Tip: Change Your Microsoft Account’s Primary Alias

Posted on August 8, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Outlook.com, OneDrive, Skype, Office 365, Microsoft Consumer Services, Xbox One, Windows 10 with 7 Comments

Tip: Change Your Microsoft Account's Primary Alias

Your Microsoft account supports multiple aliases, and you can assign one of them to be your primary alias at any time. Making this change has interesting ramifications on how you sign-in to Windows 10 and access services such as OneDrive, Outlook.com, and Outlook.com Premium, among others.

So let’s think about this for a bit.

First, in Microsoft parlance, the email address that you first used to create your Microsoft account—probably at Hotmail or Outlook.com, but possibly at Xbox, Zune, Skype, or elsewhere—is considered your primary alias. It’s the way you sign-in to your Microsoft account and access the services that are associated with that account.

But Microsoft also lets you add other aliases to your Microsoft account. These aliases are alternate ways with which you can sign-in to you Microsoft account. And they can include other email addresses, a phone number, or a Skype name (now deprecated).

Aliases are most useful for email. You can switch between your available aliases when sending email, for example. And many people use aliases to sign up for email newsletters so they can keep on top of spam. But aliases have uses that go beyond email. And by changing your primary alias, you can, in effect, update your online persona with a new identity.

There are, of course, restrictions.

You can create an alias using a Microsoft-type (@hotmail.com, @live.com, @msn.com, or @outlook.com) email address. But that email must not have been already claimed by you or anyone else. This means, sadly, that you cannot use a second Microsoft account you may have an alias for the first. (It also means that you cannot use this method to share information between, or “combine,” two Microsoft accounts. Which would be nice.)

My personal Microsoft account is over 15 years old, and it has an @hotmail.com email address. It’s what I use to sign-in to Windows 10 (when I do sign-in to Windows 10), and it’s the account I use with Office 365 Home, OneDrive.com, Outlook.com (which for me is Outlook.com Premium now), Xbox, and so on.

Though I agree that it’s a bit out-of-date looking, I don’t mind that this account has an @hotmail.com email address back in January, I started testing Outlook.com Premium, which you may recall has some strange alias-related behavior. That is, when you bring your own custom domain to the service, each email account you set up has to be configured as an alias for an existing Microsoft account. Put another way, every user on that new custom domain needs to already have a Microsoft account.

Which is fine. Except that it introduces some weirdness.

Let’s say that my Microsoft account’s primary alias is [email protected] (It’s not.) And then I sign up for Outlook.com Premium using that account, and I configure it to use a custom domain called thurrott-books.com (also not real). So when I create my first Outlook.com Premium user account, [email protected], that account is really just an alias of my [email protected]

This means that they are one and the same. I could sign-in to a Windows 10 PC—or Outlook.com, or Office 365, or my Xbox One, or whatever—with either [email protected] or [email protected] Same result.

Except, that is, for that weirdness I mentioned. When I use the new [email protected] alias to sign-in, I’m really just signing in to [email protected] So when I look at my account settings in Windows 10, I see the Hotmail.com address, not my new custom domain. Likewise, when I sign-in to Outlook.com Premium and click my user account name up in the top right corner, I see my Hotmail.com address … even though I just signed in with [email protected]

That’s because the custom domain isn’t my primary alias. And if I want to always access my account using this new email address, I just need to change my Microsoft account’s primary alias from my old Hotmail.com email address to my new custom domain email address.

You do this on the Microsoft account website: Navigate to Your info > Manage your sign-in email or phone number. After satisfying the two-factor authentication gods, you’ll arrive at the Manage how you sign in to Microsoft page, which includes an Account aliases list. Here, you can change your primary alias at any time. Just click “Make primary” next to the one you want. In my case, the new custom domain email address.

Now, when I sign-in to Windows 10 or whatever using that new address, it stays that way. And I’ve replaced my aging Hotmail address without needing to create a new account. The legacy continues. And more important, all the content and associated services continue too.

Don’t let my usage of Outlook.com Premium and custom domains throw you. You can do this with any Microsoft account, and if you use Outlook.com, OneDrive, and other Microsoft services and wish to do so with a new email address, you can. Just make a new alias, and make it your primary alias.

What’s most interesting about this is that it works. The next time you sign-in to Windows 10, say, it will use the new primary alias, even if you signed in with the old one.

It’s like getting a new start.

