Easily Do A Complete Overhaul Of Your Hotmail Inbox, And Maintain It

Aaron Couch 19-07-2012

msn hotmail inboxHave you seen or used Hotmail lately? Despite its rough past Is It Time To Let Hotmail Back Into Our Hearts? [Opinion] Hotmail has had some seriously bad rap over the years, and is now almost universally shunned by tech professionals and bloggers. The main complaint has always been that the service is spam riddled, but is... Read More , it’s pretty nice and it surely gives Gmail a run for its… well, I was going to say “money” but both are free. Which, in my opinion, is quite impressive, given the amount of things that you can do with it. The “new” Hotmail has several very beneficial features now that allow you to keep your email inbox clean, organized and free of spam and “graymail“.


The features go beyond the inbox, however. There are also features that allow you to mark certain emails as “important” so you don’t forget about them. But there are many others that make Hotmail an excellent choice for a modern email client.

Understanding Graymail

If you’ve never heard of graymail, you’re not alone. This was a term I hadn’t heard of, before diving into the depths of Hotmail. However, we all have it. So what is it? It’s all the mail that you sometimes want, but is always in the way. It’s your social media notifications, your daily deals from shopping websites, and all those newsletters that you thought were interesting at the time, but never open them and (sometimes) feel guilty about it because you’re thinking you’re missing something big! Yes. You’re not the only one who does that.

So what’s the difference between spam and graymail? Spam is unsolicited emails while graymail has been given permission to be received by you. Spam is from fraudulent or misleading sources, but graymail is sent from reputable sources with legitimate information that provides an option to opt-out of whenever you want to. Lastly, the content that spam brings is of no value and is often malicious. Whereas the content in graymail can be interesting and relevant to you, however it may not always be the case if your tastes change. Nonetheless, graymail has some sort of value, where spam has none.

In the past, our inboxes used to flood with spam. There was hardly a way to control it. But now, real spam is hardly the problem. In fact, Hotmail claims that the amount of spam in the average user’s inbox is less than 3%. So if real spam is hardly a problem, why is your inbox so messy? Graymail. That’s why. You sign up for newsletter after newsletter and eventually you become overwhelmed with too much information that you begin ignoring potentially valuable emails. This is not permanent. Hotmail provides you with the tools to easily reverse this process in a matter of minutes (if not less).

msn hotmail inbox


Automate Your Inbox

Schedule Cleanup

There are three options for scheduling a clean up:

  1. Only keep the latest message from this sender.
  2. Delete all messages older than 3, 10, 30 or 60 days.
  3. Move all messages older than 3, 10, 30 or 60 days to [designated folder].

organize hotmail emails

This can be accessed under the dropdown menu “Sweep” on the main toolbar above your inbox.

organize hotmail emails



organize hotmail emails

This feature is actually within the email itself. If you prefer to completely stop receiving a particular newsletter, you can click “unsubscribe” and Hotmail will automatically keep you from receiving future emails from that sender by blocking the email before it arrives in your inbox.

Once you click unsubscribe, you also get the option to remove all of the previous emails.

organize hotmail



Easily Do A Complete Overhaul Of Your Hotmail Inbox, And Maintain It 6 Categorize

Categories are a great way to organize your emails. Once you have your designated categories, you can start adding and dividing up senders to the different ones.

You can create a new category in the dropdown menu or by clicking the link “New Category” under “Quick Links” in the panel on the left side.

organize hotmail


You can also add emails to a new category by clicking on the category section on a specific email. You can also add it to a new category if the preferred one is not listed.

Easily Do A Complete Overhaul Of Your Hotmail Inbox, And Maintain It 8 Categorize from message


Sweep offers several options. We’ve already explored the Schedule Cleanup option under sweep. The other options include…

Specific senders to a designated folder…

Easily Do A Complete Overhaul Of Your Hotmail Inbox, And Maintain It 9 Sweep move all

Deleting emails and blocking future ones from specific senders…

Easily Do A Complete Overhaul Of Your Hotmail Inbox, And Maintain It 10 Sweep delete all

And marking an entire folder as “read” and erasing all emails from a specific folder.

