Hotmail update deletes hundreds of users emails [Update]

Over the last couple of weeks, the Hotmail team has been hard at work upgrading accounts worldwide to the new and improved Windows Live Hotmail; however, some user's emails didn't make the transition and now are left with an empty inbox.

Starting off with one long-term Hotmail user named Andrew Harnaman, or better known on our community forums as Andy2004, has been using Windows Live Hotmail for his personal and business email for a number of years now. Andrew uses multiple email accounts, including a @msn.com, @hotmail.co.uk and @andrewharnaman.com which is hosted using Windows Live Custom Domains.

Andrew's @msn.com and @hotmail.co.uk account upgrades went very smoothly during the recent rollout, transferring over his emails and folders, but when he checked his own custom domain, he noticed that hundreds of emails has suddenly vanished; years worth of information suddenly disappeared without an explanation. When Andrew logged into his account on Tuesday, September 28, he noticed his inbox was completely wiped-out, other than the “Welcome to Hotmail” email everyone gets when you first register a new account.

Hotmail_Deleted_Inbox

After digging a little deeper, you can really see that Andrew is not alone, and judging by the 600+ pages of people complaining on Windows Live Solution Center within the last month, including Andrew's post here, you can see this issue is much more widespread than just one individual.

Amongst all of the questions on the support forum, it's clear everyone is getting the same answers and results, their emails have all been deleted and are not recoverable.

One reply to Rajinder Pal Singh, suggests that only deleted messages are recoverable, if you act within 24 hours, but it doesn't appear that anyone will get any of their emails back:

I've used all my resources but I couldn't retrieve your lost messages. Message recovery does not always have a high rate of success. It is possible that the messages were already purged even before I have tried to recover them.”

Andrew was able to provide detailed information about his account to confirm this story, including screenshots taken from his iPhone, showing that emails did actually exist in his account just days before they were all wiped out. He also confirmed that he does not download his emails to a server, and does not have “delete from server” checked in any of his POP3 clients. You can read Andrew's story here on our community forums.

Hotmail_Deleted_iPhone

The Windows Live Hotmail team was not available for comment.

Update: A Microsoft spokesperson contacted me about this issue saying this:

We have confirmed that there are no known issues with Hotmail  account migration and data loss. The issue in question is an isolated incident –specific to the particular  user referenced – and we are investigating this situation specifically and sincerely apologize for any convenience this may be causing

Andrew still affirms that this was a fault on Microsoft's end and not an isolated issue. If you or anyone you know has been affected by this issue, please send us an email at andrew.lyle@neowin.net and tell us your story.
Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Happy 10th Birthday Neowin

Next Story

Microsoft sues Motorola [Updated]

58 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

I have a Gmail account and I just don't want to take a chance of losing my emails. I have a copy of Thunderbird Portable on my external HDD stored in a TrueCrypt container, and I make sure I have an updated copy of my email account through IMAP which I sync manually to avoid the application to sync automatically and delete the local copy to reflect the actual inbox content. If for some reason Google lose one or several of my emails, at least I have it cached somewhere.

that is the main reason why I've never used a webmail email. I still use pop3 to download emails in my Mac client. This way, I have my own copy on my computer. Then I back up everything.

Too bad for them but I am also pretty sure they can't sue microsoft

That sounds horrible.

But I think Hotmail has its own backup right? So the Hotmail team should be able to recover the mails.

whooops, hope they get that fixed or restored or they are going to have and angry mob outside of redmond, in the next few weeks.

I have Gmail, and am I worried about all my emails will disappear one day? Sure I am. Which is why I love the fact that gmail supports free pop3 access. So I just use thunderbird in conjunction with my gmail. All of my emails I get on Thunderbird are automatically archived on gmail.com. So I have a backup copy of my gmail emails on, gmail.com, Thunderbird and my backup drive. If I really wanted too I Could also have my Thunderbird emails back up on carbonite. So there really is no excuse to loose emails. If hotmail doesn't give you the means to back it up yourself, then use gmail.

ZakO said,
Hotmail has offered pop3 access for almost 2 years.
Yea, too bad pop3 sucks and won't sync stuff like when a msg has been read etc

Rudy said,
Yea, too bad pop3 sucks and won't sync stuff like when a msg has been read etc

Yeah... but the original post makes it sound like hotmail doesn't offer pop3 at all.

ZakO said,
Hotmail has offered free pop3 access for almost 2 years.

Why use pop3 though lol =/ Most people should have outlook on their computer, so just use that. If your emails do get deleted or lost, just press send and receive and your saved copy on the computer will be uploaded.

