Yesterday I set up an unregistered account to ask one question on a site in which I am not a member of. I want to make it clear that I am not interested in merging the two accounts. I am not interested in rep. I only wanted some information. After many hours of silence, someone commented on my post but since logging out I cannot log in to my unregistered account.

I checked my second email address, the one I used to set up the unregistered account and saw I received a notification from SE asking me to confirm my email address but when I clicked on the link and followed instructions the log in still failed, the error message reads

The complete signup link you just used is incomplete.

Please try signing up again. If you're still having trouble, contact support.

Here is another error message

Could not complete signup - email address was not verified. Please try signing up again.

If you're still having trouble, contact support.

I visited the following page How can I log in into my not-registered SO account? and followed the instructions supplied by @Michael Mrozek

It is as long as you provided a valid e-mail address when you posted the answer. Go to the Account Recovery page and give it the e-mail address of the account you want to recover. You'll get an e-mail that has a link that will give you a new cookie for that account. Since unregistered accounts are entirely cookie-based, you'll need to do that every time you get logged out (so it really is saner to just register it if you're going to be using it long-term)

That answer was posted in Mar 17 '11 , so maybe things have changed since then? But what did I do wrong? By the way, I have not deleted my browser history or any of the cookies.

  • Is this a bug? Is this normal? Yes, in the meantime I have contacted support but I would like to know what did I do that was wrong?

  • Furthermore, doesn't this experience help explain why so many unregistered users never return to accept an answer, reply to comments or edit their posts. How many unregistered users give up on the first hurdle?

P.S I don't think this question is a duplicate of this because I carefully followed the instructions, but somewhere I messed up.


I received a response from Stack Overflow Community (by the way, why is it Stack Overflow and not Stack Exchange?) saying

We've reset the account for your email address, please try completing the registration process again and let us know if it doesn't work.

But when I logged out and tried to log in using my second email address, this is still the error message I get.

enter image description here

And I cannot log on using my second email address because it requires a password, which I don't have.

I have replied to support thanking them for their help but explaining that the situation is more complicated than I originally thought. We'll see what happens.

Trying to recover my unregistered account

I tried the recovery process using the same browser (seems that was a mistake) and SE gave me the opportunity to create a new account, which is what I didn't want. It seems the only solution is to ask SE to merge it with this current account, which I don't want.

enter image description here

  • You did use a different browser? Not the same one you are using with your current account? Just checking if I got the right picture of what you have tried.
    – rene
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 10:48
  • @rene the same browser, Chrome. I checked my browser history and the page is still listed from yesterday. Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 10:54
  • If you deleted/lost the cookie used to post (not login) that question, it's not possible to post again using this same "account". If you'll login, it will be auto merged with your existing account anyway. Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 10:55
  • Okay, that is unfortunate. Since that 2011 post, we got Universal Login and that did no longer allow for having two different accounts in the same browser instance. IIRC, If you have an unregistered account (cookie based) then it will either try to merge it in your current account or it will overwrite the cookies of the unregistered account with the cookies (read: session) of your registered account. If you want two accounts to work, use two separate browsers.
    – rene
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 10:58
  • @ShaWiz How could I have deleted the cookie if the page still shows up in my browser history. To be clear, I do not want to merge the two accounts. I just wanted to post a question anonymously, get the answer(s), upvote, leave a comment and then never return again. Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 10:59
  • On top of this: I'm not sure if cookie-based accounts where you lost the cookies from are recoverable.
    – rene
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 11:01
  • @rene sob! Two separate browsers? Are you sure? Using a different email address from my main one made no difference? Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 11:02
  • @Mari-LouA I'm afraid not. More users were impacted by that and it also took them by surprise. Maybe to be 100% sure you could raise a ticket via the contact us page.
    – rene
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 11:04
  • see also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/260153/… and I have a somewhat technical explanation about what happens when you login: meta.stackexchange.com/a/312956/158100 and about the cookie here and here
    – rene
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 11:05
  • @rene :( Ahh, FFS. Bugger. And the question was rather good too, perhaps a bit too long, so I wanted to clarify a point or two. Miaow! [grumpy cat face] Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 11:09
  • @rene I did indeed contact support. I don't suppose you could post an answer, I'll accept it. Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 11:12

2 Answers 2


With the introduction of Universal Login using different accounts for different sites in the SE network from the same browser became a no longer supported scenario. It never was supported in Global Auth (the login feature that pre-dated Universal Login), it just happened to work.

With Universal Login there is only one so called cookie associated with your account (it doesn't matter if the account is registered or not) for all Stack Exchange sites (technically for the top-level domains, aka *.stackexchange.com). A webbrowser will store the cookies once. It doesn't keep them separated for different pages.