Find Emails Faster:

Customizable Instant Actions

Instant Actions are great, but Customizable Instant Actions are really great. To access these and create your own, click “Options” in the top right corner under your name and then click “More options.” There is a plethora of options on this page and I encourage you to get to know them. You’ll find the “Instant Actions” option at the bottom of the “Customizing Hotmail” list. You’ll see an “Add actions” dropdown list.

These are options that you would use frequently right on the email message in your inbox. Choose which ones you would like by clicking on the Instant Action and then customizing it to your liking. You can move the actions around using the “Move up” and “Move down” options next to the “Add actions” menu. Note that you can only display five Instant Actions at once.

Easily Do A Complete Overhaul Of Your Hotmail Inbox, And Maintain It 11 Custom Instant Actions1


Flags is a type of instant action which allows you to mark specific emails as a priority over all others. No matter how old an email is, if flagged, it will appear at the top of your inbox. This is obviously not something you want to overuse. Otherwise you will just end up with a bunch of emails that you haven’t done anything with. That said, flagging allows you to easily set apart the important emails from the rest.

Easily Do A Complete Overhaul Of Your Hotmail Inbox, And Maintain It 12 Flagging

One-Click Filters

One-click filters allow you to only view specific types of emails. For example, you have the option to view only emails from contacts, newsletters, social updates, etc.

organize hotmail

Additional Features:


Multiple aliases are very beneficial as they allow you to have multiple email addresses within Hotmail without having to check multiple inboxes or even import mail – it does it for you. To do this, hover over “Inbox” and you’ll see a “gear.” Once you click that you’ll see three options, all of which are important to make note of. Select “Create a Hotmail alias.” You’ll then be prompted to reenter your password.

Easily Do A Complete Overhaul Of Your Hotmail Inbox, And Maintain It 14 Aliases

Once you do so, you will be able to choose a new email address to automatically have imported into your Hotmail inbox. This email address can be or – the preference is yours.

Easily Do A Complete Overhaul Of Your Hotmail Inbox, And Maintain It 15 Create Aliases

So what’s the benefit of this? Well, this gives you the ability to create another email address whether it’s temporary or something you intend to use along side your primary address. Now, a similar feature like this does exist in Gmail, however, that’s only with the addition of a “+” to the original address. Hotmail, on the other hand, allows you to create a completely new address without the process of creating a whole new account, and then can import it into your existing Hotmail account.

Multiple Emails, One Inbox

This is a great option to consider if you are wanting to use (or already using) Hotmail as your primary email client. To add more emails to import into your existing Hotmail inbox, hover over “Inbox” again and select the first option on the list, “Get email from another account.” This will bring up the Sending/receiving email accounts page. Click on the link titled “Add an email account.” Add your email account and fill in your account details.

Now, some users such as those using Yahoo, won’t be able to do this through this page. But there’s hope! Hotmail provides a service called TrueSwitch which allows you to import all your existing mail and contacts easily no matter what service you’re coming from. All you need to do is follow the steps there and you should be on your way to a brand new email client.

Easily Do A Complete Overhaul Of Your Hotmail Inbox, And Maintain It 16 Import Mail

Folder Management

Folders are a great asset to clearing out your inbox. They differ from Categories in that they actually store emails in them, versus categories that are only used to sort the mail. Both are essential, but have different purposes. You can create new folders by clicking “New Folder.” You can then use the Sweep feature to automatically add emails to folders in a mass quantity or even bypass the inbox altogether upon arrival.

Easily Do A Complete Overhaul Of Your Hotmail Inbox, And Maintain It 17 Inbox view folders

Preventing Future Spam

Although spam isn’t a big part of most inboxes. Some people have more than others. There are two kinds of spam – spam from unknown senders and spam from a contact’s hacked account. The latter is dangerous to not only you, but also the contact. I try to do my part in notifying them personally and I encourage you to do the same.

But there’s something else you can also do. Hotmail allows you to report their account as hacked.To do this, open the email (just selecting it won’t work) from the account that you want to report for being hacked. Then click the menu “Mark as” and choose “My friend’s been hacked!”

Easily Do A Complete Overhaul Of Your Hotmail Inbox, And Maintain It 18 Mark Friend As Being Hacked

If you are trying to recover from a hacked account, Hotmail provides some information that should help, as well as a way to recover your account.

