My adventures with Windows LIVE ID and Xbox LIVE gamertags

I recently had an interesting experience while trying to transfer an Xbox LIVE gamertag to a new Windows LIVE ID, and I decided to post what I learned from this process in the hopes that it will help others avoid this type of hassle in the future. 

If you don’t want to read the full story of what happened, here are my key takeaways:

  1. It is possible to create a gamertag with a Windows LIVE ID that has never had its email address validated, but it is not possible to move a gamertag associated with an un-validated LIVE ID to a new LIVE ID.  Before trying to move a gamertag to a new LIVE ID, make sure you log onto with the old and new LIVE IDs and validate the email addresses.
  2. It is easy to inadvertently create a gamertag for a Windows LIVE ID that doesn’t currently have a gamertag associated with it by logging into or the games hub on Windows Phone.  If you have a Windows LIVE ID that doesn’t have a gamertag that you are planning to move an existing gamertag to, make sure that you validate the email address for the LIVE ID on, but don’t log into because you might accidentally get a new gamertag assigned to it and then have to wait 30 days before you can get rid of that new gamertag.
  3. After changing the gamertag associated with the primary Windows LIVE ID being used on a Windows Phone, you’ll have to delete and re-download games and applications in order to be able to get gameplay data and achievements to upload to the new gamertag and to download updates for applications.

Here is the full story of what happened:

This story started more than a month ago when my wife got a new Windows Phone.  She used her Windows LIVE ID when setting up the phone.  However, I originally created her Xbox LIVE gamertag for her, and I associated it with a Windows LIVE ID that I had created a while ago to do so.  That meant that she could not use her gamertag on her new phone.

I found a set of steps that can be used to change the Windows LIVE ID associated with a gamertag, and I tried to follow those instructions on my Xbox 360 console.  However, I got an error message saying that I entered an invalid user name or password after I entered both LIVE IDs and passwords and clicked yes to confirm the change.  I backed up and intentionally entered incorrect passwords for each LIVE ID, and got error messages each time, so I knew I was entering correct passwords.

I decided to try to log onto with my wife’s LIVE ID to see if there was a different gamertag associated with it.  When I did so, I found out that there wasn’t a gamertag, but created one for me automatically when I logged in.  I knew I would have to get rid of that gamertag before I would be able to move her real gamertag onto her LIVE ID.  I created a new LIVE ID, recovered the newly created gamertag on my Xbox 360 console, and tried to change the LIVE ID on that gamertag to the new LIVE ID I just created.  Doing that gave me an error message saying that changing the LIVE ID associated with a gamertag can only be done once every 30 days.  I understand why this restriction is in place for automated changes, but I assumed there would be a way to override it if I talked to a support team member, so I tried to call Xbox support.  Unfortunately, this policy comes from the Windows LIVE ID service, and Xbox support does not have the ability to override the time limit.  To make matters worse, the Xbox support team and I couldn’t find a support contact for the Windows LIVE ID service, so I was stuck waiting for 30 days before I could try again to get rid of the newly created gamertag associated with my wife’s Windows LIVE ID.

After the 30 days were up, I tried again to move the temporary gamertag associated with my wife’s LIVE ID to a new LIVE ID so I could move her real one over.  When I tried to update the LIVE ID on my Xbox 360 console using the same steps as before, I got the same error about an invalid user name or password.  I logged onto with the new LIVE ID and got an error message saying that the email address associated with the LIVE ID had not been validated.  I made up an email address when I created that new LIVE ID, so I had to go back and create yet another new LIVE ID, this time with a valid email address.  Once I did that, I logged into with the LIVE ID, clicked the button to have it send me an email, then clicked the link in the email it sent me in order to validate the address.  After the email address for the LIVE ID was validated, I was able to move the temporary gamertag from my wife’s LIVE ID to this new LIVE ID.

Now that my wife’s LIVE ID once again had no gamertag associated with it, I tried again to move her real gamertag over to her LIVE ID.  Once again, it failed with the same error message, but my experience trying to move the temporary gamertag gave me an idea about what might be wrong.  This time, I tried to log onto with my LIVE ID that was associated with her gamertag, and it gave me an error saying that the email address associated with the LIVE ID had not been validated.  Once I went through the steps to validate that LIVE ID, I was finally able to move her gamertag over to her LIVE ID.

