If you have your own domain, you can use the new Outlook.com web interface to access and store your emails. This also works with the old hotmail interface of course.
You will need an admin live ID. So if you have a live ID, use that to setup the custom domain. You will then sign in using that account if you want to manage the custom domain.
- Go to http://domains.live.com/
- Click on Add domain.
- Enter your domain and click Continue.
- Set the MX record as instructed using the DNS tools where your domain is hosted.
- Once you have created the MX record, go back and click on Refresh. I found I could do this immediately, seconds after creating the MX record.
- It then takes you to Member accounts. Now you can create user names @ your custom domain.
- Now you go to hotmail.com or outlook.com and sign in using your custom domain.
The interesting thing is that this also means you can use a device with activesync support to now easily get push emails on the move – you don’t need to configure anything else on the domain. Autodiscover even works – it is like have a cloud based Exchange server for free, you just have to put up with a few ads. For instance on a Windows phone or iphone, just add it as a hotmail type account with your custom domain email address, simple.
Note when creating the MX record: with some ISPs you will need to put a . at the end of the record, for instance:
Notice that it has a period or full stop at the end. To check if it has been created correctly, do an nslookup as follows:
- Start Command Prompt.
- At a command prompt, type nslookup, and then press ENTER.
- For TXT record, type Set type=txt, and then press ENTER. For MX record, type Set type=mx, and then press ENTER.
- Type the domain name that which you are trying to verify, and then press ENTER.
It should end in hotmail.com, and not have e.g. domain.com at the end.
domain.com MX preference = 10, mail exchanger = 982059051987e84fb9118ff625d44.pamx1.hotmail.com.domain.com
That is wrong! If you get this, add a period at the end when you add the MX record.
It should be:
domain.com MX preference = 10, mail exchanger = 982059051987e84fb9118ff625d44.pamx1.hotmail.com
Another problem I encountered was where users had already created a Microsoft account using the email address. So if they were already using this email address and created a Microsoft account for some reason, when you try to add the account, it will say that the users already exists, and asks if you want to import it. This is fine, but it means that the user has to know their password! If they don’t, they won’t be able to logon obviously. So I would suggest before moving to outlook.com or hotmail.com, if the mail domain is already in use, you check with all users if they have created a Microsoft account. You could also test by trying to logon using any old password – it will say ‘the Microsoft account does not exist’ if there isn’t one.
The problem I had was that it asked me to import an existing account for someone, who didn’t have one! This confused me for some time, no one had ever set a password, so it was impossible to login. There were no password reset options (e.g. secret question etc.). In my case what I did was remove and re-add the account 3 or 4 times, and suddenly it added it without importing and asked me to create the password.
So I finally got everything up and running, Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) support is great – much easier to setup on iPhone, iPad etc. – just choose a new Hotmail account and enter the custom email address.
The one caveat with doing this, is that you cannot use the mail client on OSX to sync using Exchange – Hotmail or outlook.com doesn’t support direct Exchange connections, only EAS connections from mobile devices. This means you can only use POP or IMAP from Apple Mail, which won’t do contact or calendar sync. It is rumoured that Office 2013 on OSX will support this properly, akin to Outlook 2013 on PC.
If you need that, I would suggest using a custom domain with Google. Personally I just prefer the outlook.com interface.
The interesting thing is that this also means you can use a device with ActiveSync support to now easily get push emails on the move – you don’t need to configure anything else on the domain. For instance on a Windows phone, just add it as a Hotmail account with your custom domain email address, simple.
I would recommend this for anyone wanting a first class email solution for a personal custom domain, or even a very small business solution for zero cost.