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It's been a long time since I've played Diablo 2 on Battle.net. I know that characters can expire after a period of inactivity, but I believe they can still be retrieved for a while. How long do I have between character logins before they are permanently gone? Is there any hope of retrieving my very old characters?

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Alas, there is no hope: whole Diablo II Battle.net accounts expire after three months of inactivity.1 2 Once expired, the username is available for others, and your details are deleted in the next maintenance cycle. New B.net accounts need two hours of use in the first 48 hours to activate.

New characters need two hours of use in the first ten days to activate. Individual characters expire after 90 days of inactivity (not performing an in-game action).3 Technically, Blizzard can purge these characters at any time, but they have been lax4—expired characters are available on your account until another player recycles their names, or your D2 B.net account is deleted altogether.

expired characters5

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"Expired" doesn't mean "deleted", read the second paragraph of the page you've linked. –  kotekzot May 1 '12 at 17:58
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It's just as good as deleted since they're removed in regular maintenance. I explained this –  Sean May 1 '12 at 18:00
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You can have a character "Expire" but still have it on an active account. During this expiration period, any one can overwrite your character if they create a new one with the same name. You can always re-activate this character as long as no one else has overwrote yours, thereby reactivating it for use. It wasn't always this way, but it is how inactive characters are handled presently. –  Kotsu May 1 '12 at 19:38
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Yes, but not if your whole account is gone. I'll clarify –  Sean May 1 '12 at 20:39
    
This is horrible and makes no sense: what's the point of playing online if it's not really persistent? (Quake Live had the same problem) –  Lohoris May 11 at 19:45
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