Using the Outlook.com preview (FAQ)

Using the Outlook.com preview (FAQ)

Summary: Microsoft has taken the wraps off its new Outlook.com service, which will (eventually) replace Hotmail as its free consumer email product. How do you get an Outlook.com address? How do you use the new interface? I've got answers.

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TOPICS: Cloud, Microsoft
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Last updated August 2, 2012 (added details about POP/SMTP settings)

Microsoft has taken the wraps off its replacement for Hotmail. The new service, called Outlook.com, is available in a preview version now. This post answers some of the questions I’ve been asked about the new service.

See related:

I’ll be updating the FAQ regularly over the next few days, so if your question is listed but not answered, bookmark this page and come back later. If you have a question that isn’t listed, ask it in the Talkback section or send me an email.

How do I get an @outlook.com address?

To claim a new address in the @outlook.com domain, you have two options:

  • Go to Outlook.com and sign up for a new Microsoft account. As part of the signup process, you can specify the address you want. If that address is available, you’ll be able to create the account and continue. You can use the newly created account on its own or you can link it to your existing Microsoft account.
  • If all you want is an @outlook.com address that you can use occasionally, sign in to Outlook.com using your existing Hotmail/Live/MSN address and create an Outlook alias. Click the gear icon in the upper right corner and then click More mail settings. Under Managing your account, click Create a Outlook alias. You can create aliases using the @outlook.com, @hotmail.com, or @live.com domains.

Do I have to give up my Hotmail.com address?

No, you can use the new Outlook.com interface with an existing @hotmail.com or @live.com address. Microsoft has no plans (and no reason) to abandon support for those addresses.

Should I rename my primary Hotmail account to one of the new Outlook.com addresses?

I don't recommend doing so yet, especially if you use that address for other Microsoft services, such as Xbox Live or the syn functions in Windows Phone or Windows 8. This is still a preview (beta) service, after all. I do recommend that you reserve your preferred name in the @outlook.com domain. In the next installment of this FAQ, I explain how to link accounts and share messages between them.

What’s the difference between a Microsoft account and an alias?

A Microsoft account is the new name for what used to be called a Windows Live account or a Microsoft Passport. It consists of a user ID and a password, which in turn allows you to access a variety of Microsoft services. Beginning with Windows 8, you can use a Microsoft account to sign in to Windows. When you choose this option, your settings roam with different devices, and you automatically connect to email, calendar, and contacts using those credentials.

An alias in Hotmail or Outlook.com is an alternative email address intended for use with sites where you would prefer not to use your real address.

You can’t sign in to Outlook.com with an alias, nor can you use it as a Microsoft account.

I have an existing Hotmail account and a new @Outlook account. How do I link them?

To link your accounts, open a browser and sign in to either account from Outlook.com. Click your name in the upper right corner of the screen and then click Account settings. That takes you to the Microsoft account page.

Choose Permissions from the left-hand column and then click Manage linked accounts. That takes you to a screen that shows you all accounts that are currently linked to the Microsoft account you used to sign in.

Click Add linked account. In the resulting screen, you need to enter the password for your current account (to verify your identity) and then enter the email address and password of the account you want to link.

Go back to the Outlook inbox (you might have to refresh the page) and click your name in the top right corner. You should see both email addresses listed—the one you signed in with and the newly linked one. Click an address to see the contents of that account’s inbox and folders.

Note that linking two accounts doesn’t give you the ability to send new messages from one account while you’re in the other. To enable that option, click the gear icon in the top right corner, click More mail settings, and then click Sending/receiving mail from other accounts.

How do I access the new web-based interface?

If you have an existing Hotmail account (with an address in the Hotmail.com, Live.com, or MSN.com domains), just go to Hotmail.com or Outlook.com and sign in with your current email address and password. If you don’t have a Hotmail account, go to Outlook.com and sign up for a new account.

If you have an existing Hotmail/Live/MSN account, you can switch back to the old interface. Click the gear icon in the upper right corner and then click Switch back to Hotmail.

