Don’t feel left out if everyone you know is already emailing – we show you how to get set up with an email address for the first time, without having to spend a thing.
An email address is unique to you – you alone can see the emails that are sent to it. You log into your email account securely with a password that you create.
You can access the same email account on a computer, tablet or phone, and log into it anywhere in the world. With webmail, which we'll discuss below, everything is kept 'in sync', so changes on one device are reflected when you log in to your email account on another one.
Always go for webmail
It’s easy and free to set up a new email address. The best way to do this is to set up something called a webmail account. This is a type of email account that you can access from any computer by logging into your account securely.
We recommend going for webmail every time - avoid setting yourself up with an email address provided by your broadband company instead, as this effectively ties you in to using their service when you may one day wish to switch.
Typical webmail services include Google’s Gmail (gmail.com) and Microsoft’s Outlook.com (outlook.com). They’re both reliable, free choices.
The great thing about webmail is you can access your emails from any device by logging in securely. You're not tied to using just one computer. Webmail works extremely well on smartphones and tablets - Gmail and Outlook.com have their own free apps, or you can connect a webmail account to the built-in email app on a tablet or smartphone with a few simple steps.
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Should I use a free email address from my internet provider?
Please don't. When you join a broadband service (ISP), you're often offered a free email address (eg firstname.lastname@example.org).
Though this can be straightforward to set up, it can end up locking you into a broadband relationship you may not want to stay in forever. When the time comes that you'd like to change providers, you may not be able to keep your email address. Or, you may need to pay to keep it.
Webmail, as mentioned above, is a far more flexible solution. Stick to Gmail or Outlook.com and you can't go far wrong.
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 email@example.com if you chose to create a Google Gmail account.
However, a common name may 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 even 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.
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.
At the same time, don’t choose a password so complex that you’ll never remember it! Pick something that’s unique to you, and combine letters and numbers or symbols to make it harder to crack.
Learn more with our guide to creating secure online passwords