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Comments (7)

7 responses to “Tip: Change Your Microsoft Account’s Primary Alias”

  1. dilsaver

    In reply to Winner:

    My Apple ID ends in @mac.com because it cannot be changed even though @icloud.com and @me.com work as well. It would be nice for apple to implement something like this as it makes things easier. Apple is the only place I use my @mac.com e-mail to login.

  2. CristianCson

    You could use any email address as a alias even a Gmail address if you would like, the mail isn't coming there of course, but you could log in with it..

    Only restriction since ms moved outlook.com to their own platform, you can't use a email adress that's is used for o365 business anymore, so if you pay ms for having a o365 account, you can't have that email as login or primary skype address..

    Since I use my o365 company adress as my only address I can't no longer log in to that one.. So just hope they fix it, don't wont to change the supplier to be able to have a msa that I like...

  3. Hallmanac

    I would highly recommend that anyone who owns an Office 365 business account with their custom domain name tied to that account should NOT use any email from the O365 business account as an alias for a Microsoft account. Their decision to tie those two things together in the single-sign-on was one of the worst decisions they've made in recent years. I've had to jump through hoops on so many occasions while trying to disentangle how the business or personal accounts are tied together. Just stick to Microsoft based domains for aliases used in Microsoft accounts.

  4. azboater

    Good luck setting your primary email alias to anything other than your @microsoft.com (@outlook.com, @live.com, @hotmail.com) and using Outlook.com. It's been a known bug since release that if your primary email address is set to you connected account email address that you probably won't be able to view pdf files or many other file types. You also can't download the attachments but you can forward them to your gmail or any other account or save them to OneDrive. There's hundreds to thousands of posts on it on the answers.microsoft.com forums.

  5. azboater

    In reply to DaleDietrich:

    I'm not sure on the Premium accounts but on the free account you can setup multiple connected accounts (other email accounts) to fetch the messages from. Also only at the time that you setup the connected account you can choose if you want it to place the messages in the Inbox and other folder structures or if you want to place them in folders based on the email address you are connecting. So all of your 30 emails can filter into 30 different sets of folders under Outlook.com

    The problem comes in at least on the free version is that "By Design" you cannot filter emails from connected accounts. So if you want to filter out all emails by a specific user into a junk folder that doesn't work. So basically Spam rules do not work with your 30 connected accounts so you manually have to filter out all junk emails. There are multiple posts on this also on the answers.microsoft.com and again it's been a bug for over a year and a half since release.

    I so wish I would have moved to GMail years ago. I like the iPhone app and the Windows 10 app but since it's all based on the Outlook.com handling the backbones of everything it sucks. The old Hotmail was robust and no major problems for a decade. The new Outlook.com has been nothing but problems since release.

    I would recommend doing some serious testing before moving that many accounts over.

  6. azboater

    In reply to ChuckDavis666:

    From my experience there are too many bugs in the new free Outlook.com if you do change your Primary Alias to anything other than the @outlook.com or similar Microsoft ones. But what you can do is on the Settings->Connected Accounts in Outlook.com is change your From Address to the [email protected] to at least have your default reply address coming from your connected account.

    Also it may take 24 to 48 hours once you do change your Primary Alias for everything to propagate and either correct itself or for the bugs to start to show up. I can't tell you how many time I tried changing my Primary Alias back to my @outlook.com one on suggestions from the forums so I could hopefully view and download attachments for it not to work. Then by accident one day I forgot to switch it back to the my main email and the next after over a year of not being able to view simple attachments like PDF files it finally worked. Others on the forums have also verified that it wasn't resolved immediately.

  7. Brian Mansell

    Well lucky I stumbled on this webpage. It is for me a journey with Microsoft of many years that finally ended when Outlook.com was born of illigitmate parents. My purchase of windows phones for the Family has lead to being hated by all. No matter how many times I contact support no one "knows " what the problem is. I can guess, like you that way back I used my personal e mail as a Microsoft account, bringing all sorts of disasters with it and the trap of making aliases. The arrival of Office 365 home ( I really need my Outlook 2016 ) proved too much as it was designed NOT to work with Outlook.com. Well, I finally decided to look for a solution to take my personal e mail away from Microsoft. I think you have described the way to go, but I have felt confident before - I will try and let you know if it worked. Then I will use a third party to look after my mail, calendar and contacts and sync-ing with my WP phone ( probably time to go back to Android - the S3 was really good ).