How to Choose a Free Email
The top performers in our review are Gmail, the Gold Award winner; Outlook, the Silver Award winner; and Yahoo Mail, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a free email service to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of nine services.
Email is a staple of our daily lives. It's one of the main things we use the internet for. Having a free email account at your disposal allows you to instantly communicate with friends, relatives and business associates. Nowadays, even if you tend not to correspond with others through email, you often still need a personal email address in order to log in to other services, such as online stores, banks, and social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Free Email Services vs. Paid Email Services
Free email services, of course, give you the ability to send and receive emails. Most free email services also provide features such as a calendar, instant messaging and mobile apps for your smartphone, among other features that can be beneficial for individuals and business employees.
It's usually not necessary to shell out the money for a paid service if you just want a personal email address to send and receive messages, but paid email services can be very beneficial for businesses – small and large. For instance, a paid email service gives a company custom email addresses for each employee that match the business name. Paid services may also offer more storage for each account, around-the-clock technical support, fewer outages than a free service may experience, and no ads along the sides of the inbox. You can learn more in our articles on free email services.
Free Email Services: What We Evaluated, What We Found
In our review of free email accounts, we looked at many factors that can make or break a service. Free email services do more than just sending and receiving messages these days. An email service should also provide many essential tools that can be beneficial for individuals and businesses alike in our busy daily lives. Overall, we determined that strong features, storage and composition tools are essential to the best free email services.
The features a free email address offers can determine the service that fits you the best. Most free email services offer features such as an address book, a search function, the ability to create folders and add a personal signature, a calendar, and even an instant messenger. The best free email services offer much more. They give you mobile apps, video chat, social media feeds, the ability to create a custom theme for your inbox and no ads.
Aside from the features a free email service offers, one of the most important things to consider is the amount of storage it provides. If you use your email a lot and archive everything you send and receive, you'd be well advised to get as much storage as possible.
If you only use a free email service to stay in touch with family and friends, you don't need as much storage. Some email services offer 1TB (1,000GB) of storage or even unlimited storage, while others only offer anywhere from 5GB to 25GB of storage. This is still sufficient if you don't archive everything and delete your read emails regularly, but you could use 1TB or more storage if you don't plan on ever deleting any emails or keep a lot of emails that have large files in your email, such as music or even movies.
If you're a heavy email user, you know that business and personal emails, newsletters, and offers pile up. It can be difficult to decide what email you need to read right now, what can wait and what you can just delete. The best email hosting services allow you to set up filters and folders to better handle the stream of incoming mail, and some even automatically sort emails based on your past habits.
The main purpose of having an email address is to stay in contact with people in your address book. However, while the composition tools may seem like basic features, they should not be taken for granted. It's important to look for a free email service that offers a text editor complete with spell check, as you may need to send professional-looking emails and will want to make sure they are polished. You should also be able to change your signature, font and indentation.
Most free email services have a text editor and spell check, but only a handful allow you to view attachments without downloading them first or write a new message in a pop-out window so you can easily reference another email. Our top two free email services – Gmail and Outlook – both offer a text editor with spell check, let you view attachments before downloading them, and let you draft a new email in a pop-out window.
Along with the composition tools, you should consider the attachment size limit. If you send emails with large attachments, such as videos, make sure you pick a free email provider that can handle the files you’ll be sending often. Most free email services have a max attachment size of 20MB to 25MB, while others can handle 50MB or unlimited megabytes.
What Else Is Important in Selecting a Free Email Service?
There can be a good deal of sensitive information stored in a free email address inbox, such as bank account numbers, social security data and tax return records. Therefore, keeping cybercriminals out of your inbox is crucial. The best free email accounts have several layers of security surrounding your information. Phishing filters, secure login procedures, image blocking and automatic download restrictions all provide a virtual fortress around your email.
Phishing filters help keep spam emails, which are designed to look like legitimate emails and try to get your sensitive and personal information, out of your main inbox and reroute them automatically to your spam folder. Secure login, image blocking and automatic download restriction provide even more security for your email inbox. The secure login encrypts your email password with HTTPS security. The image blocking helps block images that may contain viruses. Automatic download restriction makes sure attachments don't automatically download when you open an email, as some attachments can contain viruses.
Keep in mind that security is more than just protecting your personal information. It's also about protecting your computer. Secure email providers offer additional features such as virus scanners for attachments and spam filters to keep potential viruses and other malware off your computer.
Help & Support
Because our lives are so intertwined with our online services, not being able to access your email is a problem that needs to be solved immediately. The best free email services have help and support resources available, including password recovery services and customer service via email or phone.
Free Email Services: Our Verdict & Recommendations
Free email services are a great way to enhance your online experience or supplement your email account from your employer or another service. Because our email accounts are so heavily intertwined with all our online activity, the criteria we've determined are important parts of any free email service. The best free email services in our comparison are Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo Mail.
Gmail offers a plethora of features – the most of any free service in our comparison. Most importantly, it gives you video chat, a calendar, an instant messenger, and a mobile app to keep you connected to your email at all times. Additionally, Gmail offers a 25MB max attachment size, a handful of helpful composition tools and excellent email security.
Outlook gives you unlimited inbox storage and plenty of features, such as an address book, a search function, custom themes, video chat and an instant messenger. However, it doesn't offer suspicious activity check as a security feature, which would give your inbox added security by looking for scamming patterns in your emails and notifying you if it finds anything suspicious.
Yahoo Mail's most attractive feature is its 1TB inbox storage. It also offers just about any email feature you’d want such as an address book, a search function, a mobile app, a calendar and an instant messenger and more. However, it does not include video chat or social media feeds, and you do have to deal with inbox ads. Its composition tools are great aside from one drawback – no pop-out window when you compose a new email, which can be inconvenient when you need to refer to another message in order to write your new one.