When will the calendar and SkyDrive pieces get the new Metro-style design?

Microsoft has shown screenshots of the new design but hasn’t revealed when those pieces will be available to the public.

When will Hotmail go away?

Microsoft has just begun accepting feedback on the new interface. Eventually, it will be the default interface for all current Hotmail users, but for now it’s strictly a preview. The company has not announced a specific date when the transition will take place.

What are the password rules?

Passwords must be at least 8 characters and no more than 16 characters in length. The password must contain at least two of the following: uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

What are the POP/SMTP settings for an @outlook.com address? Is IMAP supported?

Outlook.com accounts use Exchange ActiveSync as their default protocol. You can access messages and sync contacts using any modern web browser or a client that supports Exchange ActiveSync, such as Outlook 2013, earlier versions of Outlook with the Hotmail Connector add-in, and mobile apps on iOS, Windows Phone, and newer Android devices.

According to Microsoft’s documentation, IMAP is not supported.

Use of POP/SMTP is discouraged for @outlook.com addresses, but it will work if you set the servers to pop3.live.com and smtp.live.com, respectively. Note that you must sign in to the SMTP server to send mail.

What are the settings for using Outlook (the program) with an @outlook.com email address?

For Outlook 2013, Exchange ActiveSync support is built in. Just enter the email address and password and it should configure automatically. For Outlook 2010, Outlook 2007, and Outlook 2003, you still need to use the free Outlook Hotmail Connector add-in.

Where are the iOS and Android apps?

According to Microsoft, you can use the native iOS app. It will configure itself automatically. Newer Android distributions support Exchange ActiveSync natively; for older versions, install Microsoft's Hotmail app.

Will an Outlook.com address work with the OS X Mail app?

That configuration is not currently supported. Reportedly, you can use the mBox Mail for Mac add-in ($19.95 from Fluent Factory).

Where can I report a problem or get help with an Outlook.com account?

Microsoft hasn't officially opened its support forum yet. For now, you can post your questions in this dedicated thread on the Hotmail forum.

Topics: Cloud, Microsoft

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52 comments
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  • Windows Phone / Microsoft Account etc

    I have an existing name@live.com account which is associated with a recently bought Windows Phone. Question 1) can I change the name@live.com to a name@outlook.com, i.e. change the existing account completely rather than just create an alias or set up a linked account; if so how?, 2) I see the warning messages about how this will need me to hard reset my Windows Phone - if I change to a new name@outlook.com account as per (1) above, will my Microsoft Account then be name@outlook.com or still be name@live.com, 3) are there other problems you forsee with doing (1) and (2) above?
    S-100
    • Still a preview (ie, beta)

      I would not recommend making this change yet. An @outlook.com address is good to claim now, but stick with the supported account until further notice.
      Ed Bott
      • Best way to claim an outlook.com address for future account conversion?

        Many thanks. What's best way to claim an Outlook.com address with a view to completely converting my name@live.com account at a later date (and keeping my 25GB SkyDrive allowance etc). Is is better to 1) set up an alias? or 2) create a new account?
        As I understand it if I create a new name@outlook.com account now, that address will be "taken" so I wouldn't be able to convert my existing name@live.com address to it later.
        Similarly, if I set up an alias now, would I have the same problem of the name being taken if I want to completely convert my name@live.com account later?
        S-100
        • Good questions, anyone?

          Your best bet is to create an account and then when you're ready link them or setup forwarding so your old e-mail is pullled into your new e-mail. Hotmail and Outlook.com have settings for both.

          I bet you'll have problems converting in both examples, just a hunch though and like you say you cannot simply rename your account at the moment.
          bradavon
      • Bad advice!

