Using Outlook.com with your own domain or current email address

Did you know that you can set up an Outlook.com account (formerly known as Hotmail) with your own current email address or personal domain and don’t necessarily have to use an @outlook.com address?

This allows you to both send and receive emails with an address which you already own, even if it is from another provider such as Gmail.

Using an Outlook.com account is a great alternative for your current POP3 or IMAP account if you want to sync your emails, contacts and calendar items with multiple devices such as your desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet or smartphone. It behaves a lot like a personal (hosted) Exchange or Office 365 account but for free.

Setting this up is relatively quick and easy but there are some pitfalls to notice. This guide walks you through the entire process of setting up an Outlook.com account with your own current email address and how to transfer all your current data.


Set up a Microsoft Account for your current address

A Microsoft Account is basically your username to make use of various Microsoft services such as Outlook.com and SkyDrive. This username can be any existing email address you already own or a new Outlook.com address. In this guide, we obviously go for the first option.

  1. To sign up for a Microsoft Account go to; https://signup.live.com
  2. Fill out the form with the address that you want to use.
    The password which you set here is for your Microsoft Account only; it does not have to be the same password that you currently have for accessing your emails. In fact, it is highly recommended to choose a different password. Also make sure you are using a Strong password.
  3. Type the captcha characters and press the “I Accept” button. 
  4. Within minutes, you’ll receive an email from “Microsoft account team” with the subject “Verify your email address” with instructions to confirm your sign up.
    Click on the link in the email to confirm the signup.
    If the mail got lost, login with your Microsoft Account again and click the verification link at the top to resend the message.
  5. On the confirmation page, press OK to go to your Microsoft Account “Account summary” where you can specify some additional information about yourself, set a display picture and configure additional security options. You can skip this for now.

You are free to specify any address which you already own when signing up for an Microsoft Account. This address can then also be used for an Outlook.com mailbox.
You are free to specify any address which you already own when signing up for an Microsoft Account. This address can then also be used for an Outlook.com mailbox.

Configure Outlook.com to retrieve your emails

Now that you have signed up for a Microsoft Account with your existing email address, you can configure Outlook.com to collect your mail from your current mail account.

Tip!
Do you own the entire domain rather than just the email address? Then you can skip this step and configure your domain to let the mail servers of Outlook.com directly handle all the emails for your entire domain instead. For more info about this, see the Domain owners section.

  1. Go to the Outlook.com webpage and sign in with the email address and password you have specified when setting up your Microsoft Account if you are not automatically signed in already.
  2. Click on the “Continue to inbox” button when you get a “Welcome to your new Outlook.com inbox”. You’ll find this and additional information also in an email that has been placed in your Inbox from the Outlook Team.
  3. In the top right corner but on the left of your name, you’ll see a gear icon. Click on it and from the menu that pops up choose: More mail settings.


    Click on the image to enlarge.

  4. Under “Managing your account” click on: Your email accounts
  5. It the “Add an email account” section, click on the button: Add a send-and-receive account
  6. On the “Add a send-and-receive account” page, you’ll find that your current email address has already been filled out. For most POP3 accounts, you only need to fill out the password for your account (so not your Microsoft Account password) to complete the configuration.
    If the AutoConfiguration of your account doesn’t work, click on the “Advanced options” link to specify the correct server details for your POP3 account and SMTP server. You’ll also be automatically transferred to this page when the AutoConfiguration fails.

    Hotmail - Add an email account - Account configuration details.

  7. Once successfully configured, Outlook.com will prompt you what to do with emails retrieved from your current address. By default it wants it to place it into a separate folder but since this is the first and main email account you should select “An existing folder: Inbox” instead.

    Hotmail - Add an email account - select delivery folder and set an icon.

  8. Save your settings.
  9. You’ll now get a confirmation message that your messages are being collected and with the option to return to your Inbox or to verify your account status.
    Choose to go back to your Inbox folder to see your messages which are still in the Inbox folder of your POP3 account being collected. The mail collecting is being done in increments so if you have a lot of email still on your POP3 account, this could take a while.

    Hotmail - Great! We'll start getting your messages now.

