Hotmail Images and Links are Disabled Even in Text Messages

Not even our text only email is safe from spam filters as Hotmail now disables all URL links even in TEXT ONLY emails.

While working up content for my new “Get to the Inbox” ebook, (yes I am going to break down and sell an eBook) I was going thru the new Hotmail interface Windows Live Hotmail. Three things really grabbed me and I knew you would want to know about it.

  • All links are disabled by default even in text only messages
  • All images are disabled as well
  • If your email lands in the Junk folder even if your reader opens it the body does not open, you have to click
    another link in the yellow pane up on the tool bar.
  • All junk mail is deleted after five days

So after subscribing to my own newsletter I landed in the inbox but the double opt in link was disabled. I had to either click the “show content” link in the yellow alert box in the tool bar for a one time image and link enable. Or you can click the mark as safe to always show working content from the sender. The links are there and you can copy and paste them, they just don’t allow mouse click’s.

hot links disabled by default

After I selected “Mark as Safe” (naturally, it’s from Chris Lang) this is what it looked like with the links now enabled.
hotmail disabled links

If you land in the Junk folder not only do you have all working content disabled but you also have the email’s body not shown as well. Also you only have 5 days to recover your Junk emails and then they are deleted forever. This is a screen shot of an HTML email that I subscribe to from dev shed. Since it landed in the junk folder there is no body at all. If it was in the inbox and I had not clicked the “Mark as Safe” link then the images would be grayed out.

hotmail junk folder

WOW! That’s pretty harsh doncha think? But that is how the email landscape rolls. AOL is doing pretty much the same thing in it’s web interface. I am looking forward to lots of comments as this article is going to be highly promoted so check back or follow the RSS feed for the comments.

The Bottom Line

The solution here is as always to give your subscribers some information that will help them to receive your mailings. This article inspired me to put together a new email whitelist generator with updated instructions for Hotmail, Yahoo!, Gmail and AOL.

The good news here is that when your subscriber clicks the “Mark as safe” link they are also adding your sending email address to their “Safe senders” list. You can find this list under the options link on the Hotmail toolbar on the far left. What I mean by “sending email” is that if you are sending your newsletter via an email autoresponder or the like Hotmail will add the actual sender’s email not just the from address which would be wrong in that case.

While the whole thing seems a little drastic the fact that the mark as safe link whitelists your future mailings is awsome. It used to be that just being in the address book of a Hotmail user whitelisted you but not any more.

Once again it will be up to us to educate our subscribers and encourage recipients to click the “Mark as Safe” links to enable our content in the welcome email. Also they must recover any initial email that lands in the Junk folder and “Mark as Safe” or “Show Content” and then mark as safe.

Hope this article helps! Enter your comments by clicking the comments link on the right! – Chris Lang


  1. Geff
    Posted July 23, 2007 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    In my opinion, the problem is that most Hotmail users are not real tech
    savvy, or they wouldn’t have stayed with Hotmail & will take
    the concept of the email being unsafe seriously.

    Unfortunately for me, Hotmail’s partner Return Path will not certify
    anyone on a shared server. What they don’t see is that for someone
    like me who is honest enough to admit I don’t have the security background
    to safely run a private mail server, I’m actually better off & so is the entire
    internet community having my site on a safe server run by professionals.

    Several months ago (a year??) when Hotmail changed their spam filters,
    they put up a blog asking for feedback. A number of people including
    myself commented that even newsletters where the sender was in the
    address book were not getting through, but lots of spam still made it.
    One day the blog just disappeared. I don’t think MS was happy that most
    of the 100’s of comments were negative.

  2. Posted July 23, 2007 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Email delivery is getting harder and harder these days.

    So many people are quick to hit the spam button these days because it is quicker than going through the unsubscribe options.

    Thankfully no matter what you do, marketing will never die.

    It is always aloive in one form or the other

  3. Posted July 24, 2007 at 3:59 am | Permalink

    Hi – I don’t use hotmail but am an AOL user. I don’t have an issue with clicking an “enable links and images” button. If I had to open 1,000 emails a day, then maybe my response would be different :O – I only read a couple of emails a day using my AOL mail client, so this isn’t a biggie.