If you use a phone, well then you have EAS.

/- Razorfold said,

Why use pop3 though lol =/ Most people should have outlook on their computer, so just use that.

You make it sound like you think pop3 is an email client but I don't think you really mean that

Yakuzing said,

You make it sound like you think pop3 is an email client but I don't think you really mean that

Haha yeh I didn't mean it like that. What I meant to say Outlook has its own connector for Hotmail access, theres WLM thats a separate client, there's EAS for phones.

Just saying theres better options instead POP3 if you own a hotmail account, unless you want to send mail to another email (say Gmail for example) or you use thunderbird, which in the case of the OP he does.

/- Razorfold said,

Why use pop3 though lol =/ Most people should have outlook on their computer, so just use that. If your emails do get deleted or lost, just press send and receive and your saved copy on the computer will be uploaded.

Or Windows Live Mail which is free and can be backed up

-=SEDIN=- said,
why do people worry about their emails that are a year+ old.? i could never understand that

That makes at least two of use. In fact if my email is more than a week old it gets deleted even if it is from a family member, or a very good friend.

Come on people if you choice to live on a cloud you have to expect that like any cloud it can break up.

Thats very true Xenosion. I guess I hadnt thought of it like that. My point was yes its a free service and yes ive probably taken it for granted that my email will always be there. Since this has happened ive started moving to hosted exchange and using gmail as a backup. Yes it was my fault for not backing up but as i mentioned previously its the principle of it and the lack of help through windowslivehelp which truly is awful. I know I didnt delete the entire contents of my hotmail account and the least microsoft can do is to acknowledge the problem. If people like myself didnt stand up and be counted and say something then how many more people would lose all of the contents of their hotmail accounts.

Well what's good about you coming out with what seem like solid assertions that Microsoft has messed up big time, is that a lot people may now have the opportunity to backup their email if they haven't been before this "update" gets rolled out to them.

andy2004 said,
My point was yes its a free service and yes ive probably taken it for granted that my email will always be there. Yes it was my fault for not backing up but as i mentioned previously its the principle of it and the lack of help through windowslivehelp which truly is awful. I know I didnt delete the entire contents of my hotmail account and the least microsoft can do is to acknowledge the problem.

An "IT" guy, who uses a free public service and doesn't back up his data and yet complains because he get's no warning that it might happen? Oh the irony

Hey everyone I should probably clear up a few things here. Let me begin by saying no its not a business email address. Nothing important was kept in the account with the contents that vanished and yeah its a free service so you get what you pay for. What bothers me if Microsoft had said ok were gonna make account changes however you could possibly lose everything then fair enough. However I had no warning no nothing. Just one day I found everything gone. At first i thought the account had been compromised but when I went to windowslivehelp forums it wasnt just myself having this issue.

Before your quick to judge me ive been working in IT for a long time I also did my degree in IT. In all this time Ive been using hotmail ive never had a problem. Also as the article states my other accounts were fine but this one account just vanished in the space of 24 hours. No it was not accidental, no i didnt download it apart from the few which were on my ihpone as the screenshot shows and even then im not a beginner i know if you use a client it will disappear form the server and ever since my first iphone (which was a 3gs) ive always used my phone to read these emails and everything has stayed on the server with no issue. Also why did I get a welcome to windows live hotmail email this week when the account has been active for 2 years.

Im lucky that what was lost was mostly fluff but its the principle and Microsoft taking lack of responsibility for users data. Some people store their whole lives in hotmail and yes consider cloud computing. What if this was your desktop, your documents, your applications and one day its all gone ?

There absolutely needs to be better accountability for these cloud computing services. To me it doesn't matter that it's free. They are offering to store your data therefore they should be responsible to ensure it's integrity. They have responsibilities for ensuring privacy to these free accounts, why not the integrity?

The "you get what you pay for" is just a cop-out.

Granted this sucks big time but the users should have backed up their own mail.

Did they loose their copies in their e-mail clients as well? If they are using POP3 it should be on whatever computer they check their e-mail with.

I'm sorry for his loss but this sounds to me like a beginners error. Business mails on a free email service and never downloaded or without backup? Thats just asking for trouble.

If this cloud computing concept is going to be more than a fad than these companies need to go way over and way beyond to ensure data is not lost. The IT firm I work for was using an online ticketing system, we thought it was great, it worked well, and it was free. Then one day everything was gone. Three years of tickets, attachments, invoicing, everything gone. Now Hotmail is "losing" what I would bet is a hell of a lot more than hundreds of emails, probably hundreds per user average.

