We’ve been asked for this information repeatedly so we though it was time to reprint our research.
Most webmail users (i.e., nearly everyone with a pulse), at best, guess how long their dormant free email accounts are kept alive. (It’s important to define “dormant” in the sense of webmail accounts. Dormancy generally relates to login. Most webmail hosts, e.g., Yahoo, Gmail, AOL…, will reset the “scheduled removal” of unread email at regular intervals. This interval appears to reset if you simply login to your account,; you don’t have to necessarily read your mail.)
Mashable recently conducted a survey with the four major free webmail hosts, with the following responses to the question, “How long do webmail services keep an email account alive?”
Yahoo Mail – 4 months.
From Yahoo answers: “A Yahoo! account which hasn’t been logged in to over a 4 month period is called dormant account. Dormant accounts are de-activated at the end of four months.”
Gmail- 9 months.
“If you don’t log in to Gmail within three months of it being labeled dormant — or for nine consecutive months — GoogleGoogle reviews may delete the address.”
AOL Mail – 30 days.
“We reserve the right to cancel any free e-mail account that is inactive for more than 30 days, and any data on a deactivated account may not be retrieved later.”
Hotmail – 120 days.
“Free Windows Live Hotmail accounts become inactive if you don’t sign in for 120 days, or within the first 10 days after signing up for an account. After an account becomes inactive, all messages, folders, and contacts are deleted, but the account name is still reserved. If the account stays inactive for an additional 90 days, the account name may be permanently deleted. If you don’t use your Windows Live ID (The user name and password that you use to sign in to any Windows Live, MSN, or Office Live sites and services. If you have a Passport Network, Hotmail, or Messenger account, you can use it as your Windows Live ID.) for 365 days, your Windows Live ID may be permanently deleted.”