Why is my MSN Hotmail Inbox suddenly empty?

I logged into my MSN Hotmail account today and my inbox is empty! I have a lot of important emails there that I don’t have anywhere else. What happened and how do I restore the contents of my MSN Hotmail inbox?

This is actually a summary of a question I get almost every day. People log into their MSN Hotmail or Windows Live Hotmail accounts one day, only to find that all their mail is gone.

I would check what the possible reasons are, and what can be done (rarely).

I’ll start with my standard warning: this is exactly why I strongly advise against relying on a free email account as the only place to store anything you deem important. Things like this seem to happen more often than most people realize, and there’s very little that can be done about it.

So, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at what might be going on.

Shared your password with someone

This is probably the most common situation, especially among younger users. There should never be any reason to share your password with anyone (if you are a minor it could be your parents). If you do, you are just asking for trouble. Yes, you may be friends today, but what about next week? next month? next year? who knows? With your code in hand, they have the ability to do all kinds of damage.

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You’ve been hacked This has all sorts of complicated implications, but in reality, this type of hack is most commonly performed by simply guessing your password. We all want to choose a password that’s easy to remember, and I understand that, but if it’s too easy to remember, then it’s probably too easy to guess. Once someone guesses your password, all bets are off. They can do whatever they want with your account, including deleting, changing, and sending nasty messages to all your friends and contacts.

“If customer service doesn’t respond to your inquiry, I don’t know of any way to get your inbox back.”

Temporary Server Problems

I wouldn’t have guessed this, but I keep hearing reports about it. The scenario is as follows: After you log in, your inbox is empty. You log in a few hours later and everything is back. This is clearly an issue with the email provider. So try again after “some time”, whatever that might be. An hour might be too long, and in a few days you might decide that this is not the problem.

Might not be your inbox

Especially with the new Windows Live Hotmail interface, it’s easy to lose sight of which mail folder you might have selected. If you accidentally click on an empty folder like Drafts, your inbox may appear empty. Before you panic, click the inbox icon on the left to make sure you’re looking where you think it is. This also clears the “full message view”, which can obscure the list of messages in your inbox.

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Selected a display filter

Next to the “Sort By” item in the Windows Live Hotmail column header is a small icon that lets you select “Show only messages…” that meet the criteria. For example, you can choose to only show messages with attachments. If not, your inbox will appear empty. If you click the inbox icon on the left again, the filter will be cleared and all messages in your inbox will be displayed.

Unknown reasons

I hate to even include that possibility, but as far as I can tell, it’s happening. It seems like accounts are migrating from the old MSN Hotmail to the new Windows Live Hotmail recently, but that should be over by now. Still, I can’t identify any common cause or cause. It just happens.

What can I do with my MSN Hotmail Inbox problems?

You can try to contact customer service by submitting a support request. Of course every request I make using this method is ignored. This is what I’ve heard from the vast majority of readers who have also tried it. However, every now and then I hear a success story, so it’s worth a shot. Let’s try it, you have nothing to lose.

But most likely you have lost everything. I don’t know of any way to get your inbox back if customer service doesn’t respond to your inquiry. So I think it’s a very hard lesson, and again, never rely on a free email account as the only place to keep important information.

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