A "temporary outage" of Microsoft's MSN, Windows Live and Hotmail services resulted in users being told they didn't have an e-mail inbox when they signed in, and they also were directed to sign up for new e-mail. The problem was resolved as of Friday morning, according to Microsoft.
"All Hotmail services are back to normal and the outage is resolved," the company said on its blog. "If you are still having problems, we encourage you to first try Windows Live Help. "If you still have problems, you can submit your problem directly to the support team."
Microsoft said late Thursday night that users' inboxes — and e-mails —are "safe," and that the problem was due to an "incorrect message" that was sent out during "routine maintenance." (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
The outage caused a scare for users, many of whom were greeted with the message that they didn't have an inbox when they signed in.
"If you are seeing a message that you 'don’t have an inbox, the message is incorrect," the company said. "Your messages are still intact on our servers, and you will have access to them again as soon as this temporary outage is resolved.
E-mail customers were both frightened and frustrated by the outage, with some thinking it was caused by an Internet virus or worm.
"OMG! I was absolutely panic-stricken all night!" one user said on Microsoft's blog. "This morning I am both celebrating and feeling wiser. My project today is to get all that 'valuable' info mined out of those saved e-mails and onto paper!
"I thought that I had lost everything, like eight years of contacts," wrote another.
"Rest assured that your inbox is safe!" Microsoft said on its blog. "The incorrect message was sent out, caused by a networking issue that we encountered while doing routine maintenance. We have corrected the problem and you should be able to access your Hotmail and other Windows Live services again now."