If cloud computing is going to take off a word to the wise: Actually give a crap about users' data before it blows up in your face.

ivan300 said,
Good time to switch to gmail

Yea, right. If you want _weekly_ data loss and you're not concerned about privacy...

moonman78 said,

Yea, right. If you want _weekly_ data loss and you're not concerned about privacy...

Link to such a report?

I have been using Google for my hosted email (free) and have had many (at least 10) Gmail accounts over the past years and have never had an issue. So please enlighten me/us to this "weekly" data loss.

Amodin said,

That data loss article is almost 5 years old...

Something a bit more... shall we say current? Have any of those? 5 years ago, Gmail was in beta. You weren't expecting data loss in a beta?

Please, let me know what other computer system has zero down time. Everyone has it.


Well he was just trying to say that other email services have had the same issues. Also gmail was in beta for like the better part of the last decade LOL.

But yeh **** happens. You shouldn't be storing business data on a free email service for one (not that it matters to this article, just saying), and if you do have email thats important to you, back it up using Outlook, for example. Then if this happens, you can just send / receive in outlook and all your emails will be uploaded to hotmail / gmail etc.

moonman78 said,

Yea, right. If you want _weekly_ data loss and you're not concerned about privacy...

I am using Gmail for years and i never get any data loss, could you mention about any data loss you personally faced?!

SubZenit said,
Ohh', I'm sure that they will find a good excuse as always (:

Microsoft cares about their customers. I think you are mistaking them for Apple with their stupid email responses, and excuses for their iPhone 4 antenna issues.

Troll-tastic.

Why do people always defend the actions of one company by trying to drag another company in, using a completely unrelated example of something else they did wrong?!

Everyone widely accepted the iPhone 4 antenna issue was a shambles. And everyone loudly rounds on them whenever they put a foot wrong, particularly here on Neowin! But what the hell has that got to do with Microsoft deleting peoples email?!

Oh.. and it's particularly ironic that you choose to reference Apple as a company who don't care about their customers, when they regularly top customer satisfaction surveys.. e.g. this 11 day old article: http://news.cnet.com/8301-31021_3-20017064-260.html

Chicane-UK said,
Troll-tastic.

Why do people always defend the actions of one company by trying to drag another company in, using a completely unrelated example of something else they did wrong?!

Everyone widely accepted the iPhone 4 antenna issue was a shambles. And everyone loudly rounds on them whenever they put a foot wrong, particularly here on Neowin! But what the hell has that got to do with Microsoft deleting peoples email?!

Oh.. and it's particularly ironic that you choose to reference Apple as a company who don't care about their customers, when they regularly top customer satisfaction surveys.. e.g. this 11 day old article: http://news.cnet.com/8301-31021_3-20017064-260.html

"Everyone widely accepted the iPhone 4 antenna issue" - and yet we have a few here that routinely defend Apple over the issue.

As for Apple topping customer satisfaction surveys, a few years ago apple switched to MobileMe. It was months before the service became stable, they lost the email accounts of thousands (Apple claimed 2% was lost, wonder why the number is always exactly 2%) but there were people who were happy to defend Apple. Some of the comments was They were moving to a new platform so some problems was expected, it was the fault of the user for not backing up their data, Apple never made guarantees about the quality of service, etc.

Yes, they top customer surveys. When they lose the customers data, and the customer praises them for it, I would expect them to. But it also indicates to me that the nods of approval are not exactly impartial.

Chicane-UK said,
Troll-tastic.

Why do people always defend the actions of one company by trying to drag another company in, using a completely unrelated example of something else they did wrong?!

Everyone widely accepted the iPhone 4 antenna issue was a shambles. And everyone loudly rounds on them whenever they put a foot wrong, particularly here on Neowin! But what the hell has that got to do with Microsoft deleting peoples email?!

Oh.. and it's particularly ironic that you choose to reference Apple as a company who don't care about their customers, when they regularly top customer satisfaction surveys.. e.g. this 11 day old article: http://news.cnet.com/8301-31021_3-20017064-260.html

I wasn't trying to reply to this post, I was replying to the post I had quoted but somehow Mobile Neowin had another idea in mind.

Well anyway, my point is that Microsoft had an issue here that they didn't know about and now trolls come in and say it's a good time to switch to Gmail and they'll find an excuse... Microsoft is most likely working on the issue, they aren't Apple by making excuses and shoving the people with issues away.

I don't care if Apple has great customer satisfaction... I bet it's mostly biased because the Average Joe heard Windows is bad and how great Macs are so he switched and feels like his experience is excellent. Hell they have a stupid Genius bar to help Average Joe with everything he would need to know.

