Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail Back After E-Mails, Inboxes Disappear

Microsoft's Windows Live Hotmail e-mail service suffered a sweeping outage over the weekend, leaving some users with empty inboxes and missing data, including photos and other content.

Microsoft did not say how many users were affected by the Windows Live Hotmail hoopla, but the company said it has figured out the cause glitch, which, with no warning, wiped out the content of many users' inboxes and moved some messages to a deleted mail folder.

"We have identified the source of the issue have restored e-mail access to those who were affected," Microsoft wrote in a post about the Hotmail mix-up on its Windows Live Solutions Center late Sunday night. Microsoft did not detail what caused the wipeout and said that not all messages were restored or received right away.

"We recognize that even though we restored e-mail access, some of the affected users did not receive mail sent to them during the last 24-72 hours," Microsoft said late Sunday. "We are in the process of rectifying that and should be finished by late tonight Pacific time."

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Early Monday morning, Microsoft noted that Hotmail e-mail service had been restored.

"We have restored the emails to those who were affected ... We sincerely apologize and thank you for your continued patience," Microsoft wrote.

The disappearance of content from Microsoft Hotmail e-mail inboxes sparked a firestorm on Microsoft's Hotmail forum, with users panicking that they've lost the MIA content altogether.

"I logged into [Hotmail] on 31th December 2010 at around 6:30 a.m. Got an error message and a 'new' hotmail account with a first system welcome message. All previous mails in the inbox are gone and all the folders created are also not there. Please help urgently I have lost all my important data," one frustrated Hotmail user wrote on Microsoft's Windows Live Solution Center.

Another Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail e-mail user wrote: " All of my emails (6000+) and folders are missing from my e-mail … My account isn't inactive as this is my primary e-mail I check every day, and I sure did not delete them. Please help restore."

NEXT: Windows Live Hotmail Outage Fights To Stay Relevant

The weekend Hotmail outage isn't the first time the service suffered a slip up. In February 2010, Microsoft's free Windows Live services, including Hotmail e-mail and Windows Live Messenger, went offline due to a server failure. In that instance, Microsoft said there was an issue with the Windows Live ID service and log-ins failed for some customers, which increased the load on remaining servers. The outage lasted roughly an hour.

The recent Hotmail outage comes as Microsoft and Hotmail fight to stay relevant against growing competition from Google and its Gmail offering. In May 2010, Microsoft revamped its Hotmail e-mail offering to compete against other free Internet-based e-mail providers, adding a host of new features and functions to its Windows Live Hotmail offering.

Microsoft claims that Windows Live Hotmail is the most widely used Internet e-mail service and has said that Hotmail boasts more than 8 billion messages per day and the free e-mail offering has roughly 360 million users globally.