Over the last few years, Microsoft has expanded the Hotmail/Windows Live services to include a dazzling array of browser-based services.
Beyond email and instant messaging, the software giant now provides free, browser-based versions of Office, a cloud service called SkyDrive, a calendar and address book service, and Live Mesh, a system for syncing files between mobile and desktop devices.
With so many features offered for free you might think that this is a pretty good deal – and it is. But what happens to your emails and data when your account is blocked? How might this happen, and is there a way of overcoming it?
How Your Account Might Become Blocked
As causes for blocked Hotmail accounts go, there are three common reasons. The first is attempting to play pirated Xbox 360 games on your console. While you might retain any previously acquired DLC, access to the Gamertag and Gamerscore will be blocked, and eventually deleted. Not a great way to end months or years of hardcore gaming!
Finally, your account may become blocked if it has been hijacked by scammers. This can happen from time to time, resulting in spam emails being sent from your account.
Wider Impact of a Blocked Account
If your Hotmail or Windows Live account is blocked, the implications of this could be wider than you think. Rather than simply preventing you from accessing your messages (perhaps you might think it is easier to setup a replacement account), a blocked account will also thwart your attempts to use other services that are related to Windows Live.
Some of these include:
- Windows Live Messenger
- The Windows Phone Marketplace
- Xbox Live (including achievements and unlocked content)
- Microsoft Office Web Apps
Other services such as TechNet and MSDN that have been linked to your Hotmail or Windows Live account would also be blocked.
Furthermore, the new Windows 8 operating system requires a Microsoft account in order for the owner to use some of the cloud features. A blocked Hotmail account – interchangeable with a Windows Live, Xbox Live, Outlook.com and any other Microsoft account – would prevent you from getting the most of the new Windows OS.
Fixing a Blocked Account
Is there a way back from a blocked Hotmail/Windows Live account?
Fortunately, yes there is. It involves jumping through a few hoops and answering your original security question correctly, but once you have successfully done this then Microsoft will restore access to your account and you can carry on using it – legally, and within their terms, of course!
The first thing to do is attempt to restore access to your account by signing in. Here you will find that you have to provide information that can be used to verify your identity. This should be straightforward – your alternative email address might be used, for instance, or you might have to provide the answer to a security question.
If neither of these options is possible (for instance you might have forgotten the question or no longer have access to the old address) then you will need to provide alternative information, such as your credit card number if you use Xbox Live.
Hopefully you should get a favourable resolution, but if you have misused your account, don’t be surprised to find that your data is lost forever…
Restoring a Hijacked Account
If your account has been hijacked, it is far easier to get things back on track. Start by attempting to log in to your account. At this stage, a blocked account will be diverted to a new page, headed Your account has been blocked, which basically explains why the account has been blocked and what you will need to do to restore access. Alternatively, if you’ve noticed odd behaviour or can’t sign in because you have suspicions about your account, click the Can’t access your account? option on the login screen and follow the appropriate options. This process begins by Microsoft sending a verification code to your mobile phone or alternative email address.
Once the code is received, enter it in the appropriate space – you will then be asked to reset your password, specifying the old password as you do so.
While email accounts can be hijacked without your knowledge, it is important to take steps to avoid this from happening. Indicating on the Hotmail password reset page that you wish to reset your password every 72 days is a good start, as is providing the name of your Windows PC and your mobile and alternative email address.
As far as blocked Hotmail accounts are concerned, meanwhile, only responsible use of your Windows Live account can prevent it from being disabled. Microsoft’s policy of restoring accounts that have been blocked seems to depend on the provision of accurate data so that the operatives can make a decision about your account. Information can be misinterpreted and security questions and answers can be forgotten, so it is best to avoid any problems here by using your account responsibly.
One last thing – note that if you receive an email informing you that your account has been blocked, you should disregard this as it is more than likely part of a phishing attempt. A link in the email will be provided for you to enter your personal details which can then be used by a criminal to borrow money or buy goods in your name. Should you receive such an email, don’t click any links, delete the message, and then open a new browser window and try to login to Hotmail to check the account status.