Your Microsoft Account is essentially your personal key that opens the door to a myriad of Microsoft’s connected services.
When you create a username and login to gain access to any of Microsoft websites, forums or internet marketplaces, such as the Microsoft Community Answers forum or the Windows Marketplace, you have just created a Microsoft account, and that Microsoft account login & password opens up your computer’s and phone’s access to these connected services.
I’m not going to try to describe all the ins and outs of a Microsoft account in this article – that would take a book! No, the best I can hope to do in this article is leave you with a basic understanding of what a Microsoft account is and why you need one to get the most from your Windows Phone. Of course, you can use the phone without setting up a Microsoft Account on it, but to get the best functionality out of your phone you’ll need to set up a Microsoft Account on it to take advantage of all these connected services.
So, What is a Microsoft Account?
First and foremost, your Microsoft account establishes:
Your billing relationship with Microsoft
Here is where you set up the credit card or other payment-related information that will be used to make purchases on your device. You can also view your purchase history for any apps, games or music you’ve install to a phone or computer from a Microsoft sponsored marketplace (even “free” apps & games) and any services you subscribe to Microsoft to use.
An xBox Live account
An xBox Live account includes games (xbox games) and entertainment (xbox Music & Video). Here’s where you can view all the statistics of your gaming activity and achievements as well as interact with your xBox friends.
An Outlook.com account
An Outlook.com account includes several hubs that handle email, store your contacts & calendar, store documents (via OneDrive) and also enables you to work on Office-related documents via its Office web apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) from any connected device.
- The email hub is where you can send and receive email via the email address that is created when you created the Microsoft Account. If you use a non-Microsoft related email to create a Microsoft account, you can forward your email to the account and manage your email from Outlook.com Even though every Microsoft Account includes and Outlook.com account, you don’t have to use it for email. If you don’t want to use this new email address, just don’t use it! Don’t distribute it to anyone and you’ll never receive any email to it.
- The People hub is where you can maintain contact information and where you can interact with your old Windows Live Messenger friends or any other friends and contacts who participate in the social networks you use.
- Connect to your Social Networks: You can link your Microsoft Account to your social networks (i.e., Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr) and then you can interact with your friends and connections within your connected social networks from the People hub.
- The Calendar hub is where you can maintain your calendars and view any calendars that have been shared with you from another Microsoft Account.
- OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud-based document repository where you can upload files, store files in folders, download files from any connected device and where you can use Microsoft’s Office web apps to create and modify documents that are stored there. You can share files or folders with your family, friends and coworkers, and access any files that are shared with you via another Microsoft Account.
You can choose to use or not use any of these features. So, even if you have no interest in the email features of Outlook.com and choose not to use the login as an email address (by not giving the email address out to anyone), there are lots of features within this account that you’ll find useful.
Microsoft Account & Windows Phone
One of the first things you’ll be prompted to do after you turn on a brand new Windows Phone is set up the Microsoft Account. The Microsoft Account you set up on the phone provides connectivity to the products and services to the phone that are connected to that login and password (see the items listed above). Much of the phone’s functionality is dependent on the Microsoft Account, so be sure to choose the right Microsoft Account to use on your device. Here are some things to consider when selecting, setting up or creating a Microsoft account to use with the phone:
Please choose the right Microsoft Account to use on your device!
There’s no way to link or connect Microsoft accounts together, so one Microsoft account is not aware of another Microsoft account and there is no way to share sensitive information between Microsoft accounts. Before you set up a Microsoft Account on your phone, please consider the following:
Your Microsoft Account should endure any future life changes. The Microsoft Account you use on a phone or computer should be one that is personally owned by you and NOT one that is owned and controlled by your work, university, internet service provider or by any other third party for one reason: If you set up a phone or computer that depends on a Microsoft account that is owned by someone else, you risk losing all the data (contacts, calendar, files, backups) and payment history (for any apps, games or music you purchased) that is stored in it if your circumstances change (new job, university graduation, switching to a different internet service provider). Your access to that account is cut off when your email address is disabled by the third party. Consequently, the account will stop working properly on your phone or computer and you’ll have to switch to another Microsoft Account. Switching to another account means you’ll lose access to the data you’ve synced to the account (contacts, calendar, files), and you’ll lose your account billing history and have to repurchase any apps or games you originally purchased under the old Microsoft account.
