Hands-On with Outlook.com Premium

Posted on February 15, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Outlook.com with 49 Comments

Hands-On with Outlook.com Premium

Outlook.com Premium is an affordable way to set up an online identity with a custom domain. But there are a few gotchas to know about.

Note: Outlook.com Premium is especially affordable if you sign-up for this service before the end of March 2017. And not just this year: Microsoft notes that if you sign up now, “your subscriptions will auto-renew annually at $19.95 (Outlook.com Premium) and $10 (Custom Domain).” That’s a $20 savings over the price if you wait past March.

So let’s dive right into this.

As you may know, you can setup a custom domain (like thurrott.com, which, yes, is already taken) at a variety of services, including Google’s G Suite (formally Google Apps) and Office 365 Commercial. (In fact, I do so at each.) What this means is that you can use a domain name of your own choosing rather than a stock domain (outlook.com, hotmail.com, gmail.com and so on) that is owned by the service provider. That way, when you communicate with the outside world, you can use something personal like [email protected] instead of something impersonal like [email protected]

Years ago, Microsoft offered custom domain services through Windows Live. But with the advent of Outlook.com Premium, which publicly debuted this week, the software giant is back at it. You can now sign-up for this service can use your own custom domain with Outlook.com, OneDrive, and Microsoft’s other consumer services.

There are two very important things to know before you get started.

1. To use Outlook.com Premium, you must first have a Microsoft account. That is, you are not creating a new, standalone Microsoft account. Instead, you will use an existing Microsoft account (like [email protected], which, no, isn’t a real email address) to create your custom domain.

And that means…

2. The first account you create in that new custom domain will be an alias of your initial Microsoft account. This is different from how custom domains work at G Suite and Office 365 Commercial. What this means is that you will later be able to sign in to Outlook.com using your initial Microsoft account ([email protected]) or your new email address ([email protected] or whatever) at your new custom domain. They are both the same account. And you can choose which account to use each time you send an email.

Hopefully, that is clear.

What is clear is that this system has both pros and cons. But the biggest pro is that everything you’ve purchased/subscribed to through that initial Microsoft account will now work with your new custom domain. This is important. If you subscribed to Office 365 Home, for example, it will work. If you purchased apps or games on Xbox or Windows 10, you will be able to sign in with that new account, with its custom domain, and it will work. Again, because that account and your Microsoft account are the same account.

Likewise, any security controls you set up for your Microsoft account—your password, or two-step authentication, for example, or a Microsoft Authenticator app on your phone—will work. When you need a security authorization from your new account, the system you set up for your Microsoft account will work. Again, same account.

Got it? 🙂

In use, Outlook.com Premium works as expected. You can sign-in to Outlook.com with your new custom account, using your Microsoft account’s password. You can send and receive email using this account. All of your old email is there and you can move back and forth between your Microsoft account, your new custom account, and any other aliases such as you did before. It’s all there in one place.

If you sign-in with your custom domain, that is the default for sent emails

To test this further, I signed-in to the Windows Store app on my Windows 10-based PC using my new Outlook.com Premium account. It worked just fine, though my Microsoft account appears in the app after signing in.

What’s not easy is signing up for Outlook.com Premium, at least if you already own your own domain. I configured this service with an existing domain I have hosted at NameCheap, and the steps you have to go through are bewildering and required a lot of Google searches to figure out where to enter various values so that the domain was correctly pointed at Outlook.com. I suspect that this will be much easier if you purchase the domain through Microsoft. (Note that when you do so, the cost is $10 per year, though the first year is free. This is about the same as the price at NameCheap and other domain registrars.)

(I can document this terrible process if necessary. But it took me over 30 minutes to get this thing up and running.)

I will keep testing Outlook.com Premium, but despite the rough onboarding process—thanks to me already owning the domain—and the unexpected alias nature of that first account, it seems solid. This is an affordable option, and it’s a nice way for a family to get a custom domain and not be stuck with an outlook.com or hotmail.com address.


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