If you want to create a new account and keep it separate at all costs from your current account you have to make sure that the cookies don't get mixed up. If you do you either end up with an account merge or with an abandoned account if the cookies get lost. Looking at the info you provided I presume you lost the cookies to that account and with that access.

To make sure these mishaps don't happen follow in the future any of these strategies:

  • use a completely different browser
  • use the private mode of your browser
  • use the User profile feature of Chrome

For example: My main browser nowadays is Chrome but when I need to login with my second account, KennyBOT, I start Firefox and login there. Just so no mishaps can occur, both technically and functionally.

Some technical background on the cookies and single-sign-on stuff:


Could not complete signup - email address was not verified.

This error message is simply misleading. It actually means that you already have a registered account. Even if all the profiles on that account were previously deleted, the credential still exists, and thus you are not allowed to create another account with the same email address.

The confusing error message itself comes from the fact that it's a catch-all for any failed credential registrations, irrespective of why it failed, despite pretty much all of the cases being that a credential already exists.

The only way to fix it is through support, where we either merge the unregistered account into the registered account, or simply delete the credential so that it can be registered again (we only do this if we're unable to locate the old network account).

As well, the quote you mention in the question is completely invalid now and it hasn't worked that way in a very, very long time. There is no way to regain access to an unregistered account once you've lost the cookie outside of either registering it fully or merging it into an already-registered account. There is no "cookie renewal" process for them.

  • Thanks for responding. I found the question I linked to via Search, should it still remain open? Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 17:24
  • So there is a possibility that support can hitch me up the unregistered account? I would really prefer not to merge it with the one, and only one account I have here. BTW only one comment posted, upvoted twice and 18 views in 24 hours so far. I'd like the opportunity to edit to lighten the content, or at least respond to that one comment. Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 17:26
  • I got a response from Support but the problem persists, the message I receive is The complete signup link you just used is incomplete I think the problem lies in the fact I didn't mention I already had an account on SE. I didn't know it would be relevant seeing as I didn't and still don't want to merge the two accounts. I have replied to support clarifying my situation and my request not to merge the two accounts. (This is all so complicated) Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 17:51
  • @Mari-LouA You'll need to request a new link via the recovery system, because that link is very likely invalid now (another catch-all error that covers a few things, including InvalidToken). A recovery email should ask you to set up a password for that email address, but it may create a registered account for it rather than registering the unregistered account. If it does, you can just reply with the link and we can merge them together. Your other account should be irrelevant since it uses an entirely different email address.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 17:55
  • But I've already posted a reply to support. I didn't know I had to ask for "a new link via the recovery system". Do I send a brand new request or a follow up? Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 18:07
  • @Mari-LouA Just use the forgot password system from the login page - those don't ever go to support. It's a completely automated system.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 18:14
  • But I never had a password when I posted as an unregistered user. And I had already done that before contacting support in the first place. This is quite quite confusing. Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 18:18
  • @Mari-LouA Right, our recovery system is dual purpose. If you aren't actually registered yet, rather than just giving you a dead-end and saying you're not registered, it gives you the option to actually register instead. Alternatively, you could just register an account with that specific email address and ignore the unregistered account, but that process guarantees you'll need us to merge it afterwards. Using recovery allows that unregistered account to get connected in the process under certain circumstances.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 18:21
  • But doesn't registering mean merging two accounts, if I understood rene's answer correctly? I don't want to ignore the unregistered account, I would like to respond to a comment that was posted underneath the OP and maybe fix/improve the original post. I'll try the recovery process... I'm not confident it will work. I hope I'm wrong. Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 18:26
  • @Mari-LouA Presumably you are doing this in a separate browser or incognito window? Definitely don't play with this in the same browser where you're already logged into this account - that can be very dangerous. But if you are incognito, there's zero chance your accounts would get connected together.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 18:27
  • I tried. The recovery process didn't work. SE wants me to set up a new account. I do not want a new account. You didn't say I had to be incognito, and you didn't say I had to use a different browser. Rene's answer mentioned all this but I was following your guidance. For today, I have now officially given up. Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 18:44
  • @Mari-LouA You do need to set up a new account for that email address. Then the system will either merge it with the unregistered account, or you'll need to ask us to do it. There's just no way around that odd process.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 18:50
  • Oh, so I do have to set up a new account and then ask support to merge it with the older (unregistered) account? What??! That's crazy. Not worth it. I'll copy and paste the original post and post it another day, maybe in six to eight weeks :) Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 18:55

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