Tip!
By default, your messages will also remain on the POP3 server of your email provider. If you are happy with the results and/or you have only limited space on the POP3 server, you can configure the account aggregation settings to remove the messages from the mail server once they are collected by Outlook.com.
  
To do this, go to your account settings as indicated in step 4 and click on the “Details” link next to your configured account and then on the “Edit” link in the pop-up dialog. In the “Incoming (POP3) server information” section, you’ll find an option for “Leave a copy of messages on the server”.

Connect with the Outlook Hotmail Connector or EAS

You’re done with the web configuring part and now it is time to get everything into Outlook.

If you are using Outlook 2003, 2007 or 2010 you must do this via the Outlook Hotmail Connector. If you are using Outlook 2013, you must do this via the “Outlook.com or Exchange ActiveSync compatible service” account type (also known as an EAS account).

The Outlook Hotmail Connector is an add-in to connect to Outlook.com/Hotmail accounts and have a 2-way sync between Outlook and Outlook.com for your mail, contacts and calendar folders. In addition, it will sync some extra settings such as your Junk E-mail settings and Safe Sender and Blocked Sender lists.

Configuring a Outlook Hotmail Connector Account

If you are using Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2010, follow the instructions below to add your Outlook.com account to Outlook.

  1. Download the latest version of the Outlook Hotmail Connector for your version of Outlook.
    As the download links change for each version, I keep a page with the latest links here.
  2. Install the Outlook Hotmail Connector while Outlook is closed.
  3. Start Outlook.
  4. You’ll be automatically prompted to add a Hotmail account. If not, see the instructions in the section: Manually add a Hotmail account
  5. Fill out your name and the email address and password that you used to sign up with for the Microsoft Account.
    Optionally you can press the Advanced button to name your account. There is no need to specify a reply address.

    Outlook Hotmail Connector - Configuration with your own domain

  6. Confirm the dialog to complete configuring the account. A new folder set will be created specifically for the Hotmail account and your emails will be synced with Outlook.

Note:
This additional set of folders is required as it is a local copy of the server mailbox. Don’t worry, we’ll set this mailbox as the default later on in the guide and there won’t a direct need for having an additional pst-file anymore if you don’t want to.

Manually add a Outlook Hotmail Connector account

If you dismissed the prompt to add a Hotmail account or if you want to add an additional Outlook.com account later on, you can do so via;

  • Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007
    Outlook Connector Menu-> Add a new account…
  • Outlook 2010
    File-> section: Info-> button: Add Account-> option: Manually configure server settings or additional server types-> Next-> option: Other-> select: Microsoft Outlook Hotmail Connector-> Next

Adding an Outlook.com account to Outlook 2013

If you are using Outlook 2013, you must use the manual configuration method to add an Outlook.com account which is using a custom domain.

File-> section: Info-> button: Add Account-> option: Manually setup or additional server types-> Next-> option: Outlook.com or Exchange ActiveSync compatible service-> Next

Here, specify your account details. In the “Mail server” field specify: m.hotmail.com

Transfer your data

With the Outlook.com account now configured in Outlook, you can start transferring your current email, contacts and calendar items to the Outlook.com account so that you can sync them to multiple devices.

Important!
Before starting with the transfer, make a good backup of your current pst-file. This way, when things go wrong, you can easily restore your pst-file and start over.

Mail

Moving your emails is quite easy if you have things configured via the Outlook Hotmail Connector; Select all your messages in the Inbox with CTRL+A and move them to the Inbox of your Hotmail account via drag & drop or use the Move option in the Edit Menu (Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007) or on the Ribbon (Outlook 2010). You can also use the keyboard shortcut CTRL+SHIFT+V or right click on your selection to move your messages.

Tip!
If you left all your mail on the server, then Outlook.com has also downloaded them. Moving the messages will result in duplicates. To prevent this, empty your Outlook.com Inbox before you start moving files.

For messages in other folders, you can directly move the entire folder via drag & drop or by right clicking on the folder and select the Move Folder option. Any subfolders are automatically transferred as well and the folder structure will be preserved.

If you are using Outlook 2013, then moving your emails is a bit more complex since the EAS protocol currently doesn’t support moving email messages from folders of another account to a folder in the EAS account like Outlook.com. However, with a workaround, it is still possible to achieve this. The procedure to do so is described in: Migrating Outlook pst-data to Outlook.com.

Contacts

Moving your Contacts is similar to moving your Inbox messages and this time, it also works for Outlook 2013; Press CTRL+A to select them all and then move them via drag & drop or one of the other move options available.

Calendar items

Moving Calendar items is a bit more tricky but definitely not impossible and also works for Outlook 2013.

The easiest way to move all your Calendar items at once is by placing your Calendar folder in a list view such as the All Appointments list view or the By Category view. Once you’ve done that, you can again move them via the CRTL+A and drag & drop method.

To change the view of your Calendar folder to a list view use;

  • Outlook 2003
    View-> Arrange By-> Current View-> By Category…
  • Outlook 2007
    View-> Current View-> All Appointments
  • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
    tab View-> button Change View-> List

Tasks

If you are using Outlook 2013, synching Task items is also supported by your Outlook.com account. To move them, press CTRL+A to select them all and then move them via drag & drop or one of the other move options available.

If you like to use Tasks with your Outlook.com account in previous versions of Outlook, you can use this workaround instead: Sync Outlook.com Tasks with the Outlook Hotmail Connector.

Remove your old POP3/IMAP account

With all your data transferred and Outlook.com automatically collecting your new emails about every 30 minutes, you can remove your old POP3 or IMAP account from Outlook and set the Outlook.com mailbox as the main mailbox.

  1. Set your Outlook.com account as the default account.
    • Outlook 2003
      Tools-> E-mail Accounts…-> button Next-> select your Outlook.com account-> button Set as Default
    • Outlook 2007
      Tools-> Account Settings…-> select your Outlook.com account-> button: Set as Default
    • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
      File-> Account Settings-> Account Settings…-> select your Outlook.com account-> button: Set as Default
  2. In that same dialog box, set your Outlook.com mailbox as the default Data File.
    • Outlook 2003
      Dropdown list at the bottom: Deliver new e-mail to the following location-> select your Outlook.com mailbox
    • Outlook 2007
      tab Data Files-> select your Outlook.com mailbox-> button: Set as Default
    • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
      tab Data Files-> select your Outlook.com mailbox-> button: Set as Default
  3. Accept any warning you might get about changing your default Mail Delivery Location.
  4. Restart Outlook.
  5. Return to the Account Settings dialog box from step 1.
  6. Select your POP3 or IMAP account and press Remove.
  7. Optionally; Switch to the Data Files tab and remove the pst-file from your POP3 account (this will not delete the pst-file from your disk). In Outlook 2003 you can do this via File-> Data File Management….

Set your Hotmail mailbox as the default data file and optionally remove your pst-file.
Set your Hotmail mailbox as the default data file and optionally remove your pst-file.

Exchange ActiveSync access

As mentioned, a big benefit of having an Outlook.com account is that you can sync your Mail, Contacts and Calendar with multiple devices. These devices don’t have to be PCs or laptops but can also be tablets (iPad/Android/Windows RT/Surface) or smartphones (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, Nokia Symbian, Palm, Blackberry, etc…).

In these cases, the sync isn’t done via an Hotmail Connector but via the Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) protocol just like in Outlook 2013. Most devices have built-in support for configuring Hotmail accounts but in case you need to do it manually, you can use the following configuration settings;

Server/URL m.hotmail.com
Username E-mail address in full
Domain <empty>
SSL enabled
Certificate Accept the SSL certificate when prompted

If you are using Windows 8, then you can also configure your Outlook.com account in the Mail, Calendar and People apps to get Lock Screen and Start Screen information about upcoming appointments. For details see: Live Tiles for Outlook on Windows 8

Tasks, Notes and Journal syncing support

If you look at your Tasks, Notes and Journal folder (keyboard shortcut: CTRL+6), you’ll see that they are marked with “(This computer only)”. This is because the Outlook Hotmail Connector currently only supports syncing Mail, Contacts and Calendar folders. As mentioned before, the Tasks limitation doesn’t apply when you use Outlook 2013 but does apply to the Drafts, Notes and Journal folder.

