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Like many Microsoft products, Hotmail's real name has changed a time or two and caused a great deal of confusion. I'll try to make sense of it all.

Is there no longer a I am so confused. I sign into hotmail and it automatically sends me to hotmail live. It would not take my old password, so I had to change it. But, there is nothing in the account. How do you retrieve information that was in This is crazy!!How can I get my messages from my old account or is this really something that has happened. Is there no longer a MSN or is this a joke of some kind.

It's no joke.

Microsoft continues a long history of confusing the heck out of us with the names they choose for their services - and then changing those names as they go along.

Hotmail is MSN Hotmail is Windows Live Hotmail. That's easy. But there's more to it than that.

For the record: none of it involves losing any email. That's something else entirely.

Hotmail begat MSN Hotmail begat Windows Live Hotmail

The email service we typically refer to as Hotmail was originally called ... Hotmail. Imagine that. More correctly it was called HoTMaiL - for HTML mail. The moniker "Hotmail" is what stuck and is what we call it today.

"Same service, just three different names over time."

After purchasing Hotmail, Microsoft integrated it with their burgeoning line of on-line services, and branded them all with "MSN" - the MicroSoft Network. Thus what we used to call "Hotmail" was technically renamed to be "MSN Hotmail".

Part of that integration involved developing a "single sign-on" for all MSN properties. The idea was that a single account - your MSN Hotmail account, for example - could be used to login once and gain access to all the other MSN services like MSN Instant Messenger, MSN Money, your own custom MSN home page and more. So as part of the login process you might see domains fly by that included, (the single-sign-on provider), and perhaps even It wasn't really too confusing, though, unless you were watching those domain names fly by. When all was said and done you landed on "MSN Hotmail" and there would be your email, as before.

In recent years, Microsoft has decided to de-emphasize the "MSN" brand, and dreamed up the new "Windows Live" brand to take its place - presumably to emphasize "Windows" everywhere they possibly could.

So, it's deja vu all over again: what we had come to know as "MSN Hotmail" has been renamed "Windows Live Hotmail". As part of that, the domains that you might see as you login and use email changed as well: you might visit "" but you'll quickly be taken to "" to login to your single "Windows Live" account (which includes your Hotmail). Thereafter, you'll go read your Hotmail at something on "" - you'll see the Windows Live brand on top, and the "Hotmail" brand just below it. It's your same old Hotmail, just with a new name and being delivered on a new domain.

Hotmail became MSN Hotmail which then became Windows Live Hotmail. Same service, just three different names over time.

MSN Messenger begat Windows Live Messenger

Folks using MSN Messenger have the same issue. Many of them refer to it as simply "MSN", which is of course wrong - MSN was the name of the umbrella service - Messenger was only one part of it. Now not only do they download "Windows Live Messenger" to access the old MSN Messenger service, "MSN" is nowhere to be found. It's all just a service - the Messenger service - that's part of "Windows Live".

Similarly MSN Instant Messenger is now called "Windows Live Messenger". Same service, just a different name.

Missing Email?

If you're missing email, there's something else going on. None of the name changes above should result in any lost email - period. It's just a name change.

Unfortunately, I do hear of missing Hotmail email from time to time, and not necessarily in conjunction with a name change. Here's what I've seen as a cause:

  • Windows Live Hotmail temporary failures: you may not get a message at all, but check in again in, say, 24 hours. Your email may magically have reappeared.

  • New Account Hack: I've begun seeing a relatively new type of account compromise where the hacker doesn't change your password (meaning you can still log in), but they do wreak havoc on your account. Change your password - and everything else that might be used to recover your password - immediately.

  • Traditional Account Hack: you indicated that you had to reset your password to regain access to your account. This feels very much like a more traditional situation where a hacker has gotten into your account, changed your password and deleted your email.

In any case, it might make sense to visit the Windows Live support forums to see if others are experiencing the same, or to post your own experience with the hope of getting some help.

Ultimately, however, I do have to fall back on my standard position regarding free email accounts: if your email disappears I believe it's extremely unlikely that you'll ever get it back.

I hope you had it backed up somewhere.

Article C4384 - August 1, 2010 « »

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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?

August 3, 2010 9:23 AM

What is causing drop down menu's to open when I am typing a reply to email's etc. The iritating thing is when the delete drops down and my complete message is lost. It happens also if I am using microsoft word. There is no set pattern, it just happens. Of course will writing this note, nothing is happening.

August 3, 2010 10:06 AM

@Jerry: I would suspect that you have a problem with your keyboard -- perhaps the Alt (or some other) key sticking. If possible, try a different keyboard. If the problem persists, you have some software (virus??) that's causing you grief. Nonetheless, eliminate the hardware possibility first. Good luck.

August 3, 2010 10:15 AM

I have had all kinds of problems with my email account also for the past week or two I couldn't sign in to my msn or Hotmail every thing was out of sync. I called 1-800-386-5550 msn customer service & couldn't get past all the prompts they have, I tried their on line ass. & got a tech. that wanted $38.00 to work on my problem. All bad very bad.It will be a big problem for me to change especially where i'm a paying customer for my email account, but I'm trying to get away from these email accounts & use another companies.

Mark Jacobs
August 3, 2010 10:25 AM

It seems like that new account hack is very common with MSN and Yahoo mail. Unfortunately as these attacks are a bit more common we might see them snowball more and more and render the major freemails useless eventually. Pay a little bit for an account where you can solve your problem by phone if necessary.

Thomas Davis
August 4, 2010 4:39 AM

Interesting, but they are not necessarily the same. I have a hotmail account and a msn account. They are separate mail accounts and I have to log on to each to get my mail.

August 5, 2010 2:11 AM

It sounds more like the writer hasn't signed in to his/her account for a long period thus having the account suspended and everything deleted.

Pete B
August 7, 2010 1:42 PM

Leo, Just to complete the picture, can you also comment on Windows messenger and Windows Live Messenger? I have seen a number of computers which are running both (not realising that Windows messenger was already starting automatically).

Keep up the good work.

Carlos Coquet
August 25, 2010 11:46 AM

Moral of the story??? Very big IS bad !! Giants do what they feel like doing. (Most products out of Microsoft are poor copies of things previously offered elsewhere.) Don't feed the beast. Support the alternatives. Use another eMail service!! (In fact, the same applies to other areas. See what big banks did to the economy? I have moved all my business to small banks.)

January 3, 2011 5:56 PM

I had a email account, I had for years, I went to reset my password, as I have forgotton it. And it's says that my windows live I'd does not exsist!! This is my correct hotmail address!! Any ideas???

This article discusses recovery options for the various ways that Hotmail accounts can be lost or compromised: What are my Lost Hotmail Account and Password Recovery Options?

March 26, 2011 11:12 AM

Wow what a mess. I have my own Domain on a wi fi system at a park in Texas that I use outlook express on. Neither of these are accepted by MSN, or windows 7.

December 20, 2012 7:28 AM

I have an involved question. About a year ago I changed to a Mac and in addition to my "me" account I still have my MSN account. I have had nothing but trouble with the MSN account and want to change everything to the ME account. I purchased many apps with the msn id and fear that I am going to lose them if I switch. I also have a hotmail account. Do you have any suggestions?

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