The best free email service will get you an address and place to send and receive messages, but also so much more. The right service can offer you personal email names to suit a business, or perhaps an account just for registering services where you don't want junk email. But wait, there's more!
The big name email providers like Google, Microsoft, Apple and beyond also offer lots of wider functionality. From calendars that link to your email to auto update when you accept an invite to video conferencing tools that link into that calendar automatically too. Then there is cloud storage, like the 15GB free you get with Google, or OneDrive that comes with Microsoft. Deep integration across smartphones, tablets and computers helps to make it a seamless experience no matter where you are.
These days every service will come with intelligent spam filtering as standard and useful warnings about potentially harmful emails. All that can leave you feeling safe and secure while using these best free email services.
Make sure you have the best web browser and a decent smartphone, tablet or computer to run the service on and you'll be able to enjoy all that is on offer, usually for free. But there are some services that charge for extra features too, like more storage or feature rich conferencing tools. By reading this guide you can decide if paying extra is something you need to do or if a free service will give you all you need.
The best free email services
1. Gmail: Best Free Email Service overall
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The joy of Gmail is in the way it’s embedded into the rest of Google’s vast ecosystem of services. If you’re using a YouTube account, Google Docs, or Google Drive, you can hop straight in and start sending and receiving mail. Of course, if you don’t use those services, then that might not mean anything to you.
With the ability to import social media contacts and built-in translation features, it’s an ideal way to keep in touch with friends and long-distance contacts alike, as well as excellent instant-messaging options via Google Hangouts (with a video chat option, too).
There’s also no inbox adverts, great virus scanning, and a 25MB attachment limit. The only real issue is how Google uses your data – when you get rid of spam emails, search your inbox, or even just open your emails, your data is sent anonymously to Google which they use for targeted ads. Something to consider, for sure.
- Read our full Gmail review
2. Outlook: Best for Windows and Office users
Microsoft’s web-based version of Outlook is excellent, offering an easy to navigate inbox, great folder support, and integration with the likes of Trello, Dropbox and more.
The calendar is one of the best around, and OneDrive is a great cloud storage solution. There’s also integration with Skype and Microsoft Teams for messaging and video chat, and if you’ve used a Hotmail, Xbox, or MSN Messenger account in the past, you’ll find setup almost instant.
You can also have Outlook read an email out loud for you via the ‘Immersive Reading Mode’, which also makes it easier to, well, read.
There is one major blemish to Outlook, though. Inbox advertisements tend to clash with the rest of its sleek aesthetic, sticking out like a sore thumb. There’s a premium version on offer that removes these, but they’re distracting enough for users to consider looking elsewhere.
Outlook also offers one of the best mobile apps you can find, and it works with other email providers.
- Read our full Outlook review
3. Proton: Best for anonymity
Proton’s email service is a little different to many providers. It’s barebones for the most part, with a very small (500MB) inbox limit – that’s only around 1200 messages. That said, they’re all encrypted. In fact, your sent emails are encrypted too, and will only be decrypted once they reach the recipient.
That encryption is a double-edged sword – while it means your ProtonMail account is protected by a secure password recovery process (preventing others from accessing your account), if you reset your password your entire account will be cleared. That means your inbox, outgoing mail, and even anything you were saving for later will be gone.
As a result of this, it’s ideal as a backup account to one of the larger, more fully-featured (but arguably less secure) email providers on this list for when you need to send secure mail.
- Read our full ProtonMail review
4. Yahoo Mail: Great for spam filter options
In case you thought that bullet point about storage was a typo, we can confirm that Yahoo Mail does in fact offer a whopping 1 TB of storage – that could be more than your home computer. The company reckons that’s enough for 6,000 years of emails.
There’s also a great folder system that allows you to find a pot for every email to go in, and one of the best spam filters we tested.
Unfortunately, as with Outlook there are adverts that take up a chunk of your inbox screen, while a few even crop up as ‘emails’ themselves. Those that like to book appointments will also struggle, since the calendar seems full of error codes and glitches.
That’s a shame, because for the most part, it’s a great looking email client with eye-catching themes and integration with Google Drive and Dropbox that allows for 2GB file sending. The spam filter is excellent too, and in our tests it caught and correctly identified all emails from sources of known misinformation as spam.
- Read our full Yahoo Mail review
5. iCloud: Best for Apple users
If you use an iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer, you’ll likely have some experience with some version of Apple’s Mail app. As far as the underlying email system goes, Apple’s is fairly robust.
The company is serious about privacy, while the app itself can handle plenty of other email accounts (if you can deal with a slightly obtuse setup process). If you are using one of Apple’s own accounts, you can opt for an @icloud or @me address, and send up to 5GB attachments using Mail Drop.
Outside of the app, using iCloud Mail on the web can be finicky, and we’d argue that even the stock iOS and MacOS apps look dated compared to their contemporaries.
Finally, if you use Apple’s suite of Microsoft Office-alikes, like Pages, Keynote, or Numbers, you’ll find all are integrated into the same account – ideal for collaborating on pieces of work, but of no real benefit if you’re already using Office365 (in which case, Outlook is the one for you).
- Read our full iCloud review
6. Mail.com: The best for personalized addresses
Go for Mail.com if you want to have a really unique email address that suits your task. From dr.com and chef.net to artlover.org and usa.com, there are lots of email address endings to suit plenty of needs making this a good choice for a start-up business, for example. But much like the other big name email providers this also offers an ecosystem of tools from word processing and spreadsheets to presentation software.
You also get 2GB of free cloud storage but with unlimited email storage and a whopping 50MB email attachment size support. You also get out-of-office email automation, rich-text formatting, flexible filters for custom folder forwarding and security checks. The free version offers a lot and the paid option gives you more storage and the ability to pull in other email addresses through this service.
What to Look For When Choosing a Free Email Service
Since you're already looking for a free email service the usual deciding factor of cost is out the window, so what's left to consider? A big factor is compatibility. Since most email services are part of a larger ecosystem of app offerings, if you're already using one or several of these then it will likely be easier to go with that email service too. Team Microsoft for Word and Excel? Then Outlook could be for you. Already using Google Calendar, Meet and Docs? It's Gmail you could benefit from.
After integration the next most important feature for many people is likely the availability of a decent email address you actually want, so check this out for something that suits. Then there is storage capacity, where unlimited email capacity is the ideal so you don't have to worry about deleting or clearing through emails, ever. Attachment sizes can be useful if they're larger but, equally, a decent amount of cloud storage, where you can just send links to those files, is also a helpful addition.
Spam filters are also important and while all services will offer these, some tend to work better than others so that's worth keeping in mind. Being backed by a decent app is also a useful feature as searching through emails, attaching files and integrating well with your smartphone are all important factors to keep in mind.