Leaving MSN may be easier than you think

By Scott Dunn

Some readers of my Jan. 3 and Jan. 17 articles on the shrinking appeal of MSN Premium asked what they might lose if they canceled Microsoft’s for-pay service, which is now duplicated by features in the company’s free Windows Live and Windows itself.

The facts show that fears of losing one’s e-mail address or dial-up access are groundless.

Are there any reasons to keep MSN Premium?

Regarding my Jan. 3 story on MSN Premium, which many people subscribe to for $9.95 per month, David S. Ritchey writes:
  • “Just wanted you to know how happy I was when I read the first article on paid MSN vs. free Live mail offerings. I immediately called and canceled my MSN subscription. They were very polite, walked me through everything to expect, allowed me to keep all 5 family e-mail accounts active, and even credited me back some of the unused month. No hassle.

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    “Needless to say, after saving me all that money, I’ve upgraded to the PAID version of your newsletter, also! Thanks for alerting all of us suckers out there paying $9.95 a month for nothing!”
It’s good to hear that David experienced no problems cancelling his MSN subscription. (To get the paid version of the Windows Secrets Newsletter, please see how to upgrade.)

David’s experience also answers a question posed by more than one reader. For example, Dan Rambow wrote to explain why he still keeps his MSN Premium account:
  • “Why do I pay that $9.95 per month? There are two reasons:

    “First, I would lose the e-mail address and account name I have had for more than 12 years, as Microsoft will not transfer the old name to the new account. In my case, since I have so many accounts that respond to that e-mail address, I don’t really want to lose it.

    “Second, I need an emergency dial-up Internet account, should the DSL go down (yes, it happens once in a while), or if I should be traveling, say, to my 83-year-old mother’s home, where the Internet and computers are still considered science fiction.”

Dan and others who raised these points appear to be laboring under some misconceptions.

As David’s letter above shows, Microsoft will allow you to keep your e-mail address, even if you cancel your paid account. This is confirmed in a post to a Microsoft online forum by moderator Stephen Boots. He writes (in the 4th comment in the thread) that, if you cancel your MSN subscription, “all of your @msn accounts will become free accounts that can be accessed via www.hotmail.com.”

As for the question of dial-up, check with your current Internet service provider (ISP). It very well may offer dial-up numbers. Many ISPs have such numbers for customers to use if normal service is not available, although dial-up service is no longer emphasized.

If your ISP does not provide a dial-up option, chances are still good that you can find a free solution, simply by using your favorite search engine to query on free dial-up.

Still more ways to access Administrative Tools

In the Jan. 17 issue, I explained how to make Administrative Tools appear on the Start menu in Windows XP and Vista.

Reader Daniel Brunt has a tip that’s useful for computers that you can’t or don’t want to reconfigure:
  • “I work on a lot of different machines for different companies, so I just find it much easier to access Administrative Tools via their default hiding place: Start, Control Panel, Administrative Tools.”
Ironically, although the Administrative Tools folder can reliably be found in the Control Panel, the method you use to open the Control Panel can vary depending on how the Start menu is configured.

For example, the above steps should work for the default Start menu in XP and Vista. But if you use the “classic” Start menu, you need to choose Start, Settings, Control Panel, Administrative Tools.

Furthermore, if the above steps open Control Panel in its default “category view,” you may need yet another click — selecting either Switch to Classic View (on the left) or Performance and Maintenance — before you can open Administrative Tools.

Perhaps the simplest and most consistent way to open the Control Panel is to press Windows+R (the Windows key and the letter “r”) to open the Run box, type control, and press Enter.

If you use Vista’s default Start menu, you can always type administrative tools in the Find box and press Enter.

Readers Ritchey, Rambow, and Brunt will each receive a gift certificate for a book, CD, or DVD of their choice for sending comments we printed. Send us your tips via the Windows Secrets contact page.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2008-01-24: