I forgot to log in to my Hotmail account for a while, and today when I logged in it was suspended for lack of use. I re-opened it, but this means I’ve lost all my previous mails which included some really important ones.

Is there any way to get them back? In particular there was a folder which contained very important mails.


I know of no way to get your messages (or any contacts) back once they have been permanently deleted from Hotmail. Whether it’s you deleting them accidentally, or Hotmail clearing the account for lack of use, permanent is permanent. The messages are gone.

Here’s what I recommend you do…

This will sound harsh, but you need to learn from this lesson.

Stop using Hotmail.

I’m serious. Stop using Hotmail, or for that matter any Web-based email service for anything that you would consider to be “important.”

If your email and your contacts are truly important, if losing them would be a serious problem for you, as it apparently has, then invest in a ‘real’ POP3 email account from an email service provider or from your ISP. Then use a ‘real’ email program like Outlook, or Eudora, or Thunderbird or any of a number of other good email programs that run on your machine to manage your email.

Then make sure to back up. Regularly.

Take control, and more importantly, take responsibility, for the safety of your email. If it’s really that important, then relying on a third party like Hotmail to “do the right thing” or even just to always be there is simply asking for trouble.

Don’t get me wrong – services like Hotmail have their place – they’re useful tools when used for the right jobs. I have Hotmail and Yahoo accounts myself. But they’re not appropriate for anything you would consider to be important. I hear too many reports every day of people that have lost their email, their contacts, or even access to the account for me to put it any other way.

Now, there is currently one alternative that’s what you might call the best of both worlds: Google’s Gmail. It’s a free Web-based mail service that includes POP3 and SMTP mail download and send. It’s a fine service to use as long as you make sure to download to your own mail client, on your own machine, and then back up regularly. Leaving all your information on Google’s server is convenient and fast and all that, but if it’s the only place you leave it, then when (not if) there’s ever a problem you’re back were you started – you’re still screwed.

If it seems like I’m coming down hard on free email services – I am. Or rather, I’m coming down hard on people that rely on them too heavily.

If it seems like a pet peeve of mine – it is. I’ve written on it before.

It’s not some random opinion or a prejudice I walked in with. I’ve come to this conclusion by the sheer number of people who ask similar questions: they’ve lost important emails, contact lists, or more – simply because there was a problem with their free Web based email account. And I get these reports every single day.

Folks, “free” just isn’t worth it if what you’re dealing with is important to you or to your business.

Email and contacts: own it, download it, and back it up.

Ask Leo! – Are free email services worth it?