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If you’ve fallen in love with the efficient new webmail service and would like to take this relationship to the next level, you can rename your crusty old Hotmail account with a shiny and new address. Just be sure you understand the pros and cons of doing so first.

I suspect a lot of people are going to want to “upgrade” their legacy (or or email address to a new address. However, if you’re fully invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, and use this Hotmail account as the basis for a Microsoft account (formerly Windows Live ID) that backs an Xbox LIVE Gamertag (with its associated achievements and other information), your Zune account (with associated music and video purchases, and, perhaps, a Zune Music Pass subscription), a collection of files in SkyDrive, and so on, this is not a step to be taken lightly.

You see, there can be side-effects. You’ll need to re-sign in everywhere you use your old address, in all your email applications, on your devices, and so on.

The worst case, perhaps, is Windows Phone. If you use Windows Phone, you know that you sign in to the device with a Microsoft account that becomes your primary account on the device. And while you can register other, secondary, accounts, you can only have the single Microsoft account. If you wish to change that account, you must reset the phone, wiping out a ton of data, including some that can’t be backed up or recovered. If you want to rename a Hotmail account to an address, and that account if your primary Microsoft account on Windows Phone, this process will require you to reset the phone.

There are some other issues. You can only rename your account twice every 12 months. (Though going back to your previous address doesn’t count towards this limit, so wafflers are all set.) Inexplicably, undoing this process is not always possible. For example, those with email addresses will not be able to return to their original account name if they rename the account to an address and then change their minds. And apparently those who have had their account blocked in the past because someone else was using their account cannot rename; Microsoft says it is working to fix this.

Worst of all, perhaps, you cannot create a new account and then “rename” a legacy account to that new account name. If you rushed out to snag your favorite address, that’s a new account only. You can’t merge it with a previous account or whatever. Sorry. You can, however, rename a legacy Hotmail account to an address you reserved as an alias. I discussed this process in Tip: Use Email Aliases (Part 2).

On the good news front, Microsoft does right by those who rename a legacy Hotmail account to a new address: Your old email address is assigned as an alias for the new account, so email will continue arriving. And you can still send email as if from the old address, of course.

That’s a lot of stuff to digest. So make sure you understand the issues before moving ahead this. Understand, too, that you do this at your own risk. My own Hotmail account dates back over a decade, is tied to lots of important data, and is used as my primary Windows Phone account. And since I’m on the road through the end of August, there’s no way I’d personally do this right now. Though of course I’d sort of like to.

Anyway, actually renaming your account is really simple. Here’s how.

In the web interface, visit Outlook Options via Settings (gear icon), More mail settings, and then Rename your email address (under Managing your account). You’ll see the following screen:


 Select the address you’d like, click Save, and hope for the best.

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