        Ed, you are right in describing that Outlook web app is still in preview... but, I assure you that the outlook.com domain name is not a 'preview' or 'beta'. Outlook.com is here to stay... so if you want an outlook.com account you better get it before your preferred name is gone (or you use it up as an alias). Personally, I was eager to update my 'live.com' e-mail to outlook.com and would have been even more eager if I had an older 'hotmail.com' address. An outlook.com e-mail address seems much more professional... and I was getting tired of spelling L-I-V-E everytime I gave out my e-mail address.

        The only currently supported way of 'updating' your microsoft account with an outlook domain name (while keeping all of you account settings -- mail folders, skydrive files, etc) is to "Rename your e-mail address". Just follow these steps:

        1) Log onto Outlook.com with your Microsoft account details
        2) Go to options and then select "Rename your e-mail address"
        3) Complete the form and you're done*

        *Note: Your e-mail folders and settings will all be the same once you log into your newly renamed account. Also, your old e-mail address AUTOMATICALLY becomes one of your aliases... so you won't miss any mail. Everything worked as expected for me! The main caveat I have heard about is that if you are a Windows Phone user there may be some difficulty in changing the login info and may require setting up your phone again with a hard reset. Hopefully, I won't have any issues when I turn on my Xbox tonight.
        NativeFloridian
        • the WinPhone will be impacted

          You can't change the Microsoft account, without RESETING the Phone. Therefore will need to reinstall your applications.
          DaNoch-PTY
        • You missed the point

          I said not to switch your default Microsoft account to Outlook.com yet. By all means you should reserve your preferred email address. You can do that by singing up for a new account. Do not rename your current account or you will be in for unexpected hassles.
          Ed Bott
          • Reserving an address?

            Ed, if I create a new Outlook.com account now to reserve a preferred address, doesn't that mean that the new preferred account name will be taken when I eventually want to "Rename" my existing Live.com account once Outlook.com comes out of Preview?

            Also if I sign up for a new Outlook.com account won't my SkyDrive storage limit be 7GB whereas I have 25GB for my current Live.com account, which if I understand it correctly, you keep if you rename your existing Live.com account to the new Outlook.com name?

            A hard reset of a Windows Phone sounds a bit daunting, but I have few apps so maybe it wouldn't be too bad.
            S-100
  • Windows Phone / Microsoft Account etc

    I have an existing name@live.com account which is associated with a recently bought Windows Phone. Question 1) can I change the name@live.com to a name@outlook.com, i.e. change the existing account completely rather than just create an alias or set up a linked account; if so how?, 2) I see the warning messages about how this will need me to hard reset my Windows Phone - if I change to a new name@outlook.com account as per (1) above, will my Microsoft Account then be name@outlook.com or still be name@live.com, 3) are there other problems you forsee with doing (1) and (2) above?
    S-100
  • It's Good But Not Great

    You can-not get rid of the Microsoft hint section on the right hand side of screen, and it takes up some space on a small screen. other than that it's OK
    Mr Shaun Warburton
  • What's wrong with an @outlook.com account

    I liked hotmail, ill like this.
    DJK2
  • More a Microsoft (/Windows Live) ID Question:

    I have a *very* old hotmail address that I use only for "identity" purposes. I never send or receive mail (except the odd spam) using it. However, it's ID I use for MSDN, XBox Live, my WP7 phone, etc. I linked it to MSDN perhaps ten years ago and I've been using it ever since. Being a hotmail account, it's not pretty (letters, numbers, etc.).

    My main personal email is on a personal domain (something like myname@myowndomain.com), but is hosted by hotmail. This works fine on my phone (I created the phone using the hotmail address, but my "mail tile" is my real email).

    Other than on the phone, life gets awkward. If I want to log into MSDN, I use my hotmail address. If I want to check my email, I need to log off and log back on with the email ID (and vice versa).

    Now there's Win8 in the mix too - I can associate my non-domain accounts with a Microsoft/Live ID. I guess I'll use the hotmail ID (it's my one try Redmond-oriented identity), but I get the feeling Windows really expects that to be my main email account.

