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If you lose access to your Hotmail account, the normal way to recover is to have a reset sent to your alternate email address. What if that can't work?

I can't login to my Hotmail account. I think it's been hacked. I tried to do a password reset using my alternate email address, but it turns out that it's an old email address that hasn't worked for years!

How do I get my password reset if I can't access the alternate email account? How do I get my account back?

You may not be able to.

We're going to try, but I want to be very clear that in cases like this, it's not uncommon for the account to be lost forever.

This is why I so strongly recommend backing up email, making sure your account is properly secured, using it securely, and not sharing your account login information with anyone, ever.

So with that dire warning and admonition out of the way, let's see what we can do.

Normal account recovery

On the Hotmail sign-in page, there is a link that you would normally use in a situation where your account has been lost or compromised:

Can't access your account link

Click that and you'll be taken to a page with three options:

Hotmail Reset your password page

The only real action in all three of these options is to reset your password. Clicking that, you're asked to enter your Windows Live ID - in other words, your Hotmail email address - and do a "type the characters" exercise to prove that you're not a computer:

Password reset: indicate which account and prove you're human

Click Next and you'll get a list of options:

Hotmail password reset options

Important: Your list may be different.

In fact, it almost certainly will be. For this account, I've set up two alternate email addresses, my mobile phone, and a "trusted PC" for password reset operations.

Normally, I'd choose Email me a reset link. This would be sent to all of the email addresses listed as alternates and upon receiving that link, I'd be able to set my new account password.

No viable alternates?

If you cannot login and none of the alternates are valid or available, your only choice is to contact Hotmail customer support:

Contact customer support password reset option

You'll be asked to provide a working email address at which Hotmail customer support can contact you:

Contact customer support contact form

The next page includes a form on which you can provide information about the account:

Hotmail recovery information form

Enter as much information about your account as you possibly can. The Hotmail team will use this to confirm that you are indeed the proper account owner and should be given access to the account.

If your information is incomplete or wrong, you may not get access.

Not only that, but the Hotmail staff is not allowed to tell you why - doing so might give a hacker additional information about the account that could make their next attempt at hacking successful.

After you've given your information, you'll get a confirmation message:

Your information has been submitted
We'll send an email to {email address} to let you know if you've provided enough information to recover your account. It usually takes us about 24 hours to review the information submitted. If you've already submitted a request, we'll close that request and take a look at this one.

What if I'm still denied access?

If you cannot login...

If your recovery options are invalid or do not work...

If the customer support request to access your account is denied...

I know of no way to gain access to your Hotmail account.

All that I can suggest is that you move on. Set up a new account and hopefully learn from this experience.

Learn? What's there to learn?

You and only you are responsible for the security of your account, using the account securely and backing up any important information that you might keep in it.

As you've experienced, everything can be lost.

Therefore:

  • Set up and keep current your password recovery information, such as alternate email addresses, mobile phone numbers, and whatever other techniques might be provided by Hotmail, to allow for account recovery.

  • Use your account safely. Don't share it with friends. Choose good, strong passwords that can't be guessed. Don't use it on open Wifi hotspots unless you know how to keep that connection secure.

  • Backup your important emails, contacts, documents, and whatever else you have associated with your Hotmail/Windows Live account.

And above all, remember that Hotmail is a free service; sometimes, you get what you pay for.

Postscript

As you can see from the example above, I have two email addresses and a mobile number associated with this example account. Within moments of filling out the customer support form that I showed as your last resort steps, I received an SMS message as well as an email message to each email address, which would have allowed me to regain access to my account.

Set up those alternate email addresses now before you forget.

And keep them up to date.

Article C5035 - January 10, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

9 Comments
David Trujillo
January 11, 2012 3:08 AM

I'm amazed at how many people don't use the provided security features provided by all email providers. I've been with @msn.com, which is also part of the Windows Live Team. This is my business email address. I also use gmail and yahoo, as disposable addresses, and have for many years. They all provide very good security measures. I have never had any problem with any of these, and if you have the security measures in place, you will be notified when anyone attempts to make changes to your account. Free or paid services, all are only as safe as we ourselves make them. Good work Leo. Kudos to the repeated replies you provide for email address recoveries. Excellent newsletters and advice.

Ken B
January 11, 2012 9:19 AM

Oops... I think you have a typo...

"... doing so might give a hacker additional information about the account that could make their next attempt at hacking unsuccessful."

David Trujillo
January 11, 2012 1:22 PM

Not a typo at all, too much information isn't good, and can be harmful :)

And yet, it was a typo - since corrected. Smile
Leo
11-Jan-2012
steven
January 14, 2012 5:10 AM

I am amazed that Hotmail can stay in business with all the problems the members have. Or this question could be a hacker trying to gain access to somebody else's account. I hope people do not give their real mother's maiden name or high school name as that information if freely available to close friends and family and of course schoolmates, etc. The one drawback is trying to remember the fake answers years later. Of course, another Hotmail password question should be here in a week or so. I dumped Hotmail over 10 years ago. My current email is now 99.99% spam.

Santiago
January 15, 2012 2:43 PM

Your suggestions did work to get the Hotmail email back. The problem is that the alternate Email is bad and to enter an alternate Email in Hotmail you need to confirm the alternate Email with the original Alternate Email that does not work.
Therefore next time there will be a problem with the Hotmail Email there will be the same problem again and again.. Wish they will allow a different way to enter an alternative Email and have it verified..

zaib
November 23, 2012 12:16 AM

i can't get reset password in my alternate email. may be when i make alternate i did nt verified. but hint of alternate is look like my alternate email and em sure dat. but im still not getting reset password email in my alternate email account. any software for recover to send reset password to my alternate?

Daniel
December 6, 2012 11:43 PM

that was no help, it just says everything I've gone through while trying to restore my account. What's the solution? This article only explains the problem.

Ivan
January 18, 2013 12:35 AM

I've been trying for 3 days to get into my BLOCKED account now. Can someone please tell me whose idea was it to block accounts? I want to find him and murder him

kerriann
March 14, 2013 1:21 PM

Someone has been using my account and now i need help unlocking or unblocking my account anybody?? Help??

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