Hotmail users face summer of random email deletion

Going on holiday? Microsoft suggests you pay £19.99 for extra Hotmail storage, or else your emails might be randomly deleted

Microsoft Hotmail users have been warned that their emails could be randomly deleted this summer, unless they pay £19.99 for extra storage space.

In an email sent to users of its free Web-based email service on Thursday, Microsoft encouraged Hotmail users to sign up for additional storage space for their account. With summer holidays imminent, the company said, users might not be able to check their Hotmail account regularly and keep their inbox within Microsoft's 2MB storage limit.

Those whose Hotmail account exceeds the 2MB limit could have important emails deleted.

"Don't let your account go over the 2MB storage limit. Inboxes have a way of filling up fast, so be sure to check every so often and delete unwanted or large messages. If you don't, the Hotmail Janitor will randomly delete messages until your account is reduced to 2MB," said Microsoft in its email.

Microsoft has a solution for those who want a vacation, but would also like to catch up with emails on their return -- pay for more storage space.

"You can avoid the potential pitfalls of leaving your account unattended by signing up for MSN Extra Storage. For only £19.99 a year, you can take a holiday from your email account, and know that all your messages will be there when you get back," reassured Microsoft, which bought Hotmail in 1998 for £281m.

MSN Extra Storage provides 10MB of capacity for emails and 30MB of MSN Communities storage, which can be used for storing large files such as photos.

Those who sign up for MSN Extra Storage are also exempt from Hotmail's account expiration policy under which accounts are disabled -- and folders and address books junked -- if they aren't used for 30 days, something that could easily happen if a user went away on holiday.

Microsoft has been criticised in the past for making a number of changes to its membership policies. Both its storage limits and its 30-day cut-off policy have been seen as attempts to drive users towards its paid-for services.

Hotmail users can set up filters to try and have spam emails sent directly to their junk folder. Microsoft has indicated in the past that Hotmail should delete from this junk folder before beginning to empty a user's inbox, but there are reports of occasions where the inbox has been emptied first.

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