We spent 120 hours testing 16 free email services, narrowing our list to the eight services we believe are the best options. These services have sufficient inbox storage and tools to make it easy to send, receive and store messages.
Gmail is our top pick because it’s the easiest to use and comes with the most services, including access to Google Calendar, an attachment preview, automatic spam filters and direct import of social media contacts into its address book. But there are a number of great options – you'll find our pick of the best free email services below.
Do you need a VPN to protect your email?
Your email account contains a lot of personal information, from details about your work to where you live, who your friends and family are, where you shop and more. If it's hacked, it can quickly lead to serious problems like identity theft, which could have huge financial implications.
The easiest and most secure way to keep your email safe is with a virtual private network service (VPN). These encrypt your emails and help you stay anonymous online – and they're becoming increasingly popular. They’re a particularly good idea if you’re using public Wi-Fi to send emails (at a hotel or cafe, for example) where anybody could read what you're writing if it isn't encrypted.
We think the best VPN service is ExpressVPN. It's fast, offers superb security, and it's very easy to use. But if you're not sure which one is right for you, take a look at our best VPN service guide, where you'll find plenty of advice.
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Gmail has all the tools and features you need for an email account, including 15GB of inbox storage space, a 100-per-day limit on sent messages, and no inbox ads to interfere with navigating the program. Along with an email address, Gmail also gives you automatic access to many of Google’s other services, such as Drive, Calendar, Maps and Google Plus. You can also use Google Translate within Gmail to translate messages in other languages.
You can attach files up to 25MB and upload more than one at a time. Once they are attached, documents and images are displayed as thumbnails, so it’s easy to verify you’ve attached the correct files. When you receive attachments in an incoming message, these, too, are displayed as thumbnails so you can preview and sure they are safe to download to your computer.
Gmail keeps your inbox safe by automatically identifying and sending spam messages to a spam folder. It also has virus scanning and phishing blocks, so you know the messages you’re getting don’t have hidden threats attached to them.
Best for Spam Blocking
Yahoo Mail takes extra steps to keep your account secure by automatically enabling spam filters and directing messages into the spam folder. It also recognizes some junk mail and will place these items in the trash bin rather than your primary inbox. Another positive feature our testers liked is the sender block, which lets you add an email address to a black list. Rather than redirecting emails from these senders into the spam or trash folders as other email services do, Yahoo Mail blocks these messages entirely.
Yahoo Mail does have a fair number of ads that border your inbox, and some sponsored ads are inserted into the message lists so they look like legitimate emails. These aren’t too difficult to ignore, but they do cause some initial confusion and may make it harder to navigate your inbox.
Yahoo Mail gives you 1 terabyte of inbox storage (enough to hold 20 million email messages) before you must delete some to receive more messages. You also have a daily sent-message limit of 500 emails – five times more than most free email services allow, but less than Gmail. The Yahoo Mail app is also easy to use, with the same features available as the online account.
Best for Email Encryption
ProtonMail is a basic email service that is easy to set up because it doesn’t ask for any personal information. You just pick a user name and password, and you’re set. Be aware that some features – such as mail collection and the ability to sync across multiple devices – are only available with its paid email service. But the free version does have email encryption, which is important if you send messages with sensitive information you want to protect. ProtonMail automatically unencrypts the message when it reaches the recipient’s inbox and is opened.
To further protect your messages, ProtonMail has a secure password recovery process. Although you can reset your password if you forget your old one, ProtonMail won’t allow access to the messages you received in your inbox or saved in folders before you reset your password. This means you will lose all emails, both sent and received.
ProtonMail lets you attach multiple files at once to outgoing messages, up to the maximum attachment size of 25MB. Once they’re attached, you can’t preview the files without downloading and opening them again. You also have only 500MB of inbox storage, which is enough to hold about 1,200 messages.
Best Email for Mac
iCloud Mail is the official email service from Apple and is designed to be accessed easily from any Mac computer or mobile device, though you can send and read messages from Windows computers, too.
We learned that it takes a lot of steps to set up and verify an iCloud account and it isn’t easy. But the email program itself is impressive as it automatically saves contact information to your contact folder as messages are opened or sent. You can create alias email accounts and view them all in a single inbox and write automated reply messages for when you can’t return messages right away. We were really impressed with how fast our images and documents attached to outgoing messages using iCloud Mail, much faster than most services we tested. But you can’t preview these files once they’ve been attached.
Best for Home Businesses
Zoho Mail is part of a group of free services from Zoho that are designed for small businesses, especially if you have a home-based business or are a sole proprietor.
Programs include a calendar, contact manager, expense tracker and project reports that all sync together so you can see and manage your entire business from your email inbox. When you send or receive any messages from clients, Zoho Mail automatically makes a note of it in the CRM. And it will remind you of meetings or follow-up messages you need to send after checking the Zoho Calendar. One good feature is you can redirect email from other email services into your inbox so you don’t have to check messages in each individual account. And because Zoho has unlimited inbox storage, you won’t have to worry about running out of space. One feature the service doesn’t include is the ability to import contacts from social media sites, so you’ll have to manually enter each one. Or you can import them into either the Zoho ContactManager or Zoho CRM that will sync with your inbox and give you access to this information.
