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Locked Out of Outlook.com After Service Upgrade

It's a good thing Outlook.com isn't my main e-mail account. Otherwise it would have been a long month. That's how long I was locked out of my Outlook.com account. Strangely, I had no problem accessing Microsoft and Office 365 accounts, which are all tied to the same credentials as Outlook.com.

Though I've had an Outlook.com account for years, I rarely use it and never give it out since I have a personal e-mail domain and use Yahoo and Gmail as backup accounts. But given the recent upgrades to the service and its ability to synchronize schedules and contacts, I decided to check it out to consider my options. But when I merely tried to access Outloom.com while already logged into my personal Microsoft Office 365 account, I was redirected to a page which read: "Sorry Something Went Wrong." Trying directly from Outlook.com didn't work either. After trying with a different browser, then via another computer and finally with an iPad, I presumed Outlook.com was experiencing an outage. Since it wasn't critical I tried the next day but still was unable to access my Outlook.com account.

Realizing it must have something to do with my account, I connected with the Outlook.com support desk via an online chat session. One can't expect telephone support with a free service, after all. First the technician said I should change my password in case my credentials were compromised. It didn't seem likely since if that were the case, I wouldn't be able to access any of my other Microsoft account services but it's hard to argue the wisdom of changing your password these days. Nevertheless, that didn't fix anything and the rep was unable to help.

During a visit to my local Microsoft Store the next day, the technician there said he'd reach out to the company's Global Escalation support team. Upon receiving a call from an Outlook.com technician I explained the situation. I gave him remote access to my PC, though I asserted I doubted the problem originated from the client.  

The admin didn't see anything obviously wrong on my end but said he'd get back to me in a few days. We went back and forth a few times, and he ultimately suggested I capture my session traffic using Telrik's FiddlerCap Web recorder. The team apparently wanted to review the session traffic (HTTP, cookies and other information that could detect a possible problem).

A few days later he got back to me and apparently found the solution. He instructed me to log in to my Microsoft account and view my settings. Under "Your Info" he asked me to click on "Manage How to Sign-In to Microsoft." This is the section that lets you share all of your account aliases. Asked if my Outlook.com username was my primary alias, I replied no. The primary alias for my Microsoft account was the email address for my personal domain, which I have always used to log in to all of my Microsoft accounts. The admin instructed me to specify my Outlook.com address as my primary address. And in one click, the problem was solved. The good news is I can still use my personal domain e-mail address to log in -- I just can't specify it as my primary address (which is no big deal).

I asked the support rep at Global Escalation Services why it took a month to get to the bottom of this. (I should note that he was determined to get to the bottom of the problem and dutifully called me every few days to check in.) As I reported late last month, with the launch of Outlook.com Premium, Microsoft has transitioned the Outlook.com service over the past year from the Web-based system to Microsoft Exchange Server. The move to Exchange Server came with some caveats. In this case, those who use personal domains can no longer use Exchange Active Synch (EAS) with the aliases to those providers. 

That doesn't answer the question of why it took so long, especially when this January community support thread showed a handful of others who had similar problems who noted that EAS is no longer supported with personal domain addresses. Perhaps if accessing the account was more urgent rather than a background task, I'd have found that myself.

If you also use a personal domain e-mail address to access your Outlook.com account (or create a new one), now you know that all you have to do is change your primary username.

Of course, if you do want to tie your personal domain to Outlook.com, you could sign up for the premium service, which allows you to link your personal domain and four others for $10 per year on top of the existing annual fee. And if you sign up by month's end, Microsoft is offering Outlook.com Premium for $19.95 a year. Microsoft says the regular price is $49.99 but we'll see if the company sticks with that price

However, the addition of that option would explain why those who used their domain names as their primary credentials were suddenly locked out.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/10/2017 at 12:40 PM


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