When I got to my new school this year and they were handing out our @nwfsc.edu email addresses, I noticed that they had stopped using Microsoft Exchange and started using Microsoft’s new service Outlook.com. Outlook is basically the consumer-friendly version of Microsoft Exchange that doesn’t cost any money, which is probably why my school chose to use it instead. Regardless, setting up my email address on my Android phone and in Apple Mail was a breeze and it got me wondering if I would be able to move my custom domain email over to Outlook.com instead of using my web host’s servers.
As I was curious, I started doing some research and found Amit Agarwal’s tutorial about how to set up Outlook with a custom domain, similar to the way that Google Apps works. After completing the tutorial I found that I really like Microsoft’s service and so I decided I would share with you how to properly set up a custom email with Outlook (and add some details that Amit left off).
1. Sign Up For a Windows Live Account
As I am a Mac and Apple user, I have never made a Hotmail, Windows Live, Xbox Live, or any such Microsoft account. If you are like me and do not have a Live account, you can visit www.live.com to sign up for one. It doesn’t matter if the email you create is @hotmail.com or @live.com as we will be setting up a custom one anyway.
2. Add Your Domain Name
Now that you have a Windows Live account, you should visit domains.live.com and add your domain name that you want to set the email address up with. In my case, I want my email to be firstname.lastname@example.org, so I would add the domain ianeberle.com.
3. Add MX and TXT Records
On the next screen you should see a list of DNS records you need to add on your domain registrar. This looks complex, but it is very simple and if you get stuck at any time during this process, you can always call your domain registrar and they will be able to help you.
You will need to add an MX record to handle your mail:
- It usually looks like this: abc.pamx1.hotmail.com
- Make sure that this is the only MX record on your DNS settings. You will want to delete any current MX record before adding this one.
- It usually looks like this: v=msv1 t=abc
- It usually looks like this: v=spf1 include:hotmail.com ~all
4. Set Up a CNAME Record
One of the coolest things about Outlook is the ability to access your mail at a subdomain. In my case, I am able to access my mail at mail.ianeberle.com instead of Outlook.com. This makes the experience more personal.
On the left side of the Windows Live Admin Center (the same place where you got the MX and TXT records), there should be a menu. Navigate to Custom Address, choose “Add” type the word “mail” (just as I have typed it but without the quotes).
You will now need to set up a CNAME record on your domain registrar with the name being “mail” and the host being “go.domains.live.com”.
5. Create Your Email Address
After you have completed creating all of the DNS records, navigate to “Member Accounts” using the menu on the left of the Windows Live Admin Center. This is where you will create the email address that you want to use. In my case, I have set up email@example.com. Please note that the “Account Name” field is the information found before the @ sign. So in my case it would just be “ian”.
6. Wait 30-60 Minutes
Updating DNS records on a domain normally takes about 30 minutes, but depending on how much traffic your registrar gets, it could take up to 48 hours. I know that tasks like this take forever with my GoDaddy-registered domains but were instant when I used FatCow’s registrar.
7. Log On and Test
After about 30 minutes (average), you should be able to log on to your email by accessing Outlook.com or mail.yourdomain.com and signing in with the account that you created (mine was firstname.lastname@example.org).
If your mail is still not going through the Windows Live servers, I suggest that you wait at least 24 hours before contacting Microsoft and/or your domain registrar support team.