Hotmail Glitch Wipes Out Entire User Accounts

Dennis Faas's picture

Users of Microsoft's Hotmail email service weren't welcomed by holiday greetings from their friends this past weekend. In fact, they didn't get any messages at all. Recent reports state that many users of the service found their entire email history deleted without warning.

The deletions don't appear to be a few select cases. Instead, a significant number of Hotmail users complained of the issue on Microsoft's Windows Live support web forum. Those affected by the problem are reporting that their "Sent," "Deleted," and "Inbox" folders have been completely wiped out.

Entire Hotmail Accounts Reset

Many Hotmail users were shocked by the issue, noting that they've never seen anything like it before.

"I have [had] a Hotmail account since I remember myself on the web (1990's)," noted one user. "I logged into it on 31[st] December 2010 at around 06:30hrs. Got an error message and a 'new' hotmail account with a first system welcome message. All previous mails in the inbox are gone and all the folders created are also not there." (Source:

Microsoft hasn't yet stated when a fix for this issue will be available, but say it's currently investigating the problem.

"At this point it appears to be a limited issue, and Microsoft is working with individual users who are impacted. We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers," said Catherine Booker, a Microsoft spokesperson. (Source:

Message Recovery Uncertain

Some experts aren't certain this episode will have a happy ending. Microsoft Solution Center representatives have been keen to point out that message recovery is a difficult process, and doesn't always work out. At this point one can only speculate as to what may happen to all those erased messages, but it doesn't look good.

Under normal circumstances, entire Hotmail accounts are subject to deletion after 120 days of inactivity. Users who reactivate their account can get their email addresses back over the next 90 days, but the messages will have been permanently deleted. It's possible this recent episode is somehow related to a problem in that automated deletion process.

An estimated 360 million people own Hotmail accounts, making it the most popular web-based email service in the world.

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