Whatever happened to Microsoft's MSN software?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Q: I'm having issues with the MSN software Verizon gave me. Is there a newer version, or should I get another program?

A: MSN Premium, for those who forget when Microsoft covered the Web with ads featuring the MSN butterfly logo, is a combination of software and services (http://get.msn.com) that you can buy for $9.95 a month or get bundled with broadband services -- though some, such as Verizon, no longer advertise it to new users.

MSN's services are nothing special -- you can get most of them free at Microsoft's Windows Live site. But the MSN Explorer software, a Windows-only all-in-one combination of Web browser, e-mail client and other Internet tools, is the real problem. Readers have complained about performance and compatibility issues, and Microsoft doesn't seem to have put serious effort into it in years. (A Microsoft spokesman said the release of an updated 10.0 version was "imminent" but offered zero information about its features.)

But Microsoft doesn't make it easy to move from MSN, either. That same spokesman wrote that "we don't provide data migration tools to move customers to other internet applications today" -- making this program a prison as far as your e-mail is concerned.

You may, in fact, have some options, depending on your versions of MSN and Windows. If you run Microsoft's Outlook, you can try using its Outlook Connector program (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/help/HA011000051033.aspx) and use that to get your e-mail and contacts. User postings online suggest that an export option on its Mail Settings screen can work to move saved messages to Outlook Express, assuming you still run Windows XP. Finally, a volunteer-run tech support site (http://belfiore.mvps.org) collects tips about this software, including a tip about exporting your Web bookmarks.

None of these work-arounds may work in your case -- but none should be necessary in any case. Microsoft should put MSN Premium out of its misery, but not before adding a data-export feature that works with current Web and mail software. After all the effort the company put into promoting MSN earlier in this decade, that's the least it can do now.

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 robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.

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