Once the process of moving her gamertag to her LIVE ID was complete, I wasn’t done.  I verified that the correct gamertag and avatar information appeared for my wife’s LIVE ID on my Xbox 360 console and on, but the old information still showed in the games hub on her phone.  I tried to use the refresh button in the games hub, and I tried to hard reboot her phone, but neither of them updated her gamertag or avatar information.  Finally, after waiting for a couple of hours, the correct information appeared in games hub.

I still wasn’t quite done though.  As an experiment, I tried playing one of the games that my wife had been playing during the 30 days we had to wait in order to be able to change LIVE IDs, and in the process, I earned a couple of new achievements for her.  The game didn’t show up in her games played list, and the achievements didn’t show up in her gamerscore either.  After asking around, I found out that I would have to delete and re-download the games in order to reset the progress that was saved on her phone and get the games to report gameplay and achievement data for her gamertag.  I did that, and her gameplay and achievement data started updating correctly for games she played on her phone.  There are still a couple of non-Xbox LIVE applications that she installed during that 30 day time window that she cannot download updates for because of this LIVE ID change, and I suspect that she will need to delete and re-download those as well in order to be fully up and running again on her phone.

Comments (21)
  1. Glenn Wilson says:

    This is going to come in handy, planning on doing the same.

  2. shea c says:

    This reminds me of a former co-worker who always managed to have something go wrong with pretty much anything that involved more than a few steps. Once we spent several hours trying to debug an issue that only showed up on his PC only to discover that he had replaced a default piece of software (adobe reader) with something else (foxit) that just happened to break on this one particular site. Another time we were trying to figure out why it took emails so much longer to reach him; turns out he was using IMAP (everyone else was using exchange) and our provider's IMAP server was crashing every few minutes.

    The part that reminds me of him is this: "I made up an email address when I created that new LIVE ID, so I had to…" It reminds me of him because creating a live id involves answering a few questions and I'll be damned if he didn't have a knack for choosing an oddball option that later resulted in something breaking. Why would you create a live id with an invalid ("made up") email address? It's an ID – if the email address didn't matter they wouldn't ask you to specify one when you created the live id.

  3. Hi Shea C – I ended up needing to make up an email address the first time because I ran out of valid personal email accounts that I could use, plus I knew I could create a new gamertag with a made-up email address, so I figured that I'd be able to transfer a gamertag with that type of address as well.  I only intended for the LIVE ID that I was creating to be used to offload the temporary gamertag that I accidentally created, so I didn't need to use it for any real purposes that might have been impacted by the validity of the email address.  In the end, I needed to create a new free-mail account that I could use for this LIVE ID.

  4. Nick Jackson says:

    Wait, are you saying you've found a solution to this problem:…/windows-live-id-s-and-gamertags and…/impossible_to_recover_xbox_live_gamertags_linked_to_deleted_windows_live_ids2 ??! If so, please contact me on twitter @nickjackson!

  5. Hi Nick Jackson – No, I don't think this is what happened in my scenario.  From what I was able to tell, all of my Windows LIVE IDs were still considered to be active, but a couple of them had never been verified by having the system send an email to the registered email address.  When the LIVE ID is in that state, you cannot move a gamertag associated with that LIVE ID to another LIVE ID, but the error message when you try to change a LIVE ID in these conditions is misleading and doesn't let you know what the real problem is.

  6. brandon says:

    how do i get on windows live cause it keeps saying it wrong my windows live id but its right though

  7. Hi Brandon – Where exactly are you trying to log into Windows LIVE when you get this error message?

    One of the issues that I ran into is that if your gamertag is associated with a Windows LIVE ID that hasn't been validated, if you try to change the LIVE ID on your Xbox 360 console, it will tell you that the password is wrong, when actually the problem is that the LIVE ID hasn't been validated.  If that is the case in your scenario, you should be able to go to, log in with the unvalidated LIVE ID, click the button to have the site send you an email to validate the LIVE ID, then follow the instructions in the email it will send you to validate the LIVE ID.

