Recovering a Microsoft email account is simple, in theory. But for many it turns into a Kafka-esque nightmare of faceless bureaucracy and endless circles of inactivity.
We can’t change this, but we can certainly help you to work out why your attempts to unlock your Microsoft account have failed.
What Is a Microsoft Account?
Resetting a Microsoft account should enable you to regain access to your email account or even your computer. There is more at stake, however, depending on which service you’re using.
For instance, you might have an address that uses the @live.com, @hotmail.com, @outlook.com or even @msn.com formats (perhaps with a suffix appropriate to your locale, such as .ca or .co.uk).
You might have created the account to access a new Windows Phone (which you’ll need to get familiar with quickly), or brand new Windows 8 computer. Alternatively, you may be unable to access an Xbox account due to problems with your passkey and password. If your Xbox-linked account is locked and the password will no longer work, you will need to remove the account-linked profile from your console, reset the password, and then sign in again.
What if Your Windows 8.x Computer Account Is Locked?
Many people use a Microsoft account to access their Windows 8.x computer (or even Windows 10, as the preview versions are easy to install). This affords various advantages, such as integrated cloud storage through OneDrive and the ability to migrate desktop profiles between computers simply by logging in.
However, if your Microsoft account is locked out, you won’t be able to access your computer. So how do you get around this?
The answer is actually quite simple. Instead of logging in with the online Microsoft account, you use the offline option, which enables you to create and use an account without the online profile management and verification.
At the login screen, select Sign in without a Microsoft account, and simply follow the instructions. Note that you won’t be able to easily access data from another account on that computer.
Why Is Your Microsoft Account Locked?
As a rule, you can reset your Microsoft account by following the steps we outlined previously. Little has changed – not at the Microsoft end at least.
To work out why you cannot regain access to a locked Microsoft account, however, it is worth spending a few moments thinking about just why the account has been restricted. Did you breach terms and conditions of use, perhaps on your Xbox 360 or Xbox One? Did you store illegal, or copyright protected, data on your OneDrive?
Perhaps your account has been hacked. Did you click on a link or download a file that you shouldn’t have? Phishing emails are common to Microsoft addresses, even with the inbox scanning on the Outlook.com (which is arguably as good as Gmail, and even supports email domain hosting).
Understanding why your account is locked can help you to work out just why Microsoft won’t unlock it. There is a chance that they’re not convinced your previous behaviour was a mistake, or that your online activities are prone to exposure to malware, something that might put other users’ mailboxes at risk.
Trying to Access Your Locked Microsoft Account, but Can’t?
Using the password reset tool should work in most cases. However, if your account details are not accurate or up to date, then you might find that there is a problem.
Having incorrect personal data on your account profile will make it difficult to reset your password. Remember, this data is collated to enable you to recover the password when the account is locked, so setting it up with incorrect or knowingly false data really isn’t going to work.
Similarly, you should make sure that you still have access to the secondary email address. Without this, you will find it extremely difficult to recover your password.
Two-factor authentication is a great way to keep your online accounts secure. Microsoft offers this, but unfortunately if your account becomes locked, accessing it again will become next to impossible without having access to your secondary account. So while the benefits of two-factor authentication are considerable, it is more difficult to recover.
Finally, you might simply run into a problem that Microsoft isn’t able or willing to help with, based on previous activity or the actions of other users.
An inability to regain access to your account of course hugely frustrating, and there doesn’t seem to be anything you can really do, short of completing this form designed specifically for locked accounts. Microsoft support can and often have assisted users like you in unlocking accounts, but keep in mind the fact that they have to be certain you are the genuine account holder. Should the Microsoft operator have any doubts, then they will have to reject your request.
Genuine Problem Accessing Your Locked Microsoft Account? Let Us Know!
Everything we’ve explained above has been in response to the considerable volume of comments on our previous guide to unlocking a Microsoft account. We’ve seen that a few people have been reckless, but there are many that seem to have a genuine grievance.
We’d like to hear from you in the comments if you have had success getting access to your account after it was locked; we’d also like to hear your stories of Microsoft’s recovery procedure failing you for seemingly no reason. Why do you think it happened? Was there any feedback? Tell us everything.