Why Trust Us?
While Top Ten Reviews has been evaluating free email services for 12 years, our testers have been familiar with email programs for much longer. To update our recommendations, we spent 120 hours using and testing 16 free email services.
One tester used an 18-year-old free email account (originally a Hotmail account, now an Outlook account), along with other free accounts, to help us compare the features and services of email providers.
We narrowed the 16 free email services to eight that we believe are the best options. We eliminated services that allow you to send free email messages but won’t let you receive messages without purchasing the service. We also discounted services that currently have free email accounts available but are either no longer offering support or have plans to discontinue them. We didn’t feel comfortable recommending a service that may not be around long term.
How We Tested
To test free email services, we performed common tasks with each service and took note of the ease or difficulty. For example, we noted how many steps it took to set up a new account, the amount of personal information required and whether we needed to provide a cellphone number to verify and officially activate the account.
We followed a similar process to test the tools for attaching files and images to outgoing emails. We recorded the number of steps it took to attach a file, whether we could attach multiple files at once, and how long the program took to upload attachments to our message.
Since each of the free email services we tested has a mobile app, we tested how easy it was to set up and access email accounts this way, too. Again, we tracked the steps and made note of any challenges in attaching images and files to messages via the app. We also determined whether any functions from the desktop version were missing in the app.
Can I Have 2 Gmail Accounts?
Yes you can! Many people have multiple Gmail accounts, each with its own email address. Each free Gmail account comes with 15GB of inbox storage space, enough to hold around 300,000 messages before you have to start deleting some to make room for incoming email. You can always choose to convert to a paid email account and get unlimited storage.
Gmail lets you log into multiple email accounts at once and simply toggle between them without having to log out and re-enter your credentials each time. We found this to be a very helpful perk especially if you have a personal Gmail account and another dedicated to your work or home business. This multi-account feature works on mobile, too, so you’re always connected and can quickly access important email while on the go. It’s hard to attach files to outgoing messages using the Gmail app, though, since it only allows you to upload one file at a time.
How Much Can I Expect to Pay for a Premium Email Account?
Email services typically charge between $2 and $10 per month for their paid services, depending on how much mail you need to send and receive. The biggest differences between free and paid email services is the size of the files you’re allowed to attach to outgoing mail, how many emails you can send per day, how much backup and inbox space you’re given, and the level of customer support you can access. Most free email services give you enough inbox and online backup space combined to hold hundreds of thousands of emails, but they typically limit the number of email messages you can send in a day to about 100. This is plenty for most people using an email account for personal use. But if you have a home business or know a lot of people you need to email every day, then it may be worth purchasing an email account with unlimited outbound messaging.
What to Look For When Choosing a Free Email Service
Inbox and Folders
Nearly all free email services have inbox ads, so there’s that most services include. Since they’re all but unavoidable, look for services that make them less obtrusive. Some place ads to the side, so they don’t create too much distraction. However, some services place ads all around the inbox, making it difficult to navigate the program. Some free email services even allow pop-up ads that cover your inbox and require you to click out of them to access your messages.
Pay attention to the amount of inbox storage available, because once you reach the cap, you’ll have to start deleting messages in order to receive more. Many free email services offer a terabyte or even unlimited storage, which is helpful if you tend to receive messages with large attachments, like image and video files. However, even a few gigabytes of storage gives you enough space to hold between 100,000 and 300,000 messages.
Free email services do cap the number of email messages you can send out per day. This is to cut down on spam messages sent with their services. The cap is generally around 100 messages per day, which is sufficient for keeping in touch with family or other personal email uses. But if you need an email service for business purposes, it may be better to purchase an email service that permits unlimited messages each day.
It’s easy to write and send email messages with any service once you figure out where the New Message and Send buttons are. It’s more important to examine the attachment features, including the maximum file size you can send and whether you can preview files once they are attached.
More on Internet
During testing, we looked at the maximum size allowed for attached files. Most of the accounts we tested can handle between 20MB and 25MB, which is about six professional images or 10 snapshots taken with a point-and-shoot camera. It was also important for us to see a thumbnail of the file once we uploaded it, so that we could confirm we had attached the correct one.
Securing Your Email
According to Mitch Stephens, a security consultant for Emagined Security, email attacks are the most common internet threat. “An attacker can send a link that looks similar to another link you are familiar with,” Stephens told us, and when you open it, you’ll see a site that looks legitimate and asks for your login information. Once you enter it, the attacker then has your credentials to log into the real site and gather even more personal information. These are known as phishing schemes, or phishing attacks.
“The best way to protect yourself from phishing attacks is by only opening email from trusted or known sources,” said Stephens.
