Microsoft to add free premium features to Outlook.com for Office 365 consumer subscribers

Microsoft is adding to Outlook.com for free new ad-free inbox, enhanced malware and phishing protection and larger mailbox sizes. The catch: Users must be Office 365 Home/Premium users to qualify.

Microsoft is starting to roll out to Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal subscribers some premium capabilities for their Outlook.com accounts for free.

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Among the features that these users of Microsoft's consumer-focused Office 365 users are getting right off the bat are ad-free Outlook.com inboxes, enhanced malware and phishing protection for Outlook.com, larger Outlook.com mailbox sizes, and free premium customer support.

In order to qualify for these new benefits, Outlook.com users must also be subscribers to either Office 365 Home or Personal. The rollout already has begun but may take about a month for everyone who qualifies to get the new features, according to Microsoft.

For those Outlook.com users who also are Office 365 Home/Personal subscribers, Outlook.com will now be free of banner ads, as well as ads in the message list (a k a "native ads").

Office 365 Home and Personal subscribers also will automatically will have their Outlook.com attachments scanned for potential malware threats, as well as links checked to try to head off fake sites downloading viruses or malware. One caveat: Users with Connected Accounts that add access to an @gmail.com, @yahoo.com or other third-party account from Outlook.com won't have these advanced security features applied to these additional accounts.

In terms of mailbox storage limits, Outlook.com users currently get 15GB of email storage, while Office 365 Home and Personal users get 50GB. Now, storage limits will go up to 50GB for Outlook.com users with mailbox sizes of 12GB or larger, according to Microsoft's Oct. 30 blog post that announced all these changes.

Outlook.com users also will get free technical support if they also are Office 365 Home/Personal users.

There's an accompanying article about these changes with some frequently asked questions (FAQs). Among those questions is a note that anyone who cancels or lets expire an Office 365 Home/Personal subscription will cease getting these premium benefits for their Outlook.com accounts.

Also: These new premium features will not be added to users' Outlook.com accounts if they are Office 365 business subscribers. This is for Outlook.com users who are Office 365 Personal and Home users only. (Microsoft officials said last week there are currently 28 million active monthly users of Outlook 365 Home and Personal combined.) Office 365 Home, which is for households with one to five users, costs $100 per year; Office 365 Personal (for one user) costs $70 per year.

On a related note, the Outlook.com Premium subscription offer is currently closed to new subscribers, but current subscribers are eligible to renew their subscriptions. Microsoft officials don't say Outlook.com Premium is being killed off, but there are no refunds for those who bought Outlook.com Premium and who now feel like they don't need it because many of the features in it are now free to them. Once Microsoft figures out a solution for transferring personalized e-mail domains to third-party providers -- something it mentions in the FAQ -- maybe the company will actually drop Outlook.com Premium. But, again, for now, it's still a supported service.

Update: I asked Microsoft if the company is killing Outlook.com Premium. And the official answer, from a spokesperson: "Microsoft has no plans to discontinue the standalone subscription for existing subscribers at this time." No word re: the future.

These new free Outlook.com services will be made automatically for anyone who signed up for Office 365 Personal Home using addresses ending in @outlook.com, @hotmail.com, @live.com, and/or @msn.com. More, unspecified premium features are coming to this group of Outlook.com users in the future, officials said.

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