    I know that it isn’t a completely foolproof solution to stop viruses, trojans, etc, reaching pcs; I certainly don’t want porno images appearing when I open emails – and I’d much rather have the ISP doing some of the work for me by protecting my sensitive eyes from such stuff.


  4. Posted July 24, 2007 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Oneway it is good because because of the possibility of this scenario: Say I have a list. I use double opt-in. After personA subscribes > he will receive a confirmation email. REMEMBER HE HAS TO click on ‘Mark as safe’ link to make the link in my email to click. Once he did that automatically all email from my server ends in his inbox as he marked my first email as safe (From email is authorized by the subscriber by clicking on ‘mark as safe’ link). Following emails from me, no need to click ‘Mark as safe’ by the subscriber. right?

    It just making the hotmail user to authenticate a sender in the initail state itself. Initial stages, it might little bit nuisence to the user, but I think its a good idea in long run …

    BTW, I subscribed to your mailing list!

  5. Posted July 24, 2007 at 12:54 pm | Permalink


    I can’t say that the email will always land in the inbox. Spam filter content and your reputation on Microsoft servers and other blacklists determine that. I can say for sure that your HTML images and hyperlinks will be enabled in any email in the inbox.

    Thanks for subscribing Radhika, – Chris Lang

  6. Posted July 24, 2007 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Well said Chris. Sometimes it becomes a Catch 22 situation. We try to mail useful information to our subscribers, so that they can enjoy, and remember us. If we don’t do it often ( and regularly), they forget us, and sending it regularly also creates the feeling that it is too much, too often. After all, the “safe” mailing frequency of each person varies. What is ‘regular’ for someone may be ‘too often’ for another, triggering the SPAM buttons.

    Most people subscribe to newsletters, and over a period forget about them. Not their fault though. We all get so many newsletters that it is difficult to remember if and when one subscribed to each one.

    Do you think “polling” subscribers at subscription time for ( How often would you like to get our newsletter – weekly/fortnightly/monthly), and setting different list/auto-responders for each one might help?


  7. Posted July 24, 2007 at 10:33 pm | Permalink


    I feel that polling subscribers at subscription time might be too early. Taking polls on various subjects as far as what the list is interested in and better yet what the list needs and has problems and questions about. Answering those questions solve the problems of delivery. You can email me every day if what you offer is what I need. – Chris Lang

  8. Posted August 15, 2007 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Hello – I really appreciate the work you put into this site so far. I will be sharing your site with some of my internet marketing colleagues today.


    Discover Internet Marketing Strategy Tips – Blog Site dedicated to Internet Marketing strategy, tips, tools, and advice!

  9. Posted April 4, 2008 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Images and links are now on by default in Windows Live Hotmail for messages from organizations subscribing to Return Path’s Sender Score Certified service, the deliverability concern announced today.

    Though images and links have been turned off by default in Windows Live Hotmail—the newest version of Microsoft’s free e-mail service—they have been turned on for Sender Score Certified mailers for several months, said George Bilbrey, general manager of Sender Score, Return Path’s delivery assurance unit.

    “When they released Windows Live Hotmail, they released it with this functionality built in,” he said. “It’s just to the point where now we’ve tested enough to make sure it works all the time.”

  10. Jennifer
    Posted October 24, 2008 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Hotmail is my “junk” email anyway. I use it strictly for newsletters, promos, that sort of thing and I don’t get a chance to check it all the time, so when I usually get to it, I often have 100-200 messages to go through. I’d really rather have the option to just ALWAYS SHOW ALL CONTENT for every message no matter what so I can just zip through them. If the email isn’t something I want, I’m perfectly capable of marking it as not safe/spam, but I’d rather just see the entire message when I go to it than have to click show content in order first in order to see if it’s something I need or not. It just adds an unnecessary step.

    It’s not like the fact that I CAN click on something means I will nor does forcing the user to click “show content” first mean that they won’t still be a dummy and click through something on the message afterward. Changes are great, but not when you aren’t given an option to choose whether or not you want them in your settings.

  11. Simon Pengelly
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    What I find incredible (either I’m missing something obvious or the system is bizarre) is that clicking on the “mark as safe” evaporates that message instantly. Surely “mark as safe” means that email from that sender is probably safe – therefore that one should have gone to the inbox.
    Can anyone say where that email goes?