SMS now required for all Microsoft account activations?

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By pure chance, all of our Office 2016 sales for the last several months (perhaps a year) have been to existing business clients (who already have MS accounts) or to home users who handle their own activations. I have had no need during that time to create a new MS account (either for myself or on behalf of a client). That’s despite the sheer number of licenses we sell.

But today I did have to create a MS account for one of our biggest clients… and I have yet to be successful.

Now this post isn’t about Office specifically, but that’s the context in which I discovered this issue.

You see.. when creating a new MS account, it now asks for a phone number. It’s been this way for a while, and it’s creepy and off-putting, but most everyone has a phone number at least. What’s changed is that you can now only recieve the one-time code via SMS. That’s it. No calls. No alternate email. No letters. No telegrams. No smoke signals. It’s SMS or nothing.

Want an account? Buy a cell phone. Want to talk to MS support? You need an account. This is a problem.

So now the client is thinking about moving away from Microsoft products altogether (or at least Office). They’re a principled bunch, and aren’t going to jump through hoops just to make MS want them as a customer.

So has anyone else had this problem? Is the “phone call” method just temporarily down? Or is MS really that incompetent?

Comments (23)

23 responses to “SMS now required for all Microsoft account activations?”

  1. skane2600

    I would create a bogus number via Google Voice although that's not helpful if you were already using it as one of your primary phone numbers.

    • toshdellapenna

      In reply to skane2600:

      I ported my mobile number to Google Voice 2 years ago. Anytime that I'm registering a Microsoft service that requires a phone number it refuses my number as the system see it as a "voip" number. I instead have to use the replacement number that was issued to my sim card. A number that I actually don't ever use otherwise.


      The troubling thing about this is that sms authentication is not secure at all despite the fact that it's going straight to your device. They would be better off authenticating through the Microsoft Authenticator or email.

      • offTheRecord

        In reply to toshdellapenna:

        Yeah, this annoys me to no end. I run into situations all the time where my Google Voice or Skype numbers aren't accepted because they're "VOIP." No one has ever been able (or willing) to explain why that matters. In fact, my telco-provided landline numbers are now officially VOIP and eventually the U.S. will move completely to VOIP (which is why telcos refuse to spend any money on copper lines to install robocall blocking technology -- soon they'll be replacing copper lines with VOIP).

        • toshdellapenna

          In reply to offTheRecord:

          Eventually everything will be VoLte on the mobile end of things, so you're right that it will all be voip in the end. I'm wondering if the issue with Google Voice has to do with the slower than molasses move to update the service as most of it is just the rebrand from the Grandcentral Purchase.


          I've been on the hunt for a replacement for Google Voice, but there's just nothing that beats it. It would be nice if consumer O365 accounts would get the option for inbound porting and had similar features like free sms, etc.

      • skane2600

        In reply to toshdellapenna:

        I guess Microsoft is more strict. I've used my Google Voice number for many such scenarios but never had a problem.

    • seapea

      In reply to skane2600:

      I wonder if Text2Me would help for this. I use it for a couple of small time things.

  2. Daekar

    This seems like a storm in a teacup. Your client is crazy for balking at this kind of requirement... it's not onerous. At all. You can receive SMS on the cheapest POS dumbphone for sale at Walmart.

  3. North of 49th

    If I had to guess, I think Microsoft is trying to prevent some automated algorithm from bulk creating Microsoft Accounts. You can disagree with the methods they use to prevent this, but I think this is what the new normal is going to be. As systems become more sophisticated, what will be required to authenticate an account will get more sophisticated...

  4. Minke

    Or, as was the case where I worked for about 12 years we had very sketchy cell phone service. It was routine to leave the building and walk well out into the parking lot in order to barely be able to make a phone call. Forget data--none. There are many places in the USA with weak or no cell phone service, and yet there are businesses there trying to make a living. What are they to do? Take a look at the Adirondacks north of Albany for an example. My cell phone drops service for 20-30 minutes at times driving through many small towns up there.

  5. Paul Thurrott

    You have a customer that will drop Microsoft because it requires authenticating using a device everyone on earth has? :) Really.

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      Yeah, I don't see someone dropping Microsoft over this. OTOH, I can sympathize with an employee who raises an eyebrow when he or she is told to give their personal number to Microsoft to authenticate an account for work. Is it an undue burden? No, but it does impinge slightly on the separation between work and home.

    • skane2600

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      You certainly have a point, but not it's not true that everyone has a cell phone or a cell phone with a plan that includes texting.

      • Paul Thurrott

        In reply to skane2600:

        I'm sorry but if you cross-reference the potential audience with "people who have hired a third party to manage their Office 365 environment," then literally 100 percent of them have cell phones.

        • Minke

          In reply to paul-thurrott:

          Maybe so, but there are a fair number of places that people work where you are not allowed to use cell phones in the building no matter what. My wife works at a child care center and it is state law that employees can't use cell phones in the building. I have another friend who works at a government facility and they must check their phones at the gates. There are lots of places with no cell service too! This is a ridiculous requirement that will drive some people away from Microsoft. Sure, there are workarounds, but successful companies make it easy to purchase and use products. Creating ridiculous hoops to jump through will not help MS.

      • offTheRecord

        In reply to skane2600:

        ...or the desire to give out a cell phone number to every business that asks.

        • Paul Thurrott

          In reply to offTheRecord:

          I love the notion that Microsoft, the provider of your enterprise services, is somehow "any company." It's like worrying about giving your credit card number to Dell when you buy a PC online.

          • wright_is

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            I usually have to sign up for these services on behalf of my employer. It is one thing to give them my company E-Mail address, when registering for something, it is something else to give them my private telephone number.

            Exactly, skane2600, if it is a company number, that is one thing, a private number is something else entirely. It is also silly, if I leave the company, I still have the registered telephone number for the account, so if my ex-employer needs to activate anything else, they are stuck or have to jump through hoops.

          • offTheRecord

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            "It's like worrying about giving your credit card number to Dell when you buy a PC online."


            It's not at all like that, as Chris_Kez and wright_is have pointed out. However, I suspect many folks, for similar reasons, would also object to being asked to give their enterprise service provider their credit card number.

  6. Chris_Kez

    It does seem strange that Microsoft wouldn't provide some alternative method, especially for corporate clients. When we switched to G Suite there was a small uproar when the initial communication said a cell phone was required to set up and authenticate the account. There were maybe a hundred people who did not want to use their personal number and were annoyed enough to post about it on our G+ group about the transition. So there were probably a few hundred more (out of tens of thousands) who were just silently annoyed. I think in the end it turned out Google actually did have an option to get a code and authenticate from a landline.

    Please come back with an update if you get one.

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