Microsoft's Hotmail phase-out: What's a user to do?

Microsoft is moving all of its Hotmail users to Outlook.com by this summer. Here's what the hundreds of millions still using Hotmail need to know about the transition.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft announced earlier this week that it is closing Hotmail and moving the "hundreds of millions" still using it to Outlook.com by this summer.


The move isn't unexpected, but perhaps more sudden than some anticipated. Hotmail users, once they move (or are moved) will get Outlook.com's clean, Metro-Style interface for their mail -- and ultimately, calendars. (For a walk-through of the UI changes Hotmail users will see, check out this Microsoft FAQ.)

Given that many of the new features in Outlook.com -- Microsoft's new Web-mail service that is no longer in "preview," as of this week -- are already part of Hotmail, the Outlook.com experience (beyond the UI itself) shouldn't be too jarringly different.

Microsoft provided guidance last summer for those who wanted to proactively make the Hotmail-to-Outlook.com move. There's not much required on users' parts to make this happen. But some users still have questions. And different folks around the Web have answers.

Q: How much warning do users get before Microsoft move an existing Hotmail account to Outlook.com?

A: There will be several e-mails first prompting people to upgrade on their own.

Q: If I move my Hotmail account to an Outlook.com account, can I change my mind and go back?

A: At this point, no. (When Outlook.com was still in "preview," Microsoft did allow this.)

Q: What happens to all my stored Hotmail once I am moved off Hotmail to Outlook.com?

A: Everything moves over. If you click the upgrade button it takes maybe a few seconds, but all your existing messages auto-populate and carry over.

Q: Which browsers support Outlook.com?

A: Outlook.com is optimized for Internet Explorer 8, 9 and 10; Google Chrome 17 and higher; Firefox 10 and higher; Safari 5.1 on Mac. It also works relatively well on IE 7, Google Chrome 16 and 5; Firefox 9 and 5; Safari 5.1 on Windows and Safari 5 on Windows and Mac. It doesn't work at all on IE 6 and older; Google Chrome 4 and older; Firefox 4 and older; and Safari 4.X and older.

Q: What happens if my Microsoft ID/Windows Live ID is tied to Hotmail? Do I have to get a new one and change my accounts?

A: No. If you use an @hotmail.com, @msn.com or @live.com e-mail address as your Microsoft account, you can keep it, even after Hotmail is shuttered. "Think of this the same way as you would changing your mobile phone carrier. You are simply moving to a better service, but your 'number' (in this case your Microsoft account and email address) stays the same," a Microsoft spokesperson explained.

Q: I already created a separate, new Outlook.com account. So once my existing Hotmail account is moved to Outlook.com, what happens? Will my two Outlook.com accounts be merged?

A: There is no way to actually "merge" these accounts. But you can connect these two accounts and then toggle back and forth by linking them. To do this, go to account settings and select the permissions tab. Click on "manage linked accounts."

Q: Users are being allowed to keep their Hotmail addresses if they want. Wasn’t a big part of creating Outlook.com a plan to get rid of the tired/tainted Hotmail brand?

A: "The simple fact is that many people are attached to their email address. We do expect a certain number to want a new Outlook.com address (which is great); others will want to keep their Hotmail address. Either is fine since they will all get to use the new service," a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed.

Q: When will Microsoft update the calendar in Outlook.com so that it is Metro-Style, instead of Hotmail-Style?

A: Microsoft officials aren't saying anything other than what they've said since summer 2012, which is "soon."

Q: When will Outlook.com be integrated with Skype?

A: Also "soon." No further word from the Softies on the timing.

Q: Can I configure my mobile devices -- including Windows 8, Windows Phone, iOS and/or Android phones to use Outlook.com?

A: You can. Here's how to do this for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. And here's guidance for iOS/Android phones (all courtesy of Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott.)

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