Subscription Services: If you already subscribe to some of Microsoft’s services (i.e., xBox Music Pass) or if you’ve already purchased some Windows Phone apps or are heavily invested in any of Microsoft’s other products or services described above, and you want to use those services on your phone, you’ll want to set the phone up to use the same Microsoft Account. Setting up a different Microsoft account on the phone means you won’t be able to use the services that are subscribed via a different Microsoft account. Furthermore some of your social connections may not be connected to the phone if you use a different Microsoft account on the phone (primarily your windows live messenger services).
Credit card and payment information is stored with the account. You’ll want to be pretty careful about who you share your credit card and payment information with – do you really want your employer or university (assuming you are using a third party owned account) to have access to that information?
Changing to a different Microsoft account means you lose access to the payment history for any apps and games you purchased or installed under the old Microsoft account. If you want to install the apps and games you purchased under your old Microsoft Account to the phone, you’ll need to set the new phone up under the same Microsoft Account. If you set the phone up under a new Microsoft Account you will have to purchase them again.
Windows Phone 8 Backups: Windows Phone 8 includes a way to back up the list of apps you’ve installed to the phone, your Internet Explorer favorites, phone settings, and text messages to OneDrive. There is no way to transfer these backup files to a computer or a different OneDrive account. If you replace a Windows Phone with another Windows Phone, and you want to restore this data to the new phone, you’ll need to set the new phone up under the same Microsoft account as the old phone. If you set up a new Windows Phone under a different Microsoft account, you will not be able to restore your backed up data to the new phone.
A Hard Reset is Required. There is no other way to change a Microsoft Account on a Windows Phone. A hard reset wipes the phone of any user installed files and data, removes all user-defined accounts and settings and restores the phone to its out-of-the-box settings. If you set the phone up under a different Microsoft Account you will lose data and you will have to spend time setting the phone up again from scratch.
Once you’ve set up a Microsoft Account on a Windows Phone….
Any Contacts and Appointments that are stored in the Outlook.com account are synced to the phone. There is no way to prevent this data from syncing to a phone and that’s why you don’t see an option under “Content to sync” within the Windows Phone Microsoft Acct Settings to enable or disable the syncing of these items. You can enable or disable the syncing of email from this account. If you don’t want to use the email services of your Microsoft account – for instance if you used a different email login like a GMail or Yahoo login, to create the account – don’t enable syncing of email to the account.
After you’ve set up the Microsoft Account you’ll use on the phone, you’ll also have access to some other services that Microsoft provides for the phone. Following below is a brief overview of those services.
My Windows Phone
You can find and view the additional services that are added to your Microsoft Account by logging into the “My Phone” website (be sure to log into the website, using the same username and password that you used when you created the Microsoft Account on the phone):
You can click the down arrow that is just to the right of your name (found in the upper right hand corner of this screen to navigate to the following pages: 1) Account Information; 2) Find My Phone; 3) Purchase History; 4) My Family
The “Account Information” page is where you can update or remove phones from your account, update your personal information and edit payment and billing information.
Find My Phone
The “Find My Phone” page is where you can go to Ring, Lock or Erase a lost or stolen phone.
The “Purchase History” page keeps track of all the free or paid apps you’ve ever installed on a windows phone. You can easily install apps to a new windows phone or reinstall apps to an existing phone from this page.
The “My Family” page is where you’ll go to allow and manage app and game purchases for your kids. You can decide if and when your kids can buy apps and what game rates they can access.
I’ll be publishing some detailed articles about how you can maximize your uses of some of these Microsoft Accounts services and about some of the Windows Phone services in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
Here’s a link to my latest article about the Microsoft Account that you might want to check out: