corporate customers don’t get that courtesy.

    Microsoft uses core products like Windows and Office to move the foot-draggers along to the latest version. That’s the carrot. They also stop supporting obsolete products. That’s the stick. It’s to everyone’s benefit. Corporations simply can’t afford to lag any more than one generation, so Microsoft withdraws support to force them. The corporations don’t fight it.

    2. Honestly, Microsoft really does love you.
    Now, when faced with a new whiz-bang of a product like, say, Office 2007, they make sure there is a personal version with all essential home functions and a great deal more, at a reasonable price. For users where even that price is a barrier, they make a simple version and give it for free (i.e. included in Windows). That was Outlook Express.

    The essential problem is they can’t afford whole development teams and support for both real Outlook (the corporate version and also the lower-cost home version), and what I’ll call Personal Outlook (the free version). Every 3 years, real Outlook morphs into something fundamentally different, to keep up with technology and the new versions of Windows, Server, Networking and Cloud. Now Personal Outlook is a problem child. Continuing to support Outlook Express might seem reasonable, but it leaves them with two products with different code bases, diffewrent user interface, functions, Windows support and hardware support. Do they migrate Outlook Express to Outlook Express 2, 3, 4? Not for free they don’t. The original product would need special user support staff, defect fix staff, and new hardware support staff. It’s damned expensive, and the code bases continue to diverge. It’s one thing to include support for a new brand of printer, but when you get to cloud support, new families of CPUs, and a new model of networking, nobody’s going to do that for free. In the end, they’d be left with a free product that a lot of “old-timers” still love, but it no longer runs on the PCs that new users buy. It’s a no-win money-pit for Microsoft.

    So they have no choice but to make another, different stripped-down version of the new Office, and support the old one until it is two versions out of date. It’s really a pretty good deal for free, and they are doing everything for Personal users that is reasonable. OK, they can’t migrate all the stripped-down function from old to new versions of Personal Outlook. And since there isn’t a guaranteed migration path, they have no choice but to give it a different name. Why do these different versions of Personal Outlook keep seeming to get worse? Well the new version of real Outlook never translates to Home Windows as easily as the previous version. Things like virtual clients, virtual servers, and virtual networks, public, private and hybrid clouds, touch interface, gesture interface, virtual reality and enhanced reality just don’t translate to a personal Windows environment, yet they’re all included in real Outlook. After taking out the stuff not needed in Personal Outlook, Microsoft makes things work as best they can, and for free, but over time the advanced functions inevitably diverge even more. was another attempt at a free product that helps out home users for free, and it worked great for quite a long time. But eventually the world changed so much they couldn’t keep it in sync with real Outlook either. So it will have to go the way of Outlook Express. Some companies would sell the product off to a third party, but Microsoft just won’t fob you off on someone else who doesn’t do support as well as they do. Instead, they give you a newer, supportable free version of Personal Outlook that is as good as it can be without bankrupting Microsoft. Then there would be no Windows or Office at all.

    3. Sometimes they love you a lot, and love corporations at the same time.
    Every now and then Microsoft can bridge the corporate and personal worlds. A recent case is Office 365, which gives you all of the function of full Office Pro, running on your PC, and a whole lot more, for just $7 per month. Cheaper still with the family pack. The business version of the exact same thing costs $20-35 per month per person, so personal users are getting a real bargoon. And you never have to upgrade, are always fully up to date, and grow along with “real” Outlook. Why? Because it IS real Outlook. Bargain priced. I reckon $5-7 is waaaaaaay cheaper than your home internet, wireless service, cable, satellite or internet TV, your electrical power, and all your other utilities. Or use Thunderbird. Once you get a taste or real Outlook, and all the other real Office products, you’ll have to be really broke to go there.

    Very long answer, but you see it’s very complicated. And Microsoft continues to give you the very best they can. And for free, without grumbling at all. Shake the hand of the next Microsoft person you meet, and thank them for all they do for you, and get the corporations to pay for it.

    David P.

    • “Outlook Express was added to XP purely for personal users that didn’t want to pay $600 for Office Professional.” – Actually, Outlook Express was around way before Windows XP (it was first bundled with IE4). Also, Outlook Express was not based on Outlook’s source code, and nor were its successors (Windows Mail was based on Outlook Express, not Outlook).

      “ was another attempt at a free product that helps out home users for free, and it worked great for quite a long time. But eventually the world changed so much they couldn’t keep it in sync with real Outlook either. So it will have to go the way of Outlook Express.” – Eh? This makes no sense. is web-based and Microsoft has no plans to replace it.

