Microsoft recently instituted a storage space policy on its free MSN Hotmail accounts that deletes your saved e-mail once your account reaches the specified size limit. If you’re like most folks, you probably want to save your messages so that you can refer to them at a later date. Fortunately, I’ve discovered that you can archive your Hotmail messages in Outlook Express. When you do, you’ll never have to worry about exceeding your Hotmail account size.

Microsoft’s Hotmail storage space policy
Before I get started with the archiving technique, let’s take a closer look at Microsoft’s free MSN Hotmail account storage space policy. To begin with, the free MSN Hotmail accounts come with 2 MB of storage space.

Once your account size approaches the 2-MB limit, you’ll see a warning message under the Storage Usage meter that appears on your MSN Hotmail Home page as well as on the Manage Folders page. In addition, you’ll receive a message from Hotmail asking you to reduce the size of your account or to gain extra storage by upgrading to an MSN Extra Storage account. At this point, you have to go through account folders and begin deleting messages in order to decrease the amount of storage space you’re using.

As your account approaches the 2-MB limit, there’s a good chance that you may not receive all your e-mail. For example, if your account size is 1.5 MB and you receive a .7-MB message, that message will be returned to the sender.

If your account size does happen to exactly reach the 2-MB limit, your account will be automatically disabled. Once that happens, all messages sent to the Hotmail account will be returned to the sender. Furthermore, you won’t be able to send any messages. Of course, you can still sign in, so you can delete messages. Once you do, your account will be reenabled.

If you don’t reduce the size of your account within a specified time period, a little tool called the Hotmail Janitor will come along and delete all your messages. Once that happens, there’s no way to recover them. Check out Hotmail’s FAQ for more information on Hotmail size limits and other restrictions.

Integrating your Hotmail account into Outlook Express
In order to take advantage of the archiving technique that helps you work around this size limit issue, you must integrate your Hotmail account into Outlook Express. Fortunately, doing so is a pretty straightforward procedure. (The following instructions pertain specifically to Outlook Express 6; however, the procedure is very similar in Outlook Express 5.)

To begin, pull down the Tools menu and select the Accounts command. In the Internet Accounts dialog box, select the Mail tab, click the Add button, and then select Mail from the submenu that pops up. In a moment, you’ll see the first page of the Internet Connection Wizard, which prompts you to enter your name. After you do so, click Next. On the second page, simply type your Hotmail e-mail address in the E-mail Address text box.

When you click Next, you’ll be prompted to specify the e-mail server names. However, since Outlook Express directly supports Hotmail, everything should be configured correctly by default, as shown in Figure A. To continue, just click the Next button.

Figure A
When you use a Hotmail e-mail address, the Internet Connection Wizard automatically fills in the E-mail Server Names page.

You’ll then see a page titled Internet Mail Logon. Since the account name for your Hotmail account is your e-mail address, the Account Name text box should already be filled in. To continue, you’ll need to enter your .NET Passport in the Password text box. You should make sure that the Remember Password check box is selected. However, you should leave the Log On Using Secure Password Authentication (SPA) check box unselected. When you click Next, you’ll see a page titled Congratulations, which lets you know that everything is all set to go. At this point, you can click Finish and then click the Close button in the Internet Accounts dialog box.

You’ll then be prompted to download your Hotmail folders, as shown in Figure B. When you click Yes, your Hotmail folders will be downloaded to Outlook Express and added to the Folders tree.

Figure B
Once you configure your Hotmail account, the Internet Connection Wizard prompts you to download the folders.

Adjusting the synchronization settings
Once you integrate your Hotmail account into Outlook Express, you’ll find that your Outlook Express-based Hotmail Inbox will mirror your Web-based Hotmail Inbox exactly. In other words, if you delete messages in your Outlook Express-based Hotmail Inbox and then log on to your Web-based Hotmail Inbox, you’ll see that those messages are deleted from there as well. The reverse is also true—any changes that you make while logged on to your Web-based Hotmail account will be immediately reflected in your Outlook Express-based Hotmail account.

This is because Outlook Express is configured to synchronize all messages that appear in the Hotmail account Inbox by default. However, that’s not the case with the Sent Items folder. Furthermore, Sent Items works differently in each interface.

When you send messages from your Outlook Express-based Hotmail account, those messages are saved in the Sent Items folder. On the other hand, when you send messages from your Web-based Hotmail account, they aren’t automatically saved in the Sent Messages folder.

However, chances are that you’ll want to archive your Sent messages as well. To do so will require that you make an adjustment to Outlook Express’ synchronization settings and add a step when sending messages from your Web-based Hotmail account.

To make this adjustment to the Outlook Express’ synchronization settings, just select the Hotmail icon in the Outlook Express Folder tree. Then select the Sent Items check box, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C
In order to archive messages that appear in your Sent Items folder, you’ll need to adjust the synchronization settings.

When you’re using your Web-based Hotmail account, you’ll want to get into the habit of selecting the Copy Message To Sent Folder check box, which is adjacent to the Send button on the Compose page, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D
If you want to archive your sent messages, you’ll need to select the Copy Message To Sent Folder check box each time you compose a new message on your Web-based Hotmail account.

Automatic deletion

Keep in mind that Hotmail automatically deletes messages from the Web-based Sent Messages folder that are more that 30 days old regardless of the size limitations. Therefore, you’ll need to regularly archive your Sent items

Creating your archive folders
In order to archive your Hotmail messages in Outlook Express, you’ll need to create some local folders. To do so, right-click on the Local Folders icon in the Folders tree and select the New Folder command. When you see the Create Folder dialog box, type something like Hotmail Inbox Archive in the text box, as shown in Figure E, and click OK. You can then create another folder called Hotmail Sent Items Archive.

Figure E
You’ll create local folders in which to store your archive Hotmail messages.

Archiving messages
Once you’ve created your local folders, archiving your Hotmail messages is as simple as dragging and dropping. For example, you can access your Hotmail Inbox folder, select those messages that you want to save, and then drag them to the local folder that you created. When you do, the messages will actually move from the Hotmail Inbox folder to your hard disk. Now you can always have access to the messages without having to worry about the size of your Hotmail account.