We all juggle a lot of online accounts these days. From streaming subscriptions, to multiple email addresses, to accounts for movie theatres, airlines, and restaurants — if it has a website, you likely have an account for it. If you’re like me, you hardly use most of these accounts, if you use them at all. Even still, you should probably sign into them every now and then.
Inactive accounts can be a huge headache
Use me as a sad example: Years ago, I set up a Google account for the sole purpose of opening a YouTube channel to host the videos my friends and I made together in high school. I figured it was a great way to keep them somewhere safe and reliable, where we could all access and watch them wherever and whenever we wanted. After all, YouTube isn’t going anywhere, right?
Well, come to find out, for some reason, all of these videos have been set to private. Weird, but no problem. I can log into the account and flip the videos back to unlisted. I have my password saved in my iCloud Keychain, so that shouldn’t be an issue.
After correctly entering the password, however, Google asked me to verify the account via email, since this is the first time I’ve logged into the account from this computer. Again, no problem; the email address is an old Microsoft Live account I made, but I have the password to that saved as well. I go to Microsoft’s site to login, and…the account no longer exists.
Unbeknownst to me, Microsoft deletes “inactive” accounts that haven’t been logged into for two years. I suppose mine fell into this category, since my Live account is, er, no longer alive. Two years might sound like a long enough time to sign into an email account, but I usually have no reason to, since I only created it to establish that YouTube account.
So, now I’m left to deal with Google, and to somehow prove that my account, which is tied to a now-defunct, non-Google email address, is really mine. Pray for me.
Sign into your accounts to avoid unwanted deletion
The lesson here is that it’s worth signing into all of your various accounts every now and then, even if you don’t think you need the service they provide at the time. Giving the company a heads up, that, “Hi, yes, I’m still here; please don’t delete this” can make sure you don’t end up on the chopping block.
You don’t need to do this often. The span of time companies wait before deleting accounts is usually quite long. If you sign into a Microsoft account, you’re set for the next two years; Dropbox gives you one year; Twitter sets the cap at 6 months. It might be worth researching your various services’ inactive account policies to find out how often you need to sign into them.
And don’t ignore any notices you receive about account deletion, either; usually, companies will let you know you’re coming up on their deadline, and alert you that you simply need to sign in to keep your account in good standing. Of course, if the account in question is (or is tied to) an email address you never use, you likely won’t receive those notices. So if you want to make sure you maintain a connection to all of your accounts, sign into them once every six, 12, or 24 months. You never know when you’ll suddenly need to get back in, and you want them to be there when you do.