Fast Forward

Help File: Using Hotmail With Regular Mail Programs

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, March 22, 2009

Q How can I download Hotmail messages to the regular mail program on my computer?

A For years, Microsoft restricted this kind of offline access to its free Web-mail service. To get it, you had to run one of its e-mail programs or pay $19.95 a year for a Hotmail Plus account.

But in January, the company began allowing some Hotmail users to check and send messages using any standard e-mail program. And on March 12, a note -- confusingly titled "A new way to get Hotmail on your phone" and posted on the Hotmail blog ( -- formally opened this option to all Hotmail users. It also pointed them to a previous post with instructions on how to use it.

The Hotmail site, however, has yet to advertise this feature.

Following Microsoft's instructions may require a little experimentation. In a Mac's Mail program, I only had to enter two server addresses ( for incoming mail, for outgoing) and my Hotmail username and password, and the Apple software figured out the rest.

But in Microsoft's Outlook Express, I had to click the "Advanced" tab in the account-properties window to enable SSL security on each server connection and change the outgoing server's port number to 587. In Mozilla Thunderbird, I also had to switch the outgoing server to a particular kind of security -- not SSL, but the "TLS, if available" option.

The Windows Mail program built into Windows Vista was worst of all. Its new-account "wizard" refused to set up Hotmail access, claiming that it was impossible. I had to edit another account's settings to work around this defect.

In any mail application, make sure it's set to leave new messages on the server, or the e-mails that land in your program's inbox will vanish from the Hotmail site.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or Turn to Thursday's Business section or visit anytime for his Fast Forward column.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company