You can also install internet security programs to your computer that include antiphishing tools to help block these schemes from getting into your inbox to begin with. We’ve tested many internet security programs and recommend Bitdefender Internet Security and McAfee LiveSafe, which both come with antiphishing tools.
Email Safety Practices: How to Spot a Scam Email
If you have a landline, cell phone or email, you’ve undoubtedly received shady phone calls or messages. Scammers use shock and fear tactics to try to get you to quickly send money or give up personal information. In one of the most common scams, someone contacts you pretending to be from the IRS. In response, the IRS has released an article identifying the five tell-tale signs of an IRS scam. You should never give your personal information over the phone or through email.
If you receive an email or call from someone claiming your computer is out of date, be very wary. If they further ask you for your personal information, Wi-Fi information or IP address, you’ll know for certain it’s a scam. They’re simply trying to steal your identity or hack your computer. If you’re uncertain, contact the actual company they claim to represent to see if there is anything wrong with your accounts.
Further Ways to Spot a Scam Email:
- If they try to pressure you into giving personal or credit card info, it’s a scam.
- Look at the sender’s email address. If the name is a near misspelling of an established company, it’s a scam. (i.e. “Chase Bnk” instead of “Chase Bank”)
- If there are a lot of grammatical errors and fractured sentences, the email most likely wasn’t sent from an official company.
- Prize winner emails are always scams unless you specifically remember signing up for something. Even then, it could still be a scam.
- If they sidestep your questions and pummel you with threats and fears, it’s a scam.
To better protect yourself, consider purchasing eScan, an anti-virus software that recognizes spam messages that are specifically tailored to you.
More Internet Guides:
- The Best E-Mail Spam Filters
- The Best Internet Service Providers
- The Best Satellite Internet Service Providers
Gmail is the easiest email service to use and the only one that doesn’t include inbox ads. It has all the features the best service should, such as mail collection, auto reply and spam filters.
Yahoo Mail lets you add email addresses to a block list so that messages from these senders never make it into any folder in your account, including the trash and spam folders.
ProtonMail encrypts all outgoing messages so they can’t be read by anyone except the receiver once it reaches their inbox.
|Product||Price||Overall Rating||Inbox & Folder Settings||Composition Tools||Security Tools & Filters||Conveniences||Help & Support||Ease of Use||Daily Message Limit||Mail Collector||Mobile Service||IMAP Support||Inbox Storage||Message Translator||Import Social Media Contacts||Aliases||Spam Filters||Suspicious Account Activity Alert||Secure Sign-In||Phishing Blocks||Virus Scanning||View Attachments||Average Upload Time||Multiple Image Upload||Auto Reply||Conversation View||Max Attachment Size||Pop-Out Window||Standout Feature||Task Calendar||Custom Themes||Video Chat||Chat/Instant Messaging||FAQ||Email Support||Forums|
|Gmail||View Deal||5/5||10||9.8||10||10||10||100%||100||✓||80%||✓||15GB||✓||✓||✓||Automatic||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||16.5 sec||✓||✓||✓||25MB||✓||Message Translator||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Yahoo Mail||View Deal||5/5||10||9.8||10||8.8||10||85%||500||✓||95%||✓||1TB||✓||✓||✓||Automatic||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||4 sec||✓||✓||✓||25MB||✓||Block Sender||✓||✓||-||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Outlook||View Deal||4.5/5||9.8||10||7.8||10||10||80%||100||✓||100%||✓||1TB||*||✓||✓||Manual||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||4 sec||✓||✓||✓||50MB||✓||50MB Attachment Limit||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|AOL Mail||View Deal||4.5/5||7.8||10||9.8||8.8||10||90%||200||✓||75%||✓||Unlimited||-||-||-||Manual||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||.5 sec||✓||✓||✓||25MB||✓||Fast Load Time||✓||✓||-||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|GMX||View Deal||4.5/5||9||10||7.8||10||9.5||90%||Undisclosed||✓||90%||✓||Unlimited||-||✓||✓||Manual||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||4 sec||✓||✓||✓||50MB||✓||Unlimited Inbox Storage||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Zoho Mail||View Deal||4.5/5||8.8||9.8||7.8||10||10||95%||250||✓||90%||✓||Unlimited||-||-||✓||Manual||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||.5 sec||✓||✓||✓||20MB||✓||Mail Collecting||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|iCloud||View Deal||4/5||8.5||9.8||5.8||6.3||5.8||90%||1000||✓||75%||✓||5 GB||-||-||✓||Manual||-||✓||-||✓||✓||2 sec||✓||✓||✓||20MB||✓||Mac Compatible||✓||-||-||-||✓||-||-|
|ProtonMail||View Deal||3.5/5||7.8||7||5.8||5||6.8||90%||150||$||70%||$||500MB||-||-||$||Manual||-||✓||-||✓||-||2.5 sec||✓||-||✓||25MB||✓||Message Encryption||-||✓||-||-||✓||✓||-|