    And as a final complication, it appears MSFT wants to deprecate hotmail and make "outlook.com" be the new "live.com" (remember, they went through a similar rebranding 5 or 6 years ago).

    Any suggestions?
    Flydog57
  • Cannot get a new outlook.com email

    I have a hotmail account that I have used for the past 15+ years. I would like to set up an new outlook.com account but I am automatically put into my old hotmail account using the outlook.com platform. I tried the IE, alt,F, new session and mail.live.com but again I am still put directly into the hotmail address in the outlook.com format. I tried to contact Microsoft but was only able to connect with a service that charged $349 to get things set up. How do I go about opening a new account? Thanks in advance!
    Customized Wellness
    • Have you logged out?

      The first thing I had to do was make sure I was logged out of the account before I could actually create a new @outlook.com address. Have not been able to do that on my Windows 8 machine where I logon to the computer using my hotmail.com account.
      thekman58
    • Trick to log in - use In Private Browsing in IE

      Another trick for this is to use Internet Explorer "In Private" browsing. When you open an In Private browser window, it doesn't have any of the login information stored so hotmail/outlook.com will think you are a new user. You can use this trick anytime you want to log into a different hotmail or outlook.com email address but not have to log out of your old one first.

      To get In Private browsing:
      - if you have IE pinned on the Windows 7 taskbar, right click and choose "Start In Private Browsing".
      - you can also use "gear icon"/Safety/In Private
      - for a keyboard shortcut within IE - Cntl-Shift-P
      john.50
    • Can't get an outlook acct

      Same problem for me, keep getting thrown into hotmail, no sign of the outlook ui.
      sckenney@...
      • Never mind :-)

        As soon as I replied the crazy thing started to work.
        sckenney@...
  • Will rarely use it

    I got a Hotmail account then I got a Live.com account and now there is Outlook.com. I very much doubt that I will be using Outlook.com for very much if anything. Seems Microsoft is trying to find it else and eventually gravitates to using duplicate names for products. Windows Explorer, Explorer for the desktop, Internet Explorer etc.

    What is with the Outlook.com composition window for new email message? MS uses the entire left hand side of the screen for the address fields alone and a flat looking tool bar with no delineation with the message body area and other than Add A Subject. Are input boxes now verboten?

    I would of thought that Outlook 2013 interface and Outlook.com would be similar but the only similarity is the same flat looking toolbar.
    pcguy999
  • Full Outlook Support

    Will Exchange ActiveSync keep contacts and tasks sync'd with outlook.com? The last time I checked the Outlook Hotmail Connector does not support contacts or tasks.
    dbeyer@...
    • Outlook Connector

      I don't know about task (sharing). Currently, Outlook.com provides access to Mail, People (Contacts with merging of social networks), Calendar (the hotmail flavor), and SkyDrive. The People integration looks promising although I haven't tried the new capabilities yet.

      The Outlook connector supports contacts and calendars and it still works. The calendar is separate from the default Outlook calendar but it is easy to work with both of them in dekstop Outlook 2007/2010. Likewise you can be selective about what contacts are shared, though I have moved all of my contacts into the one shared with Hotmail/Outlook.com. The contacts and calendars that I share from desktop Outlook to Hotmail/Outlook.com are automatically synced with my WindowsPhone 7 (and also my Windows 8 Release Preview). Meanwhile, material that only matters when I'm at my desktop computer, including some very busy mailing-list subscription, stay on my primary desktop computer only.

      Another advantage with the shared calendar is that my wife and I share our Hotmail calendars and that lets us see each others daily appointments there.

      I rarely use the Hotmail browser interface because it all connects into Dekstop Outlook and the phones without having to pay much attention. But it is handy if I am traveling or being a guest at someone else's computer.

      By the way: Outlook.com allows me to add my POP3 e-mail services. I prefer to not have those shared (except perhaps for google.mail), because I don't want high-activity traffic flooding my phone and my traveling presence. For others, this will be a welcome integration.
      orcmid