Important!
When you store data in the Tasks, Notes or Journal folder, it will only exist on your computer so make sure you make backups of your Hotmail account (see below)!

Tasks
If you are connecting to your Hotmail account on a mobile device via Exchange ActiveSync, then you might have noticed that Tasks syncing is supported (on most devices). Task syncing support has been requested as an Outlook Hotmail Connector feature as well, but for now you could use the following workaround with flags and a custom view; Sync Hotmail Tasks

Notes
As an alternative to the Notes folder in Outlook, you could consider using OneNote instead. OneNote 2010 can also sync your locally stored OneNote Notes to the Internet (SkyDrive) with your Windows Live ID account. SkyDrive also allows you to view, edit and create notes via a web interface. There is also a free dedicated OneNote App by Microsoft for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone and Windows 8 and Windows RT devices.

Journal
There is no real alternative to the Outlook Journal but you can create an additional Calendar folder and create a new view which is using a Timeline layout. Then you can use Appointments to create “Journal” entries. You could of course also leave it in the Day/Week/Month view for a more diary style Journal.

Backup concerns

Even though Microsoft makes backups of their Outlook.com services and goes to great lengths to make restores when needed, keep in mind that it is still a free service and you still have a responsibility yourself for making backups. Also keep in mind that Tasks, Notes and Journal folders aren’t synced with the Outlook.com servers when using the Outlook Hotmail Connector so if you were to recreate your Outlook.com account for whatever reason, you’ll have to backup and restore the data yourself.

Backing up your Outlook.com account is quite similar to backing up your pst-file but this time the file is an ost-file.

Default locations;

  • Windows XP
    C:\Documents and Settings\%username%\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\
  • Windows Vista and Windows 7 and Windows 8
    C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook\

You can paste the path mentioned above in the Address Bar of Explorer to quickly open the location.
You can paste the path mentioned above in the Address Bar of Explorer to quickly open the location.

To restore

  1. Configure Outlook with the Outlook.com account.
  2. Place Outlook in Offline Mode.
    • Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007
      File-> Work Offline
    • Outlook 2010
      tab Send/Receive-> Work Offline
  3. Replace the ost-file when Outlook is closed. You can rename the current one in case you need to reuse it in step 6.
  4. Start Outlook.
  5. Extract the missing data to a separate pst-file. If it only concerns a limited amount of items, you can also drag and drop the items out of Outlook and into an Explorer folder.
  6. Place Outlook back in On-line mode and let it sync.
    • If it syncs, recheck if your recovered data remains in your mailbox. If it is no longer there, recovered it from the pst-file or Explorer folder you extracted it to.
    • If it doesn’t sync, close Outlook, delete the recovered ost-file or rename it and rename the ost-file from step 3 back or simply start Outlook without the ost-file so it will build a new cache. Once the ost-file has been recreated, you can recover the extracted data from the pst-file or the Explorer folder your extracted it to.

Export and Import

While normally export and import isn’t considered a true backup a restore method, it is for Outlook.com accounts, especially when using Outlook 2013.

The reason for this is because Outlook 2013 doesn’t allow you to recover ost-files as described above. Also, the export and import method can be a much quicker method in case you only want to make backups of the folders which are marked with “This computer only”.

You can find the Export option in the following location:

  • Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007
    File-> Import and Export
  • Outlook 2010 File-> Open-> Import (also contains Export options)
  • Outlook 2013
    File-> Open & Export-> Import/Export

Receiving emails quicker

You might notice a long delay before new emails actually arrive in your Outlook.com mailbox. This is because the checking for new emails occurs in the following way:

  • Outlook.com will only check for new emails for your configured POP3 account every 30 minutes. This can’t be configured but can be influenced by the alias method described below.
  • Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007, will check for new emails every 30 minutes for Outlook Hotmail Connector Accounts. This can’t be configured.
  • Outlook 2010 uses the configured Send/Receive interval for Outlook Hotmail Connector accounts. By default, this is set to 30 minutes and can be configured in your Send/Receive settings (keyboard shortcut CTRL+ALT+S) but it is not recommended to set this below 5 minutes or even 10 minutes when you have multiple accounts configured.
  • Outlook 2013 supports the push based functionality of the EAS protocol so email reception for Outlook.com accounts is near instant.