To remove spam from other senders you can use the Sweep option. Select all the spam and then click Sweep > “Block from.”

msn hotmail inbox

Do make sure that you double check to make sure all of the emails that you’ve selected are true spam messages before blocking them. This ensures that there won’t be one you wanted to keep that will be sent to the Junk folder accidentally.


As you can see, Hotmail has come a long way. It isn’t an email client to be taken lightly. In fact, many of the features that it has are completely unique and in my honest opinion, for anyone creating a new email account, Hotmail should be highly considered with these given improvements.

Now that you have the tools to change your email experience in Hotmail, do you see your email habits changing? Are you using Hotmail and implementing some of these features already? If not, are you considering switching over?

Related topics: Email Tips, Hotmail.

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  1. Johnctee
    August 28, 2016 at 5:42 am

    I keep getting junk email from one place but each email has a different person's name and a different email address for each one. I used the unsubscribe and now I get 3 times as much per day. I've blocked over 100 and still get 15 - 20 per day.

  2. jazmin
    February 10, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    What is the "unwanted" file, is that like for blocked senders?

  3. ali
    November 8, 2012 at 4:09 am

    Yesterday, when I went to my 'hotmail' it was Outlook. I figured out how to get it back to my preferred Hotmail, but now I'm left with numbers and arrows beside my incoming and outgoing mail, which I find visually distracting and meaningless to me.
    What can I do to get rid of them?

  4. Briony
    September 26, 2012 at 12:52 am

    How do i unblock a sender that i previously blocked by using the 'delete of future emails from this sender' in 'sweep' tool?

    • Scott
      September 29, 2012 at 9:57 pm

      Try going to the gear icon (top right), click More Mail Settings, then under Prevent Junk Mail click "Safe and Blocked Senders" and go to the blocked one and unblock it ("remove from list").


      • Aaron Couch
        October 1, 2012 at 2:14 am

        Thanks for answering this question Scott!

  5. rr
    September 16, 2012 at 12:55 am

    Thanks; this was a great article. I had already tried some of the hotmail features, not "aliases" though. I am still a little confused by that...
    In any case, ever since I started using the "SWEEP/BLOCK" feature, I have noticed that my spam actually increased. My guess is that perhaps in "blocking" these addresses, they perhaps "know" and send even MORE spam? So, for me, (while I found that feature to be the most useful initially), I now find it to be anti productive and causing more spam than I had in the first place. I was wondering if anyone else noticed that. As far as the other features, I think Hotmail did a great job.

    • Aaron Couch
      October 1, 2012 at 2:16 am

      I hadn't noticed that I was getting more spam and frankly I don't know if there's a way for spammers to know that you're blocking them.

      Have you been sucessful with keeping them out of your primary inbox with filters and the sweep/block feature?

  6. Aaron Couch
    August 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks for reading!

  7. Scott
    July 19, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    Two unrelated comments:

    1) While I have and use a Hotmail/Live account, I don't use it very heavily for any important emails (or even many UNimportant ones) at this point, mainly because of the level of security. Okay, I'm somewhat on the paranoid side. :-) In contrast to something like Gmail, Hotmail a) lacks two-step authentication for logins, b) lacks the ability to use special characters in the answers to the security questions (hey, every little bit helps !), and c) to this day limits its passcode to 16-characters ! (Some articles I've read had people suggesting 16 as a bare minimum ! My Gmail passcode — as well as those for my other email accounts — are over 30.)

    So, for those interested in Hotmail who've never used it, be aware of these things.

    (Btw, the most recent Windows Team Blog is about Hotmail's security, in case anyone wants to read it, and the comments. [Broken Link Removed]

    2) Be aware that with Hotmail's alias feature, you may only create 5 aliases per year. Note the word "create." It's not only that you may HAVE 5 aliases at a time. It's stricter than that. You may only go through the **alias-creating process** 5 times in one year.

    Learn a lesson from the bitter experience of myself and others when aliases were first introduced. If you create 5 aliases, then decide you don't like two of them and delete them, expecting to create two more to replace them (for a total of 5), you will be met with this error message: "You've added the maximum number of email addresses right now (we have a limit to help keep your account information safe). Please try again later. " "Later" means at least 365 days later !! I've been trying to add to my two remaining aliases (after deleting 3) since Auguest 2011 and I still get the 'try later' message. No amount of complaining to the powers that be at the time that they (the Hotmail team) were not clear at all about this alias-creating limitation had any effect. They all said, "We can't do anything about it. You'll have to wait one year to add more."

