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Not a good day for "free" email services...

For three months, freelance writer Lydia Zajc updated friends and family on her adventures in Southeast Asia by sending detailed messages from her Hotmail account.

In a series of e-mails, she described munching noodles and buns on the streets of China and watching monks receive alms in Laos. Zajc planned to repurpose the e-mails for travel writing pieces when she returned home.

But on Wednesday, Zajc, who had saved the messages in her Hotmail Sent file, logged on to find that her e-mails had evaporated into thin air. "I literally broke down in tears," said Zajc, who now lives in Newfoundland, Canada, and for the past 24 hours has been furiously e-mailing recipients of the messages, hoping some of them saved her missives.

As part of a series of new storage policies aimed at driving more people toward its paid services, Microsoft has instituted a plan to delete sent Hotmail messages that are more than 30 days old. On Tuesday, it began erasing all messages in subscribers' Sent file transmitted before June 16.

Many customers are steaming, saying they've been caught off guard by the deletions, losing valuable files and writings. Further infuriating users is the fact that most Hotmail accounts do not automatically save messages to the Sent file, meaning any e-mail that's in there was flagged by the person as an important message worth keeping. What's more, subscribers been told they cannot recover deleted messages.

Microsoft has now said said that it is impossible to recover messages, with a Hotmail customer support representative telling one distraught user "I am sorry but you can no longer retrieve those messages".

I just checked with my hotmail account, and sure enough, there were only a few messages in my sent folder (I backed up any messages on my PC at home via Outlook Express), the "Sent Messages" folder of Hotmail now sports the following warning at the top...

    Messages more than 30 days old will be automatically deleted from this folder.
News source: CNet News
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