Depending on your configuration and when Outlook.com last checked for new messages, it could therefor sometimes take up to an hour before the message actually arrives.

Receiving emails quicker via a forward to an alias

To speed up the actual delivery of the email to your Outlook.com mailbox, you can use the Automatic Forward method from your original host rather than the POP3 method of Outlook.com. Most IPSs properly support this method so your emails won’t be arriving from yourself nor will they have FW: added to their subject.

You can set this up in the following way:

  1. Add an alias to your Outlook.com account.
    You can do this by clicking on your name in the top right corner in Outlook.com and select: Account Settings. Then choose “Account aliases” on the left and click on the “Add alias” link. This has to be an actual @outlook.com address or any other natively supported domain.

  2. Log on to the web based mailbox provided by the ISP that hosts your mailbox or log on to the control panel to manage the mail settings for your custom domain to set up forwarding.
    If you are using a Gmail account, you can find it on the Forwarding and POP/IMAP settings page.
  3. Set it to forward the mail to your @outlook.com alias configured in step 1.
  4. Instead of adding your account as a “send-and-receive account” as instructed in step 5 of the section Configure Outlook.com to retrieve your emails, add it as a “send-only” account instead. This will prevent Outlook.com from generating duplicates by collecting the emails itself as well.
    • Without setting up a Send-Only account for your address, you’ll be sending out “on behalf of” emails with a randomly generated live.com address for your mailbox.

Now, delivery of your mail to the Outlook.com mailbox on the web is near instant and the delivery delay is down to the receive delay of your Outlook version.

Domain owner

When you own the entire domain rather than just having an address at a shared mail provider, you can also choose to let Outlook.com handle all the email for your domain.

When you choose to go this route, you don’t have to configure Outlook.com to collect your mail via POP3 or configure any forwarder. Mail is then being received instantly as if it was a native domain of Outlook.com itself.

To sign up, visit: https://domains.live.com/
Here, click on the “Get started link” link in the Custom Domains section.

Once signed up, you must do the following to receive emails directly within Outlook.com:

  • Add member accounts
    Make sure you use the already existing addresses when setting up these members or you’ll break the mail flow for these addresses. Of course you can also define new users with new addresses as well. By default, you can create up to 50 accounts but this can be extended by contacting Live Domains Support. These additional accounts will be provided free of charge as well.
  • Modify the MX record for your domain
    Once you’ve created accounts, you are ready to configure your domain to set mail delivery to the Outlook.com mail servers. You do this by customizing your MX records in your DNS Management tool. The values for the MX record are provided in the “Domain settings” section.
  • Add a server trust TXT record
    To prevent your mail being marked as junk mail, you can add a TXT record in your DNS which indicates that mail for your domain is coming from mail servers from the hotmail.com domain (which also handles Outlook.com). These required settings are also provided in the “Domain settings” section.
  • Configure Custom addresses
    As an additional service and for the convenience of your users, you can configure custom addresses for your domain which automatically map to the correct address of the Outlook.com or Live service. For instance, you can choose to create the addresses http://mail.yourdomain.com and http://skydrive.yourdomain.com which point to the Outlook.com and SkyDrive service respectively.
    To set this up, use the “Custom addresses” section and create a CNAME record for the subdomain which points to: go.domains.live.com
  • Instruct your users
    If you are not the only one using email for your domain, instruct your other users to reconfigure Outlook (or any any other mail client that they are using) to connect to the Outlook.com servers via the Outlook Hotmail Connector or the EAS protocol.

When you own the entire domain, you can configure it to use the Outlook.com directly instead of messing with external POP account configurations and forwarders. (click on image to enlarge)
When you own the entire domain, you can configure it to use the Outlook.com directly instead of messing with external POP account configurations and forwarders. (click on image to enlarge)