Unlimited Storage in Outlook.com Has Caveat

One way to sell your webmail services to Internet denizens is by offering them lots of storage. That was one of the selling points of upstart Gmail in 2004 when it offered its subscribers a “whopping” 1GB of storage.

Over the years, webmail providers have engaged in storage wars, each taking turns trying to outdo the other’s storage offerings. With Outlook.com, though, Microsoft may have closed the book on that kind of competition. It’s offering “virtually unlimited” storage for inboxes in Outlook.com accounts.

These days, though, one company’s unlimited is a subscriber’s not-so-unlimited. For example, Microsoft in its explanation of email storage limits for Outlook.com says email storage will expand on an “as need” basis. “Your inbox capacity will automatically increase as you need more space,” it notes.

However, Microsoft cautions that an inbox can grow too fast. It that happens, you won’t be able to send or receive email. That may sound a little less than unlimited to some subscribers.

To avoid that kind of bottleneck, Microsoft offers two suggestions:

  • Create an archive folder on your computer where you can store space-hogging attachments and delete them when their usefulness has expired.
  • Empty junk and deleted items folders.


Outlook.com’s semi-unlimited storage option caught one new subscriber by surprise. Writing in the Web Applications forum, the subscriber explained how they had tied Outlook 2007 on their desktop with Outlook.com through a plug-in for the desktop program.

“It was going fine for a few hours (the only way I could tell that it was even syncing was by observing the network bandwidth activity),” they wrote. “Now, the syncing appears to have stopped….”

After checking the log file for Outlook Communicator plug-in, the subscriber traced the problem to “Error: 8007000e.” Because the error is linked to a storage problem, the subscriber reasoned that they must be trying to send too much mail to their Outlook.com account too fast.

Another forum subscriber agreed with that analysis. They explained that after a certain unspecified amount of time, Outlook.com recognizes the legitimacy of a subscriber—in other words, they’re not a spammer—and will increase their storage allocation.

It’s easy to understand why Microsoft is taking precautions to insure that their new Hotmail alternative isn’t overrun with spammers. And with the service racking up a million subscriber within six hours of its launch, spam infestation is a real possibility.

Another measure apparently aimed at spammers is limiting the number of Outlook.com accounts that can be set up by a single user on a single day. For instance, when Kenneth Paul, a consultant in central Massachusetts, tried to set up an account on Outlook.com, he discovered another Ken Paul had not only  gotten to the service first, but multiple times.

“1st attempt to create outlook.com account returns ‘You’ve reached the daily limit for creating Microsoft accounts,'” he tweeted.

On some other security fronts, though, Microsoft has some catching up to do. For example, Outlook.com doesn’t quite have the hang yet of catching email addresses that have a potential for mischief. According to a report in The Register, early bird subscribers were claiming with impunity names like post.master@outlook.com, no-reply@outlook.com and yes, even steveballmer@outlook.com.

Written by John P Mello Jr

John Mello is a freelance writer who has written about business and technical subjects for more than 25 years. He is frequent contributor to the ECT News Network and his work has appeared in a number of periodicals, including Byte magazine, PC World, Computerworld, CIO magazine and the Boston Globe


  1. Martin Brown · August 10, 2012

    They rightfully call it a ‘preview’. I haven’t used Live.com, or Hotmail.com for years and out of sheer curiosity I wanted to give Outlook a try but I guess I’d better wait till they finalize their app and clean the bugs and inconsistencies. This unlimited that is actually limited or outright activity blocking new thing seems pretty awkward. It must be a marketing trick rather than a full-fledged feature.

  2. Lee Lewis · August 28, 2012

    Whoever believes that there’s such a thing as “unlimited” is living in a complete fallacy. It simply doesn’t exist. With that, we shouldn’t keep our hopes up with Outlook’s capacity right now. On the other hand, I know Gmail has been giving away loads of storage for the past years, but definitely it’s going to have its end. Microsoft, however, gives us two of the best pieces of advice: clean the inbox often. Seriously do we have time to read all the e-mails we receive on a daily basis? Non-important ones should be removed to give way for the more significant.

  3. Helen · August 28, 2012

    @Martin: You are right. Outlook should focus on ironing out its kink first before making such huge claims, though I am looking forward to using the new Outlook. I have been a secret fan of Outlook for so many years. Though Gmail is also a good e-mail service, Outlook sounds and feels much better. The calendar is a very streamlined version, and it is easy for me to plot my schedule and share it with my collaborators and employees. I like how more organized my mails are. I am hoping I get to enjoy these comforts with its web-based version.

  4. Bob Shutter · August 30, 2012

    I think anyone who thinks that he’s going to enjoy unlimited storage is an idiot. Sorry for the term, but that’s just how I see it. Come on, nothing is free in this world, and “unlimited” is just a fallacy. Yes, it doesn’t exist. Anyway, Microsoft should just throwing these incredibly large terms in order to lure people into their bad services. That’s misleading marketing. And I’ve read a comment somewhere about spam. Yes, Microsoft should also do something about it too before anything else, such as giving away “unlimited storage.”

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