We learned about ProtonMail while reading a Yahoo forum thread about free email providers. After days of testing, we were impressed enough to include ProtonMail on our list of the best free email services. While it isn’t as extensive as Gmail (our top pick), ProtonMail works well for creating a disposable email address. It is also a great tool if you need to send encrypted emails, since it is the only free email provider we reviewed that offers this service.
ProtonMail is super easy to set up because it doesn’t ask you for any personal information. You just pick a username and password.
This free email account doesn’t have the extensive functions others do, but it has the most important ones, such as dedicated spam and trash folders. However, you do need to enable this feature in the Settings and designate each email sender that you want to have redirected to the spam folder.
You can customize your account by choosing how to lay out your windows, which tasks to include on the tool bars and which folders to keep. You can upload custom theme files, but this requires you to know a bit about image files that are compatible with ProtonMail and some basic HTML language.
You can choose to view messages in a pop-out window, and the conversation view lets you see all message between a single contact grouped together in a continuous thread. It’s worth noting that some functions, such as being able to create alias accounts, IMPA support and mail collection (where you can view messages from several email accounts in the ProtonMail inbox) are only available with a paid email account.
The attachment size limit is 25MB, and we didn’t have any problems attaching images to outgoing messages in our tests. ProtonMail was quick when attaching files. Our 640MB test file, on average, was uploaded in just a couple of seconds. This is much faster than many of the free email services we reviewed. Be aware that you can’t preview attachments to see if you’re opening the correct files; you have to download them completely.
As you send and receive email messages, ProtonMail automatically remembers contact information and adds it to your address folder. You can import contacts from other programs, the service doesn’t provide a direct link to contacts from social media or other email accounts; instead, you have to create a.vcf or .csv file to then upload them to your account.
One big advantage of using ProtonMail is that you can send and received encrypted emails. This is an important feature if you regularly send messages with confidential information due to HIPAA and other privacy laws. Unfortunately, because of the secure nature of this service, if you forget your password and need to reset it, ProtonMail will restrict access to emails that were in your inbox or saved folders before you reset the password, and there’s no way to regain access to them.
As part of our testing we downloaded the ProtonMail mobile app and used it to send and receive email messages. Most of the same tools are available through the mobile app as on the website account, but we did experience some frustration attaching files and images. First, the email app only allowed us to attach one file at a time, and the process was more complicated than it is with the best free email services we reviewed.
ProtonMail is a good choice if you need a disposable email account for online shopping or subscriptions. It is also helpful if you need to send encrypted emails. The free email is very basic without a lot of extra functions, but it is quick to attach and send files up to 25MB. Remember, too, that if you forget your password, resetting it will lock you out from any emails already in your inbox or saved folders without any way to recover them.