Windows Live Hotmail: a Free Email Service

Windows Live Hotmail is now Outlook.com and is still free

Laptop with email illustration

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Formerly known as Hotmail, Microsoft offers a free web-based email service called Outlook.com. At the Outlook.com website, you can still create an email address with the hotmail.com domain name. Or, you can create an email address with the outlook.com or live.com domains. Learn about the benefits and disadvantages of this email service.

Outlook.com Free Email Service Overview

Outlook.com offers free email with unlimited storage and support for attachments up to 50 MB each (10 GB per email). The Outlook.com service provides scanning for phishing attempts, viruses, and spam to protect your privacy and add security to your account.

The Outlook Online web app offers many of the same features as the Outlook desktop app. It includes a reading pane, drag-and-drop ease, rich text editing, and keyboard shortcuts.

Screenshot of Filter in Outlook.com

Outlook.com offers many ways to search, sort, and categorize your email:

  • Use quick views and filters to focus on mail from contacts, social updates, emails with photos, Office documents, and more. Or, use filters to move or delete emails.
  • Perform a fast search to find emails exchanged with a contact. Or, use the integrated Live Messenger to chat with contacts
  • Set up free-form labels to categorize mail. Outlook.com automatically assigns built-in labels for newsletters, bills, and social updates among others.
  • Sweeping actions help keep your inbox neat by automatically archiving or deleting certain kinds of mail.

Outlook.com offers other helpful features that help you get more work done:

  • Set up additional addresses (and up to fifteen aliases) to send with from Outlook.com and retrieve mail from POP accounts.
  • Sync your Outlook.com account across all your devices and access your email, calendars, and contacts on any device and from anywhere.
  • Access Outlook.com using a POP email client (such as the Outlook desktop app) and have it forward incoming mail to any other email address.
  • Create a vacation auto-responder to answer emails in your absence.
Screenshot of automatic replies settings

Outlook: Free Email Service Review

What We Like

  • Find and organize mail swiftly.

  • Send from other email addresses using Outlook.com.

  • Send files up to 10 GB per email.

What We Don't Like

  • Does not offer IMAP access.

  • Cannot save searches as folders in Outlook.com.

Outlook.com is simple to use. You can search all your mail easily and use custom folders in tandem with filters to sort your mail. But, Outlook.com does not include search folders or folders that learn from your actions.

Screenshot of Outlook.com interface

How Outlook.com Helps You Control Email

Automatic folders collect emails containing photos, emails with Office documents attached, or emails categorized in certain ways. You can create and apply your own categories, or use the built-in categories such as Bills, Newsletter, and Social updates. Outlook.com applies these built-in categories automatically.

Outlook.com offers many ways to view your messages. Zoom in on mail from contacts to make messages easier to read. Sort social networking updates and discussion groups fast in any folder to view messages from the group. Or, use flags to pin messages to the top of the Inbox.

Screenshot of Categories in Outlook.com

To automate inbox cleaning, set up filters to delete or file incoming mail automatically, to archive old mail from certain senders (for example, a newsletter) automatically, or to keep the most recent copy of another sender's message.

Security and Privacy Are a Big Part of Outlook.com

Outlook.com comes with solid security and privacy. Outlook.com scans for viruses and does not display privacy-infringing images unless authorized, for example. Outlook.com's spam filter does not filter out every piece of junk mail; you may find an occasional spam message in the Inbox instead of in the Junk Email folder. If you want more control over spam messages, set up Outlook.com to only allow mail from known senders in your Inbox.

Screenshot of of Junk Email in Outlook.com

Access the Free Outlook.com

If you don't prefer the Outlook web-based email experience, use Windows Mail with your Outlook.com account for a Windows-like experience. Or, download messages to a desktop email app or your mobile devices using POP (Outlook.com does not support IMAP access).

If you like the Outlook web-based email app, use the Outlook.com web interface as your email program and download mail from other POP accounts. Then send mail from Outlook.com using any of your email addresses.