Windows Live Mail Contacts – Operating Modes



  An explanation of the two different types of Contact operating modes in Windows Live Mail
  The two different modes are  Default (Offline)  or Live ID (Online)

Operating Modes:

  • Default (Offline) mode
  1. No Live ID sign on
  2. The Default contact database is locally and solely stored on the user’s machine
  3. Contacts are only accessible in Windows Live Mail (WLM)
  4. No synchronization with web interface
  5. Accessible by configuring WLM to ‘Stop Signing In’

    Version 2011 – WLM Button/Options/Mail/<Connection tab>/<Stop signing in>

Optional Keyboard method – Alt F O M <Connection tab>/Stop signing in>

 – use keystroke Control+Tab to navigate to the Connection tab

    Version 2009 – WLM Menu/Tools/Options/<Connection tab>/<Stop signing in>

  • To ensure operation in the ‘Default/Offline mode’ use the ‘Stop signing in’ option and  thereafter when opening WLM (if prompted to sign on) click ‘Cancel’


  • Live ID (Online) mode
  1. Live ID sign on to Windows Live (is required)
  2. Live ID Contact database is stored locally and also online (
  3. Accessible in WLM and the web interface (; IM (Instant Message) contacts are also accessible in Windows Live Messenger (WLMsgr)
  4. Database synchronization occurs between WLM and the web interface
  5. Synchronization is in both directions(changes made in WLM or online impact the other)
  6. Accessible by configuring WLM to ‘Sign in’  to Windows Live

     Version 2011 – WLM Button/Options/Mail/<Connection tab>/<Sign in>
     Version 2009 – WLM Menu/Tools/Options/<Connection tab>/<Sign in>

  • Contacts are unique to a given Live ID used to sign on to Windows Live in WLM
  • Use of a different Live ID to sign on to Windows Live affords the opportunity for a different set of contacts (thus one can switch to a different set of contacts by signing on with a different Live ID)




  • Locally stored contact databases and contacts are accessible by WLM but not Windows Explorer
  • ‘Sign on’ is to Windows Live, (i.e. one does not sign on to WLM, it only provides the ability to sign on)
  • ‘Sign on’ is not required to send or receive mail in WLM for email accounts using Pop3, IMAP, or Http protocol
  • ‘Sign on’ is not required to send or receive for Hotmail type accounts (,, or
  • ‘Sign on’ does ensure your contacts are always accessible and backed up(online)
  •  Do not confuse working Offline (disconnected from the internet) or Online (connected to the internet) with WLM’s two different Contacts’ modes
    • Default/Offline [No Live ID sign-in]
    • Live ID/Online [Live ID sign-in to Windows Live]
      • If  not using a Live ID to sign-in to Windows Live, your contacts are stored and only available Offline!

  • For a technical overview of  WLM’s Contacts database see –> Windows Live Mail – Contacts Database

Known Issues:

  • WLM’s ‘Backup’ option is only capable of exporting or importing one email address field per contact of the four available email address data fields (Personal, Other, Work, IM) when exporting to/importing from a CSV (Comma Separated Value) file thus use of the Live ID (Online mode) is recommended  to ensure all email fields’ data is retained (stored on the Live servers)
  • WLM’s ‘Backup’ option does not export or import Categories (formerly called Groups in prior Microsoft email clients). Use of the Live ID (Online mode) is recommended to ensure Category data is retained (stored on the Live servers)

Dec 27, 2010: Original Draft Date
Jan 30, 2011: Orginal Published Date
Feb 10, 2011: Added link to Windows Live Mail – Contacts Database

About Winston
Microsoft MVP

8 Responses to Windows Live Mail Contacts – Operating Modes

  1. Pingback: Windows Live Mail – Contacts Database « The Field Guide

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  3. Iesha Mowen says:

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  4. Ronc says:

    Thanks Winston. This post will be referenced often


  5. Winston says:

    Thanks for the comment. You’re welcome. I’m often asked ‘Where are Windows Live Mail contacts stored ?’ If an at-length technical explanation on that topic is your cup of tea…also see ‘Windows Live Mail – Contacts Database’


  6. George Van Noy says:

    I found your site and good information by desperation. However, I still do not understand from you explanations elsewhere or here how to actually import a csv contact file nor export one for use say in gmail.

    Plus what if I want to do something simple, like delete a contact. I can find no way to do so in WLM11.

    Stating that the WLM button: options menu: mail allows this seems to lead to many options but not these.

    If you know how to do these simple and essential tasks, please let us know.



    • Winston says:

      Hello George,
      The purpose of this blog entry was to inform users on the two differrent operating modes available for Contacts in WLM. It was not intended to be a primer on how to manage (add, edit, delete, import, or export ) contacts. The reference in the ‘Known Issues’ section is applicable to either mode and the noted limitations are included since many users regardless of operating mode may wish to archive (‘Backup’) a local copy of their their contacts using WLM’s provided options found on the Contacts module.

      Fyi…To access the Contact module in WLM, click on the Contacts icon/shortcut at the bottom of the folder pane (directly below your mail or news accounts). Five (5) shortcuts are present – Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Feeds, and Newsgroups. The Contact module has its own unique ribbon. All available contact management commands are found on that ribbon’s Home tab.

      Here’s a link to the picture of the Contacts Home tab

      An overview (pictures with a short summary) of all the available menus for each of the five (5) modules, including the Contacts module, can be found on an earlier blog entry:
      Windows Live Mail 2011 – Ribbon GUI

      For help importing a WLM created *.csv file into your GMail account;s web interface, you’ll have to reference GMail Help and/or Support since that is beyond the intended scope of this article though iirc, those options are can be found in the GMail web UI Contacts section – Contacts/More Actions/.

      Thanks for the feedback. Hope the above helps to alleviate some of your desperation 🙂


  7. JD says:

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