    (I think lack of clarity is one of Hotmail's failings.)

    So, be aware of these things, too.

    FWIW, the service itself HAS seemed to improve greatly, and the features mentioned in the article here ARE extremely helpful. But it's still far from perfect. You just have to weigh the pros and cons just like with any service. E.g. for me, if Hotmail can get its security limitations straightened out, I'm sure I'd be a happier — and more frequent — user ! :-)

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      Thanks for your in depth comment Scott! I didn't know about the 5 per year limit on the aliases.

      As far as being clear, it's something that I feel many companies and organizations struggle with, including the social media giant, Facebook, but with the increase in awareness of this it has also been a focus of many companies and I do feel Hotmail has gotten better with it.

      We can only hope they just keep improving and don't hit a stalling point like in past years.

      Glad you found this article helpful. If you have any other thoughts or questions, feel free to share them!

      • Scott
        July 23, 2012 at 9:51 pm

        Hi, Aaron

        Just to provide a little clarification re: aliases:

        In this blog post ( the Hotmail team announced aliases. One bit of relevant info is the following:

        " can add up to five aliases per year to your Hotmail account, up to fifteen aliases in total...."

        So, as I understand it, they will add allowance for an additional 5 aliases this year (presumably they have already, since they were introduced in Feb. 2011), and then 5 more aliases next year, so that users may have a total of 15 for their accounts.

        In my case, my last successful creation of an alias was last August. But I have not as yet been able to create any more aliases (I only have 3 at the moment). So perhaps their one year rule starts, not from the date they introduced the alias feature, but **from the date a user creates his/her 5th allowed alias.**

        If that's the case, then I'm assuming — and we all know what happens when I do that ;-) — that sometime next month I'll suddenly be able to add 5 more to my present list of aliases. And 5 next year. I don't know if/when I can add the two that will make a total of 15. We'll see. :-)

        As I say, the Hotmail service does have some great plusses, but sadly providing all necessary information ain't one of 'em. Fortunately, though, many Hotmail/Live "power users" provide blog post comments that help keep the Windows Live team on their toes. :-)

        • Aaron Couch
          August 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm


          Now that there's the new, I wonder if this problem of yours was rectified. Did you have any luck with that?

        • Scott
          August 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm

          Hi, Aaron

          Well, yes and no.

          No - I still have not apparently gotten to the 365-day mark with regard to being allowed to create 5 more aliases. All I know is I've been *trying* to create them since late summer 2011 (above I said August, but it may have been September; I really don't know for sure).

          BUT on the positive side, now that I'm using, I WAS able to take advantage of the renaming feature and rename my account so that it now has an address ! :-) And that means that the previous account address (which was "") automatically became a new alias !

          So, in a way, Hotmail/Live/Outlook *did* give me a new alias. But it didn't 'reset' things. IOW, just because I'm now using doesn't mean they also let me create 5 (or 4) more aliases according to their regular alias-creating feature. I still apparently have to wait til my year is up - whenever that is. :-\

        • Scott
          September 25, 2012 at 11:55 am


          Good News: as of today (Sept 24, 2012) I was *finally* able to make another alias.

          Bad News: The MS gods allowed me to make one and only one alias (instead of the 5 we're supposed to be able to add each year) !!! After making the one alias and trying to make another, I got the ol' "you've added the maximum number of aliases" message. >:-(

          In frustration I just made a second account and created 4 aliases (easily) for that account.

          (On the plus side, it's a good thing I don't use my Outlook/Live/Hotmail account(s) for anything important.) ;-)

  8. Kevin Vaillant
    July 19, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Gonna have to have another look at Hotmail, with these new additional features it might be worth importing my other accounts to Hotmail.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 8:06 pm

      It just might! Let me know what you think once you look at it again.

  9. Divit Dsouza
    July 19, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    I like the aliases part. Yet to use it, always wanted something like this :)

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 8:06 pm

      Yeah that was something new that I found as well and was quite surprised actually. It's a pretty nice feature! Thanks for reading!

