Taking the plunge and moving away from your old ISP email? Follow our step-by-step guide to getting started with Gmail
These days most people have at least one email address, but yours might be an old one with an ISP that you want to move to a more modern service, or perhaps because you're moving internet providers and you're losing access to that old account.
Always go for webmail
It’s easy and free to set up a new email address with Gmail, which is a webmail account that lives in the cloud and which you can access from any computer, tablet or smartphone by logging into your account securely.
Prefer to speak to one of our friendly Which? tech advisers to guide you through creating an email address? Our friendly team are on hand to help you with one-to-one support. Find out more.
1. Create your new account
To create a new Gmail account, go to google.com/gmail and click the blue Create an account button at the top right of the page, and fill in your first name and surname, and then your preferred username, and then create a secure password.
On the next screen, fill in your mobile phone number. You'll be sent a code by SMS to your mobile phone that you fill in on the next screen. Click the blue Verify button, and on the next screen you'll be asked to fill in an email address that can be used as a backup if you lose access to the address you're creating now - this is optional, but it's a good idea if you have access to another email - and your date of birth and gender.
You'll be asked if you want to add your phone number for additional services, such as receiving video calls and messages, and making ads more relevant, but you can swerve that by clicking the Skip at the bottom left of that screen.
On the next screen, you'll be offered the choice of Express personalisation or Manual personalisation. The latter is longer, but we recommend clicking that so that you can choose how much data you want to share with Google. Once you've worked through those steps, you'll be asked to agree to Google's Privacy and Terms.
Once you've done that, you'll be taken to your new inbox. You'll be asked if you want to turn on smart features - we suggest you turn those on as they're useful, and you can always turn them off if you don't like them. On the next screen you'll be asked if you want to turn on Personalise other Google products - again, these features are useful so you might want to turn them on and see how you get on with them.
The downside of turning on those features, however, is that it offers Google much more information about you, and you might prefer not to share that data.
Your next step is to customise your preferences: click on the cogwheel icon in the top right-hand corner and you'll see some options appear on the right of the screen. You can experiment with those until you find the way you prefer your inbox.
To access more detailed settings, click See all settings at the top of the Quick settings pane. Again, you can experiment with those.
Turn on two-factor authentication
Although you've chosen a strong password, your email account should always have the extra protection of two-factor authentication. To turn that on, click your initial in the circle in the top right-hand corner and then click Manage your Google Account. In the next window, click Security in the bar above your name, and then scroll down to Signing in to Google.
In that pane, click 2-Step Verification and then click the blue Get Started button.
On the next screen you'll be asked to enter your password again, and then on the next window you'll see Let's set up your phone.
You can use your phone: if you choose this, you'll always be sent a code via SMS to your mobile phone when you sign in to confirm that it's you. Make sure that the phone number is right and that Text message is selected, and click Next. You'll be sent a code to your phone: type that in and when that's confirmed, you're all set.
To go back to your inbox, click the box of nine dots next to your initial in the top right-hand corner and click Gmail.
Once you've done all this, your email address is up and running. You can share it with people and send and receive email.
How do I choose an email address?
Up to a point, you’re free to make up whatever address you’d like. Typically, you use your own name, and the remainder of the address is provided by the email service itself.
For example, your new email address would be firstname.lastname@example.org if you chose to create a Google Gmail account.
However, a common name might already be taken, so you may need to add a number or a middle name to distinguish the new address as a unique one. You can’t create the same email address as anyone else in the world, even if they have exactly the same name as you!
The system will warn you if an email address is already taken, and it will suggest variants you can use instead.
What about choosing an email password?
It’s very important to set up a secure password for your email address, and it’s a bad idea to make it something that is to easy to guess.
While it’s unlikely that an individual will target your account, there are automated hacking systems that will attempt to hack email accounts en masse. Once they’re in, they can create mischief, such as sending spam emails.
We've got some tips on creating a secure password here, but, broadly, don't use something a hacker could easily guess, such as your pet's name, your place of birth, your favourite football team etc. A simple pass phrase made up of three or more words, such as "umbrella kitten pink", is easy to remember and much harder for the hackers' automated systems to crack.
Avoid using your own surname, your date of birth, the word ‘password’ or simple number combinations such as ‘12345’ or ‘0000’. All of these are easy to hack.
Learn more with our guide to creating secure online passwords