  8. CoffeeAddikshun says:

    In your experience with changing a current gamertag to a new windows live ID, were you able to access your previous achievements?  How about other things like map pack downloads?  I want to change my windows live ID and maintain my current gamertag because my email address linked to my current windows live ID was deleted after it got hacked.  Now it won't let me sign in on my PC to the current windows live ID.  I just don't want to create a new one to link to and lose all my progress (over 12 years).

  9. Hi CoffeeAddikshun – When I made the changes described in this blog post, they were for my wife's account.  She did not lose any gamer score that was associated with her gamertag.  I don't believe the DLC should be affected when making this type of change, but she didn't have any downloadable content, so I don't know for sure if that was affected.  If you have any doubts, I'd suggest contacting Xbox support before making any changes just in case.

  10. sarah says:

    Hi, this is too long and complicated. Try editing this and making it more readable.

  11. Hi Sarah – I'm sorry that you found it too complicated.  I tried to separate it into a short summary at the top and more details later on, so if you want to skip the details you can just read the top section.  Also, if you have any specific questions about any of the information in this post, please let me know!

  12. Live ID hater says:

    This Windows live ID linked with a gamer tag is probably the worst thing to ever be created. I have made my ID, and clicked yes to make a gamer tag. made the gamer tag, and now when ever i try to play darksouls i get the same message. The provided windows live ID is not associated with a gamer tag. When i click yes to create another one it takes me to my current gamer Tag.

    I truly hope who ever implemented this system of requirements to play a game online got fired, with out a severance package.

  13. Xbox live headache says:

    I've owned an xbox 360 since launch and we now have 2 consoles on the LAN, family live membership, 2 windows phones. Its way too complicated. Microsoft insisted on giving the kids new email addresses, passwords that are now too long and hard to remember, alternative email addresses, parent approval email address, regular security checks and they still need to sign in to my account to play some games bought from live. Its a lot less hassle to network the laptops for multiplayer than xbox consoles. We are Seriously considering PS4 for next gen. At least MS finally got rid of the ghastly points instead of proper currency.

  14. Susan Skinner says:

    I have been given a new gamertag name – did not ask for one, now cannot access my old gamertag and have lost all my achievements for the month, how do I get my old gamertag name and achievements back, does anyone no???

  15. Hi Susan Skinner – I'd suggest contacting Xbox support for this type of issue.  You can find contact information at

  16. lucky says:

    I red new window live ld

  17. Hi Lucky – You can visit to sign up for a new Windows Live ID.

  18. Jason copsey says:

    Nice work Aaron! For all you people commenting that he should make this simpler or he did something wrong please be advised that he is.  And the system let him do something wrong,  I've been dealing with ms for nearly 20 years professionally and this is utterly typical of their underlying systems.

    I have the same type of problem and put a call in with xbox support (I pay for this service so why not) and have yet to receive a response from the next team along it was escalated to.  Let's not forget that during this time there may be something that is not being delivered that we've paid for ( pin my case a season pass under my "correct" live I'd and I'm trying to move my gamer tag with my gold subscription to it) so I can't play the extras offered in the season pass online .  It's just always too complicated when dealing with anything Microsoft.

    I've always been a supporter of the way in which xbox looked after the online aspect but it's quickly losing out to the PSN (now they charge for it I think it's a better service).

    Arbitrary 30 days? 7 would be plenty.

    I just wanted to post here and thank you Aaron for trying. (I do the same where someone tries to help with software assurance subscriptions or MSDN volume licensing nonsense)!  All of which have a common underlying denominator – MS.

    I think that with an "owner" for each task that it's possible to perform within the MS world theywould  stand a chance of correcting these types of problems but they really are many separate parts which do not make a better whole.

  19. Bizo900 says:

    3 years later and all of this still holds true. I currently have 1 more week to wait because I logged into with my new Live ID without knowing that it would automatically create a Gamertag. It's an extremely asinine process that should be simplified. Seems like the best way to solve the issue would be for to stop automatically creating Gamertags.

  20. Akash kawadeti says:

    I Am make a email account do not match

  21. Joe Morgan says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have tried unsuccessfully on multiple occasion to migrate my Live Id for my old gamer tag and have met with the 30 day limit twice do to the complexity of this swap. I think it might be a handy upgrade for Xbox to make an improvement in this process.

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