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Windows Live ID Makes Me Cry

For those that are unaware, you may be asking “What’s a Windows Live ID?” Essentially, they are accounts that you can use for almost every service offered by Microsoft, including Xbox LIVE, the .NET Messenger Service, the Zune Marketplace, the Microsoft Developer Network, and Microsoft TechNet. I would guess that most people who signed up for a Windows Live ID did so because they wanted to sign up for Xbox LIVE (like myself). Back when I signed up for Xbox LIVE though, it was called a .NET Passport instead, so if that rings any bells for you, know that it is the same thing.

I suppose I should be fair and say the idea behind Windows Live IDs is not bad. In today’s day and age it can be difficult to keep track of the pile of usernames and passwords the average internet-savvy person will acquire. Trying to condense them into one account for any Microsoft related service makes it easier on the user, and that is always a good thing. The problem with the Windows Live ID system is the way it has been mismanaged by Microsoft.

I will use Xbox LIVE as an example. When you sign up for Xbox LIVE, you get a gamertag. That gamertag is linked to a specific Windows Live ID. If I were to visit http://www.xbox.com to view my gamertag, I would be redirected to a different website to sign in to my Windows Live ID first. Afterwards, I would be redirected again to http://www.xbox.com and my gamertag would be visible. Let us contrast this to Google services as another example of a very similar system. The same Google account is used for many Google services such as YouTube, Google Analytics, Blogger, Adsense, Gmail, and iGoogle. Whenever I want to use any of these Google services, such as YouTube, I simply visit http://www.youtube.com, enter my credentials and I am instantly signed in to the service. They sound awfully similar right? They are, except that Microsoft had the brilliant idea of permanently deleting Windows Live IDs that were considered “inactive,” which causes all sorts of havok. Allow me to tell you my personal experience with this service.

Back in 2007 my girlfriend created a Silver (free) Xbox LIVE gamertag. In the process of creating her gamertag, she had to create a Windows Live ID on my Xbox console. From 2007 to present, she would occasionally play games on my Xbox and in the process she would sign in to her own gamertag. A short while ago though, she got her own Xbox and rightfully wanted to transfer the gamertag from my Xbox to hers. To begin the process she was required to sign into her Windows Live ID. The only problem was that it no longer existed. It seems that Microsoft thinks an account is “inactive” if you neglect to sign in to a service through your web browser. As my girlfriend never needed to sign in to a Windows Live ID service through a web browser, her account was deleted even though she was actively playing on her gamertag.

Who at Microsoft thought this was a good idea? I could understand if a gamertag remained inactive for a length of time, you run the risk of getting it deleted. But if you actively use your gamertag, the Windows Live ID could be deleted without you ever knowing? That makes no sense. When she told me what happened I did a little research online and came across this topic http://support.microsoft.com/kb/972159. I couldn’t believe how stupid Microsoft was being, but the solution seemed simple enough. She would just create a new Windows Live ID and link it to her gamertag. So she went to http://www.xbox.com and created a new Windows Live ID – which then automatically assigned a gamertag to her new Windows Live ID. Are you kidding? There was no prompt or confirmation, it just automatically assigned one. And the best part is that you can’t remove a gamertag from a Windows Live ID without transferring it to another Windows Live ID. Fantastic!

So she “closed” her Windows Live ID assuming she could just create it again (hopefully this time without automatically getting a gamertag assigned) and attach the correct gamertag to it. Nope! Apparently when you decide to “close” your Windows Live ID, you are really suspending it and you cannnot create one with the same e-mail address unless you wait 270 days from when you deleted it. So I decided to post on the Windows Live support forum to see if I could get some help. The responses I got on the forum from the Microsoft representatives made me want to pound my head against the wall.

  • Problem #1: You cannot get help regarding Windows Live ID problems by any means other than a support forum. If there is a phone number you could call, it is well hidden. Some problems are much easier to handle when talking to a person on the phone and I think it is irritating Microsoft does not even give you the option.
  • Problem #2: You cannot post on the support forums unless you sign in with a Windows Live ID. Wait what? Are you kidding me?! If I was having problems signing up in the first place, or I could not log in, I would have to go create a different Windows Live ID (assuming I even could) just so I could post my problems about the other account I have? Or I would need a friend of mine to post for me? That is ridiculous.
  • Problem #3: You do not get a Windows Live representative assigned to your support topic. It appears to me that any representative that gets to your topic will answer it regardless of which representative responded before. While I suppose this could work, assigning individual representatives would be better because they are more familiar with your problem and could go through a logical series of steps to try and resolve your solution.
  • Problem #4: None of the representatives will bother reading the suggestions made by other representatives so they do not repeat each other. This is why the lack of an assigned representative just will not work.
  • Problem #5: The Windows Live ID helpers are idiots. This is arguably the biggest problem.

With all that in mind, let us take a look at the support topic I opened to address this issue.  The original thread no longer exists but you can read page 1 here and page 2 here. I strongly suggest you read the two pages because I have a feeling you will understand just how useless and stupid the support forum helpers are. Let me break it down though. I was “helped” by Windows Live Rizaldy D., Windows Live Jeffrey A., Windows Live Jose Martin S., Windows Live Mark D., and Windows Live Rowena D. Five people could not understand what my problem was, either due to a lack of caring or just total incompetence. The back and forth spanned 11 days. It took an average of two days to get a response from them, but most of the responses would not address my issue.

One of my favorite replies was by Windows Live Jeffrey A. whose response said “Please do not reply to this message. Replies to this message are routed to an unmonitored mailbox.” Really? You could not even be bothered to remove that part of your copy/paste response to me? That does not appear unprofessional in the slightest! I had to stop for my sanity’s sake with the last reply from Windows Live Jose Martin S. though.

To reactivate your account once you have closed it, sign in within 270 days. Please try to sign in to your account and if you are unable to sign in, please post back what error message or problems you will encounter.


I posted my error message four times in that thread, including in my very first post. Four. Times. I would not have been upset if I had just gotten a reply saying “We are sorry but we are unable to help you. You must wait 270 days before re-using the same e-mail address or use a different e-mail address to sign up for another Windows Live ID.” What upsets me is they had no idea what I was talking about and did not take the time to try and read what I was saying. Microsoft, I think you undervalue having competent people in your customer service departments. Experiences like mine cast the entire company in a bad light, especially when there are clear examples of other companies (Google) accomplishing your goals in a more effective way.

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One comment

  1. rachel /

    Thank you for putting into words the hell that Windows Live and XBOX live has recently put me through. I liken the experience to the movie Groundhog Day, Candid Camera and the Twilight Zone all wrapped together. Apparently, there is no way to recover a gamertag from an inactive Windows Live ID, NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS. I’m trying to explain that to my devastated 11 year old son. I can live with loss of 7 months of a paid Gold subscription but he loses years of achievements, etc. Sure wish I’d known of this cluster from the beginning.


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