  10. Rigoberto Garcia
    July 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Excellent Aaron. I am a casual user of Hotmail for several years and had not displayed all the new features that it has now. Thanks for your great virtual tour and I will proceed to check each of the features that you analyze.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 8:05 pm

      You are welcome! I'm just glad you found this helpful! Let me know if you have any questions.

  11. cd9ea21e8e5ccf1b9b8b411cc5913d2f
    July 19, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Great, can't wait to try them! I've been using Hotmail since I've started using the internet and my inbox was always cluttered wtih stuff I signed up for but never actually took the time to read, so I really needed a way to organize it and make it possible to find the things I needed fast! Plus with 50GB of free SkyDrive storage I don't think I'm changing e-mail provider anytime soon!!

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      Glad to have helped! Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  12. Vishal Makkar
    July 19, 2012 at 7:36 am

    I'm a Gmail user for the last 7 years. I signed-up for Hotmail sometime in 2009. Today I feel that Hotmail is better than Gmail on most of the fronts.

    • Rahul Prabhu
      July 19, 2012 at 8:07 am

      Yeah, Hotmail definitely does feel a lot faster and cleaner than Gmail.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      In many ways I agree. I'm still primarily a Gmail user, but I still use Hotmail regularly. Many times I find myself wishing Gmail would take some tips from Hotmail.

  13. Joel Lee
    July 19, 2012 at 5:01 am

    Wow. I haven't used Hotmail since Gmail became available (has it really been 8 years?). Whenever I need a new email account, I go to Gmail without even thinking twice.

    Can you think of any reasons why I should give Hotmail a try over Gmail? I'm not sure if it'd be worth my time, but I'm open to the idea.

    • Hans Solo
      July 19, 2012 at 6:31 am

      Hello Joel

      If you're looking for an intuitive and productive email client with a great interconnected cloud solution, Microsoft's Hotmail and SkyDrive package is for you.

      These free services can more than cater for your needs whilst ensuring full privacy. You can find the worlds best email and cloud solution at

      Good Luck
      Sincerely - Gmail Development Team

      • Tanguy Djokovic
        July 20, 2012 at 12:40 am


        "You can find the worlds best email and cloud solution at

        Sincerely – Gmail Development Team"

        this made me smile wildly
        anyway hotmail is a good mail thing, but so many thing (android, youtube....) ask for a Gmail account (duh google) so while Hotmail really does feels better sometimes, Gmail, is more convenient for those reasons

      • Aaron Couch
        July 23, 2012 at 7:57 pm

        "Hans" cracked me up! That was great. Even if you just insulted the entire topic that my article was based on :P

        Truth is, I use Gmail the most. I use Google Docs (or Drive as it's now called) the most. I use YouTube and Google Calendar the most. But I still see that lots of people have Hotmail addresses, and likely don't realize what features they have at their disposal.

        I also feel that despite Hotmail's previous glitches, it is a pretty good contender to Gmail. But like TanGuy said, it's also convenient to use Gmail.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 8:02 pm

      Joel, personally I'm a Gmail user as well. But I've had my Hotmail account since 7th grade and continue to use it for website registration (even though with Gmail you really don't need to do that anymore).

      I'm not sure if it would be efficient to switch to Gmail, but if you are so compelled to open up a new Hotmail account, I say give it a try. Since I had an account already, I have 25 free gigabytes of space on Skydrive (I believe new users are only granted 7gb). I like Skydrive and it has come a long way. Microsoft Office Web Apps, are good too, but I am so attached to Google Docs that it doesn't even occur to me to make or add files to Web Apps.

      I'm not sure if those are reasons or if they are supporting your decision to use Gmail more, but I feel Hotmail is ten times better than it used to be. The Hotmail Team has made some drastic changes and is definitely going in the right direction. I don't think it's a good enough reason to switch to it completely - just doesn't seem efficient, but if you want to try it out, there are some perks and I encourage you to open your mind to other options.

      • Joel Lee
        July 24, 2012 at 5:11 am

        Thanks for the thoughtful response. Based on the article and your comment, I think I'll just make a test account and fiddle around with it. Most likely I won't switch since I handle everything through a 3rd-party client anyway (Postbox). :)