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Jun 29, 2013

Outlook.com, custom domains, and ActiveSync

Microsoft's widely used e-mail service Hotmail was recently overhauled and rebranded Outlook.com. One of the less known services they provide is the support for custom domains. A couple of months ago, I was looking for a new (preferably free) e-mail service for my personal domain. It turned out Outlook.com had everything I needed!

To set up a custom domain, you'll first have to log in to the Windows Live Admin Center with your Microsoft account (I used my good ol' Hotmail account). There you'll add your custom domain, and you'll get instructions on how to set up DNS etc. You can choose between closed membership, i.e. you'll register the e-mail accounts yourself, or open membership which lets users register e-mail accounts under your domain themselves. The setup was straightforward, so I won't repeat the steps here. You initially get a limit of 50 e-mail accounts for your custom domain.

Once you've created an account under your domain, you can go straight to https://mail.live.com and log in.

Though happy with having my e-mail accounts available online, I also wanted to read my mail on my phone. It's a somewhat well hidden secret that you can use ActiveSync to connect to your custom e-mail accounts, but I stumbled upon the settings here. Here's how I set up the e-mail accounts for my custom domain on my iPhone.

Go to "Settings" -> "Mail, Contacts, Calendars" -> "Add Account..." and choose "Microsoft Exchange" as the account type.
 Enter the e-mail address, password, and give the new account a reasonable description.
When pressing "Next" the setup will fail and you'll be asked for a few more details. Enter "m.hotmail.com" for the "Server", and leave the "Domain" empty.
 Enter the e-mail address in the "Username" field.

And that's it! Press "Next" and the next screen lets you choose whether you want to synchronize mail, contacts, etc. Your custom e-mail account is now set up on your phone.


  1. Does this then give each user access to the other Microsoft services ,like skydrive, calendar etc?

    1. I just tried Skydrive, it worked! The calendar gave an error message, not sure whether that's related to the account or if there are issues with the service just now.

  2. Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) settings for Outlook 2013 with Microsoft CUSTOM Live Domains / Outlook.com account

    If anyone can make this work, or find the person at Microsoft responsible for randomly setting EAS server names for Outlook.com accounts and Microsoft live custom domains (see http://domains.live.com), then they would be a god. I have been trying to find a solution to this for 6 months, and have spent about 80 hours talking to friendly but incompetent Microsoft Support People in the departments of, Microsoft Accounts, Outlook.com Accounts, Office 365, Exchange Server Support (because all other personnel transfer me there because they don't understand how email works).

    I have tried the following servers names to setup Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) to connect with my live custom domains (see http://domains.live.com) to the Outlook 2013 email client.

    I am able to use EAS with a @outlook.com, @live.com, and @hotmail.com email address, by using "s.outlook.com" as a servername (by the way, I just found that today after 6 months and discussions with about 100 MS employees)

    However, "s.outlook.com" doesn't work with live custom domains (which, it is unclear who manages their MX servers, outlook.com or some old live.com system)

    I have also tried the following names:

    No luck.

    The error message I get in Outlook is:

    And, I am 99.9999999% certain that of the 1000 times I typed in the password, I got it correct at least once.

    I am not the only one who has been trying to find a solution to this problem, nor have I been trying the longest. I have found blogs, forums, and even threads here that are over a year old and have no solution, or people claim to have a solution that worked for them, but it no longer works.

    What is the deal. You would think that Outlook 2013 should automatically setup any Microsoft related service automatically. All the other programs, excel, word, etc work seemlessly through skydrive to sync all settings based on Windows login credentials. Why is Outlook.com and Outlook 2013 have so much difficulty with this. Email is the oldest thing in the book to sync.

    Here are other threads that have either not found a solution, or some claim to have found solutions that clearly don't work for others:

    The official documentation, that claims s.outlook.com is the solution for
    "Apps that support Exchange ActiveSync", which I assume would include Outlook 2013, but apparently not.

    Also, you would think the correct instructions would be under
    "Microsoft Office -> Get info on setting up Outlook.com in Microsoft Office Outlook here." But, that makes you believe it will work automatically, which would be the ideal behavior, but it doesn't work with Microsoft live custom domains.

    Here they give: "m.outlook.com", and use a custom domain as an example:
    That doesn't work either.

    here I am. Still no solution after a total of 6 months searching, and an unused Outlook 2013, which I paid for.

    Hopefully, this highlights how absurd it is that Microsoft hasn't just given out the Exchange ActiveSync settings for Outlook.com Custom Domains that will work with Outlook 2013.

    Anyone? I personality know 3 IT colleagues who had the same problem (They don't anymore, they gave up and instead use IMAP with gmail's custom domains.) If I know 3, then how many other silent IT guys are out there?

    1. I'm sorry to hear that you've had that much trouble. I just tried setting up one of my klings.org accounts in Outlook 2012. I chose to set the server settings manually, and added an EAS account. It failed on the first attempt, but it worked fine on the second attempt. I set the server to m.hotmail.com and used the e-mail address for the username.

      I agree that this would have been much easier if they let Outlook discover the settings automatically!

    2. Don't know if was resolved, but i use same configuration, and have the server setting: dub405-m.hotmail.com

  3. Works for me! Thanks
    I was originally using m.outlook.com which was not working (I guess thats only for a outlook.com domain instead of a customer domain)
    As soon as I tried m.hotmail.com it worked fine

  4. Hi

    I have something weird going on. I have setup our mail@limb.org account successfully with your steps above. but I cant seem to setup any of the 2 other mail accounts. user1@limb.org and user2@limb.org..

    Any ideas? I can login via the web fine.

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