[tl;dr – If your pinned Hotmail stops working, you need to fix your shortcut.]
I love the IE9 Pinned Sites feature. Love it. I find it really convenient to have my most often used sites just right there on the taskbar next to DebugView, Remote Desktop, and Visual Studio. And the jump lists these pinned apps/sites provide are real time savers. Except when they stop working.
Every few months, my pinned Hotmail stops working. It either brings me to a 404, or redirects me back to the main Live ID login page. I hate repeatedly logging in. And I hate it when my time saving pinned site stops working. So I dug in.
When you pin a site (or app) to your taskbar, a shortcut gets created in your %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\TaskBar folder. This is a plain text file that’s basically just an INI file. Let’s look at a snipped of my Hotmail pinned shortcut:
[InternetShortcut] Comment=Hotmail URL=http://bl150w.blu150.mail.live.com/ IDList= IconFile=http://gfx1.hotmail.com/mail/w4/pr04/ltr/mfavIE9.ico IconIndex=1 ...
The problem here is the URL parameter. This URL is where my mailbox currently is accessed in this particular datacenter. For whatever reason (load balancing?), every few months you’ll notice that your URL changes. This is totally to be expected when you’re dealing with a massively scalable service (thank you, Captain Obvious). But there is the problem, and what I ran into – when your URL changes then it’s Game Over for your pinned shortcut.
The fix? Easy: modify this shortcut to simply point to mail.live.com:
That’s it. Really. Yes, this is a pain. And it’s pretty trivial for the Hotmail team to fix this themselves by simply hardcoding the msapplication-starturl to mail.live.com:
<meta name="msapplication-starturl" content=http://mail.live.com/ />
Hopefully this will be fixed someday. But until it is, you gotta fix it yo damn self.