Using the Outlook.com preview (FAQ)

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.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor on

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.

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