Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Many people fail to set up alternate email addresses correctly, rendering password resets and reminders useless. We look at how best to set them up.

I'm unable to login to my Hotmail account, so I wanted to try the option of sending a password reset via email. But how can I receive that reset password link if the whole problem is that I can't login and get my email because I don't have the password?

A classic chicken and egg problem. You need your password to receive the reset, but you need the reset in order to get your password.

I see this happen also when people specify bogus "alternate email" addresses, or don't specify one at all.

In a nutshell, you're SOL - severely out of luck.

The best we can do is prevent this situation from coming up again in the future.

The whole idea behind an email password reset or reminder is that the email should go do a different account. That's why it's called an alternate email address. Obviously if you can't login to get the reminder, the reminder is useless.

So when you set up your account, be it Hotmail, Yahoo, or whatever - simply make sure that you specify an alternate email address:

  • that is valid

  • that you have access to

  • that you will continue to have access to ... you won't let it expire and you won't lose the password

"The whole idea behind an email password reset or reminder is that the email should go do a different account."

That way, when you need a password reminder or reset for one email account, it gets sent to the other.

This doesn't need to cost anything at all. If you're using a free email account, then set up another, and have them be each other's "alternate" email address.

In fact, I actually recommend that you use different services. For example, when creating a Hotmail account, also create a Yahoo account. Then have the Hotmail email address be the alternate address for the Yahoo account, and have the Yahoo email address be the alternate email address for the Hotmail account.

Lose or forget one, and you'll be able to pick it up at the other.

Based on the questions I get, this one simple step would save a lot of people a lot of grief and anguish.

Important: Even though it's called out in the notes with the comment form below, people still insist on asking, so to be clear: I cannot recover your account or password. Requests to do so will be deleted.

Article C2909 - January 25, 2007 « »

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?

Osmund Borromeo
February 22, 2007 5:29 PM

my password on the alternative Email address is different from the first valid Email address:

February 25, 2007 3:22 PM

i want talk to hotmail

Joshua Sidaros
February 25, 2007 11:56 PM

which web site?

March 2, 2007 12:24 PM

i want get my password back

March 4, 2007 2:53 PM

thankyou you were alot of help

kelly moore
March 12, 2007 7:37 PM

i can not get in at all now why is that i have not had this happen to me befor and now it is starting why is that i can not get in it at all so what do i do now?

March 16, 2007 1:59 PM


I'am trying to reset my password for the hotmail; but I'am having some problems. There is no place for me to provide them with my other e-mail. What do I do now?

August 2, 2007 12:56 AM

please give me password

August 2, 2007 1:00 AM

alternate email address

August 2, 2007 1:04 AM

September 18, 2007 7:04 AM

Hello, I forgot my password for my MSN Live Messenger, What can i do about this, I removed the MSN messenger from my computer and downloaded it again but I still need my same password. Can You help??

Wibur Moffitt
January 31, 2008 4:26 PM

my passwords are differnt on the valid (1)account than the alternate account

Bobby Armstrong
February 10, 2008 11:15 PM

I recovered my forgotten password on my gmail account even though I had deleted the original alternate email address. Google will allow one to have a request sent to any new alternate address one hsa created. Now I cannot remember the process but it is there hidden away. One just has to keep trying.

June 11, 2008 12:21 PM

My laptop recently is not typing the b, m, and n keys and I need to reset my password with letters that do not contasin do I do this? thanks. Im at my neighbors home now trying to access and reset the password. I also have another account thanks

B.Sadesh Kumar
September 29, 2008 10:35 PM

How to set reminder on my mail.
Pls ans me, Thnks

kristopher stewart
October 15, 2008 1:05 PM

How do I change my yahoo password reminder question and answer?

November 17, 2008 7:16 PM

Im having a problem with my friendster account, i forgot my im asking them to send my password thru email, but the problem is i used my alternate email can i retreive my password? because my default & alternate email address have same password.or is it possible if i could change the default address to alternate address that im using? please do help me.thanks

January 2, 2009 7:52 AM

I put my hotmail account as my alternate e-mail for yahoo and it doesnt recieve the reminder message. The yahoo e-mail was very important and is where all my personal and work e-mails are sent. Has this happened to anyone else or is it just my luck?

Kim R. Duell
January 6, 2009 6:22 PM

I fortgot my hotmail password so I set up a new live account but there has not been any response for a new password. It is critical that I retrieve this information. Can you help me? Thanks!

Harry Foo
August 12, 2009 7:02 PM

Dear Sir
How to delete away un-used alternate primary email address
Harry Foo

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