I'm sorry but it seems too biased that Apple treats customers the best... All they do is lie to their customers about the antenna issue with some stupid webpage with most likely false information about how other phones lose signal too. All those that switch over just believe them and obey them.

Hell so many people say iTunes erased their iPod but they continue buying iPods and loving Apple. My sister's friend said by accepting the iTunes agreement has changed thing when updating her apps had caused it to delete all her stuff and told my sister not to do it and my sister is being pathetic by listening to her. But Apple doesn't get blamed, but my sister's friend's boyfriend automatically thinks that anything Windows will get viruses...

The Average Joe Apple drone will always stand up for Apple and will never believe Apple is evil in anyway, this is the population thats owns Macs. So the stats on customer satisfaction = biased!

Electric Jolt said,

Microsoft cares about their customers. I think you are mistaking them for Apple with their stupid email responses, and excuses for their iPhone 4 antenna issues.


I bet you haven't heard MS responses to this debacle then.

"You're probably virus infected. Disinfect your computer and change your password. We'll give you your account back if you do this."

Uh, no, no viruses here. I checked. Just like the other guys here who're complaining.

Electric Jolt said,

Microsoft cares about their customers. I think you are mistaking them for Apple with their stupid email responses, and excuses for their iPhone 4 antenna issues.

Talk about an apples and oranges comparison.

One is a product defect, which they have since addressed. This one involves loss of personal information, and is still not addressed.

Seriously, use a more relevant comparison next time. They're not even remotely comparable!

edit: The MobileMe incident mentioned above is a good example.

I can't imagine Microsoft not making backup's of people's accounts. However, if they did, I can imagine a lot of people complaining.

This shouldn't happen with such a big company, but if they have truly exhausted all avenues, there is not much to do. Sucks dude.

ccoltmanm said,
I can't imagine Microsoft not making backup's of people's accounts. However, if they did, I can imagine a lot of people complaining.

This shouldn't happen with such a big company, but if they have truly exhausted all avenues, there is not much to do. Sucks dude.

I find it puzzling as well. Just can't understand why MS does not keep a weekly backup of their users data. It is something easy to do. And loosing the information only brings bad publicity to the company. Hopefully, Google will never have this problem and I won't loose my thousands of e-mails.

sviola said,

I find it puzzling as well. Just can't understand why MS does not keep a weekly backup of their users data. It is something easy to do. And loosing the information only brings bad publicity to the company. Hopefully, Google will never have this problem and I won't loose my thousands of e-mails.

No, they won't. Google prints out weekly emails of their users and analyzes them during meetings, as well as making fun of family pictures and cats that have been emailed from grammas to grandkids.

Brando212 said,
oh i bet there are people ****ed about that

That deserves a lawsuit

If that happens to my business email, that's lots of money and information lost!

thenonhacker said,

That deserves a lawsuit

If that happens to my business email, that's lots of money and information lost!

Being that it's a free service, and stuff like limited liability is probably covered in the EULA/TOC, a lawsuit is pointless. It sucks, but stuff like this happens. Wouldn't hurt the user to do backups either.

MS Pandya said,

Being that it's a free service, and stuff like limited liability is probably covered in the EULA/TOC, a lawsuit is pointless. It sucks, but stuff like this happens. Wouldn't hurt the user to do backups either.

There is PAY versions too.

Epic0range said,

There is PAY versions too.

Judging from the screenshot above, it is a free account so no warranties. If data loss occurs with a paid account there are certain assurrances and you should get some sort of recompense.

Using the cloud is a good idea for its flexibility but one must use it wisely. Always have backup, that's the first rule, and never, NEVER confide business data on free services.

Brando212 said,
oh i bet there are people ****ed about that

I was. The second time I mailed them, I got my account back. It only took me a week. :-p Happened my 2-3 weeks ago, and their support forums were utterly destroyed by these kind of complaints. Swedish users alone too, since I was directed to that subsection. Just three moderators that I saw. Sick...

I never use Hotmail anymore and MSE has never detected a virus. My password consists of alphanumeric characters. Suddenly my account was "probably compromised". I have no idea what's going on there, but I suspect a whole bunch of false positives, and MS erring on the side of caution here.

Funny though. Gmail has never ever done anything like this, or any other of their competitors I know, like Yahoo Mail. And they aren't exactly known for spamming people to death. Again, I have no idea what's going on there. Hotmail having been easy to breach in the past, and MS having to cover past mistakes...?

thenonhacker said,
If that happens to my business email, that's lots of money and information lost!

I'd expect that you take steps to backup your business email!