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updated 8/15/2007 3:48:02 PM ET 2007-08-15T19:48:02

Microsoft Corp. will soon let users of its Hotmail service store 5 gigabytes of photos and other e-mail messages, more than double the previous limit.

Of course, only a small number of Hotmail users will ever approach that threshold, a reality the software maker acknowledged in a blog post this week outlining the storage boost and other upgrades to the free, Web-based service.

(MSNBC.com is a Microsoft-NBC Universal joint venture.)

"Just when you were wondering how you'd ever fill up 2 or 4 GB of mail, we've given you more storage," wrote Ellie Powers-Boyle, a program manager for Windows Live Hotmail.

Microsoft's new limit, from 2 GB currently, will leapfrog Google Inc.'s nearly 3 GB. Yahoo Inc. and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL e-mail services already include unlimited free storage.

The software maker also said that Hotmail will get faster in coming weeks thanks to performance improvements. E-mail users will also see a new "report phishing" button and a way to combine duplicate contacts in the address book.

When Hotmail users log in, they currently see a page filled with news headlines and photos from Microsoft's MSN sites — not their inbox. Soon, Microsoft will let users choose to go straight to their e-mail and skip the extra content.

"We know this is going to be a big hit with a lot of you out there in blog land," Powers-Boyle wrote.

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