      “Things like virtual clients, virtual servers, and virtual networks, public, private and hybrid clouds, touch interface, gesture interface, virtual reality and enhanced reality just don’t translate to a personal Windows environment, yet they’re all included in real Outlook.” – Again, this makes no sense.

      “Once you get a taste of real Outlook, and all the other real Office products, you’ll have to be really broke to go there.” – Not at all. While Office is great, it’s complete overkill for many people – and those people would be just as well served by a less expensive – or completely free – alternative.

      • I have to agree with you an MS Office being overkill for probably every home and many small businesses. I taught an MS Office course in most of the advanced features of Excel and Word. Two of the students had Macs. They were waiting for the school to bring in a couple of Windows laptops. In the meantime, I had them download and install Libre Office. They started the first class doing all of the assignments on their Macs with Libre Office. They preferred that over getting used to a PC and ended up using Libre Office for the full semester with nearly full compatibility. The advantages I find in MS office would benefit mostly business users. 1. Full document compatibility. 2. And most important: support.

        • Indeed. To be clear, I think Microsoft Office is great. It’s the best of the best and nothing else even comes close. If you actually need a comprehensive set of super-powerful productivity apps, then Microsoft Office is undoubtedly the best way to go. In fact, there’s really no point in even considering other solutions. But, as you say, it’s more – way, way more – than most home users need. I suspect that the average person wouldn’t even use 10% of its features/capabilities. And for those people, no-cost options like Google Docs or Office Web Apps make much more sense.

    • Brilliantly composed post.
      Thank you David P. IT Pro Vancouver
      MS is an evolutionary engine of our century and they do it in grand style – turning coal mining monkeys into admirable people’ capable of self education…

  32. Thanks for all you do, Leo, and I appreciate that you are taking a risk of sorts by making a general censure like this. Still, I would go a step further than you and say that even Outlook (the desktop application) can’t be counted upon. For example, flags and categories have become severely restricted over time by Microsoft’s clumsy attempts to handle both Exchange and IMAP protocols in the same piece of software ( Outlook’s multiple contacts folders and address books are nearly unnavigable, so years ago Microsoft tried to support customer relationship management with Business Contact Manager, which has now been dropped as of Outlook 2016! (

    After that last straw, I have moved to EssentialPIM (like Ms. Coulter above), which so far seems a transparent, simpler software that yet does a much better job of recognizing the integral relationships email has with contacts, calendar, and task lists. It is programmed and managed by a tiny company in Estonia, but some 11 years after launch has demonstrated itself to be more stable than any Microsoft email client.

  33. I love thunderbird but as it won’t work with Gmail (or, more precisely, Gmail refuses to let Thunderbird access Gmail) I’m in the stupid position of having two separate email programs to check and use.
    It’s a major shame that Microsoft can’t leave well enough, alone – but they do seem to be focused on change (and cash-flow?) and expect the rest of us to keep up or pay up. Ho hum …..

  34. I thought I had a good idea. I use Win live mail ( from MS essentials) on my Win 8.1 computer and am quite happy with it.
    I decided to call the Microsoft Store with my question of their tech support person. Question: “Will Windows Live Mail 2012 which works on my 8.1 computer work if I upgrade to Windows 10”?
    Sadly, of 4 calls so far, two locations say “yes” and two say “no”
    So they don’t even know. !@#$%^
    Any thoughts?

    • Yes, WLM 2012 does work with Windows 10, but I’m not sure whether it’s a supported configuration. Windows 10 actually has quite a nice mail app builtin – you may wish to check it out as a possible alternative to WLM.

  35. I have Outlook 2010 (w/Microsoft Office) – If I upgrade to Windows 10 can I still use my version of Outlook (do not want Also, how would I access it once Windows 10 is on my PC. I also understand that Windows 10 does not support large email distribution lists which I need for information I send out often.

    • After an upgrade it should work just the same as before. Windows 10 does not place limits on email – it has nothing to do with email. It’s the email program you use, or the email service you use that would place limits on what you can do.

  36. Have been using Hotmail forever, and the switchover to live was okay. Today I went in to my account, and everything is all weird, with things missing, like emails, and pages were not opening. Am not sure what I should do now.
    Any suggestions? I just use my account for home use, but, have amassed a lot of space over time. Really do not know how to handle this. HELP, thanx Dave

  37. I have used Outlook the application for well over a decade now and it indeed has remained fairly stable. It my preferred email client. However recently after Microsoft broke POP3 I had to roll back my version and disable auto updates… A few months later I re-enabled auto updates and immeditaly started having this issue:

    I’m starting to think this might actually be a “feature” Microsoft has added to try and force people into using their Outlook/hotmail email addresses more form Outlook the Application…. Has anyone else run across this?

  38. I’m furious with Mirosoft about the whole forced update to windows 10, i suspect the redundency of live 2012 was another ‘card’ for microsoft to play to force people to update. I’d like to address a few problems with forward foresight: eM client is ok, but i have found using a account it works ok, with the hotmail account (my main email account) it has this horrible tendancy to reload every email over the last 5 years or so and takes hours to get email sent to me minutes hours or days ago, so therefor theres a serious issue there, i dont know if there is a fix or setting to prevent this or if its microsoft interfering somehow,
    My main other concern, and i know anyone with cynical business sense know microsoft dont do people favours, i remember XP on sale for £350 gbp ten plus years ago which made building computers pointless, well to run windows on anyway. So why is win 10 free, well as Live 2012 proves win 10 is not free, it comes with a catch, almost every creadible ‘app’ will come with a price tag. But here is the crunch point for me, moreover, spending £350 on a full functioning operating system is on thing, paying £50 here, £70 there, a possible subscription charge every year? Will make windows 10 the most expensive operating system on the planet ever. Im seriously considering abandoning windows in favour of another operating system. Which is sad for me, a big problem for microsoft if people follow my lead and frankly big business aren’t stupid and gready too, i can see this as a starting point for the deathnail of microsoft.

    • There’s really no reason to pay £50 here or £70 there as most programs have free alternatives. Even MS Office is overkill for most with the availability of Libre Office. MS isn’t really giving Win 10 away free. They are upgrading existing users to Win 10 for free. There’s a difference. Very few home users pay for an upgrade anyway, and the money MS will save on supporting older OSes should more than compensate the lost revenue from upgrades. It cost Microsoft a fortune to maintain XP beyond the end-of-life date. They seem to be trying to avoid something like that in the future with Windows 7 and 8 by unifying it all under one OS. There’s also the income MS can generate through their data collection and analysis “features” in Win 10. I won’t get into the violations of privacy on that, but they’re essentially playing catch-up with Google.

  39. – If MS would have continued support for Outlook Express (OE) and had upgraded the program (for Windows Vista, 7, 8 & 10) then A LOT OF people still would be using OE. Instead of using Thunderbird. Me included. In that regard OE’s demise has helped Thunderbird A LOT.
    – Windows Live (2012) Mail was a nightmare because it still contained one (or more ??) bugs that would create a jungle of sub-folders in which the emails themselves are/were stored. It still would work but backing up was a nightmare as well.
    – Leo is wrong in one regard. OE was already included in Windows ME, the predecessor of XP. And I know because back in 2001 I bought a laptop with Windows ME and ME already included OE.

  40. – I liked OE because of how it stored the emails. Each folder in OE had its own *.dbx file. And that’s not the case with Thunderbird (TB). TB has a much more complicated folder/file structure.
    – When I bought a new system and switched from win XP to Win 7 I also started to use Windows Live Mail. But there were some things I didn’t like (too much). The file structure (See my previous reply) was horrible and the program crashed a few times. That never happened with OE or TB. So, I ditched Live Mail after say 6 to 8 months and switched to TB.
    – I do think that MS wants/wanted to push computer users away from their free mail programs to their (paid for) Outlook & Office program(s). But this policy also has pushed a lot of people away from using MS mail programs. In that regard MS still thinks like a monopolist. And isn’t too “user friendly”.
    – I also think that if MS had improved/upgraded Live Mail (and the other programs in that suite) to a level similar to OE and then it could have been a big succes. But it seems it was too much of “rush” job and MS had other things on its mind (e.g. Win 8).

    • To be clear, Thunderbird’s mail storage format is, in my opinion, orders of magnitude simpler than OE’s. “dbx” files were a proprietary database format and prone to corruption and data loss. Thunderbird is based on standard flat text files for email storage.

      • – My experiences with OE were completely different. I can’t comment on what’s inside the Thunderbird (TB) files, on what the data in the files itself is looking like. Although, when I backup TB with WINRAR then the compression rate (say 25 to say 35%) certainly does suggest that A LOT OF the email content is “flat text”.
        – What I did/do notice is that in OE there was a(n) (almost) one-on-one relationship between the names of all the email folders in the OE GUI and the names of the *.dbx files. And that’s very different in Thunderbird. In TB the folder structure is not as straight forward as in OE. It looks to me as a jungle of folders and subfolders. I can only partially follow the “line of thoughts” for TB’s folder structure setup. In that regard it seems the TB program code still needs a MAJOR overhaul to make the file & folder structure (much) more simplier. But I don’t know what’s “hiding” inside TB and how changes would have an impact on the file & (sub-)folder names & structure in TB.
        – No, I NEVER ever had any problems (file corruption, data loss etc.) with OE. And I was a heavy user of OE !!!
        – If you want to see a file & (sub-)folder jungle then use Windows Live Mail (WLM). Let’s say I had one email folder called “ABC10” in the WLM GUI. After say 3 to 4 months I went from one folder named “ABC10” to over say 40 duplicate folders named “ABC10” and all those folders then were nested up to say 15 sub-folders deep under the initial parent folder. OMG.
        Since MS is very busy ironing out all the flaws in their Win 10 OS, I am not surprised to see that they drop the support for WLM. MS simply has too much “on its plate”.

  41. – There’s a new version of Outlook Express available. No, this program is NOT developed by Microsoft and it seems to be a “Stand Alone” program independent of Internet Explorer. Because it can be used for XP, Vista, win 7, Win 8 & Win 10.
    – The GUI fo this program resembles the old OE GUI. Seems to be promising. I am going to try it though. And I am curious what your opinion is.


    • This is NOT NOT NOT “Outlook Express”. It is a different email program, from a different vendor that attempts to mimic Outlook Express in many ways. I’m waiting for feature parity (last I checked it didn’t do IMAP). I have heard from some that are happy with it, though.

  42. Commenting on two points above:

    Yes a new Microsoft account can still be as there’s two choices in the drop-down list at account creation. The other choice being of course.

    While I fully understand the recommendation of Mozilla Thunderbird as a free email client program, I never count the cost of Microsoft Outlook, as it is part of the full Microsoft Office suite. My personal life experience leaves me unable to imagine a computer without Microsoft Office for Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, and of course Outlook comes with that package.

    • Outlook, the program doesn’t come with all versions of Office. I’m not sure if it’s still the same, but it used to only come with MS Office professional.I’m assuming they still have similar pricing schemes. I have Office Pro, but I still prefer Thunderbird as it does all I need, and starts up much faster and runs with fewer anomalies.

      • No Mark. The only version that didn’t contain Outlook was Home & Student. It was always there in Home & Business, and the Office Processional which you have. Now in Office 365 it is available in both Home, as well as Personal, while continuing to be available in the other Business versions.

        Please understand I’m not against Thunderbird as I actually enjoyed it for a brief period on our first computer. But my computers (Work and Home) always have Microsoft Office products on them, so it isn’t really an issue for me.

  43. – In the comments of this thread I brought to your attention (in 2016) that there was a program called “Outlook Express Classic” (OEC) that was developed by a group of people since 2011. These people have – as far as I know – no connection to Microsoft and have developed the program independently from Microsoft. The program is meant to replace the good old “Outlook Express” that came with Windows XP but is no longer supported by Microsoft (as mentioned above).
    – The reason I write another comment in this thread is that the developers of OEC now have released in the last weeks/months a new version of OEC that DOES support IMAP. However, the situation is a bit more complicated. There are 2 versions of this program. The latest FREE version (v2.9) doesn’t support IMAP yet and was released in March 2019. But those who have bought a license for the PRO version of OEC (I am one of them) can already use this PRO version (v3.0) of this program that does support IMAP. The OEC support for IMAP still contains bugs that need to be resolved (IMAP support is still in “Beta”) before the free version v3.0 of OEC (supporting IMAP) will be released. Users of the PRO version can download and use the latest OEC PRO version. Those PRO users also can submit suggestions and bugreports for the latest version of OEC.
    – I had the impression that you were interested in this program and that’s why I added this/another comment to this thread.


  44. – I wanted to give an update on “Outlook Express Classic” (See my comments above in this thread).
    – In the last days of november 2019 Outlook Express Classic v3.0 was released. The FREE version does support IMAP. (Identities are only supported in the PRO version). Although IMAP is still “a bit buggy”, I think IMAP is stable enough to be used. IMAP in its “Public Alpha 18” version was deemed to be good enough to be released in OEC v3.0. And yes, it will take some more time to get rid of the (smaller ??) remaining bugs in the IMAP program code.



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