What to Look For in Free Email Services
- User Experience: Checking your email shouldn’t be hard. The best free email accounts have a user-friendly interface with easy navigation and intuitive tools.
- Storage Capacity: Power users and archivists need as much storage space as possible to save their correspondence; email storage capacity for the services on this list range from 500 MB to unlimited.
- Attachment Size: Sending large attachments like images, videos, and files is critical for many email users; attachment size limits for the products in this article range from 20 to 25 MB. But, there are ways around these limitations.
- Offline Availability: You won’t always have an internet connection when you need to check your email. Make sure you pick a free email service that lets you read and respond to emails when you’re out of range.
- Spam Protection: Unsolicited email has scourged users since the invention of email. The best free email services make it so that you never even see unwanted or scam messages.
- Customizability: Your email is personal, as should be the experience of reading it. A quality free account allows you to choose themes, add extensions, and personalize the experience of sending and receiving email.
- Integration: All the free email services featured below interconnect with other products offered by the company. Things like calendars, contact lists, cloud-based services, chat apps, and more can take any email account to the next level of usefulness. Take care to pick the service that best complements your current tech ecosystem.
- Search Options: Keeping track of your email can get out of hand quickly. The best free email services offer powerful search and organizational tools that help you find what you need quickly and keep your inbox free of confusion.
- Encryption: Keeping your personal information and private messages away from prying eyes is essential in today’s tech landscape. If you’re worried about Big Brother reading your correspondence, pick an email service that encrypts your transmissions before you send them.
- Additional Email Features: From scheduling and un-sending emails to one-click unsubscribe and multiple account support, each of the products selected for this article has a unique selection of special features. Before signing up for anything, look at the services’ feature list to see if it has everything you need.
Best for Most Users: Gmail
- ✓ Integration with Google services
- ✓ Easy for everyone to use
- ✓ Excellent message sorting
- ✗ Takes up space in Google Drive
- ✗ Privacy concerns
Gmail is the most popular free email service on the planet. And there are many good reasons for that. Chief among them is that Gmail is easy to use, even for the least tech-savvy among us. Additionally, your Gmail address works with every other free Google service available. From Google Docs, Sheets, and Calendar to Google Meet, Chat, Sites, and even YouTube, just one sign-in to use them all.
Gmail has nearly perfected the art of sorting email. There are three tabs in your inbox: Primary, Social, and Promotions. These tabs help you track what’s important and what can wait (or delete) for later. It’s not flawless, though. Sometimes you’ll miss emails because they get flagged as promotional and put into that tab. That’s why you must check every section from time to time. Or just turn the feature off altogether.
There are a couple of downsides. The first is storage. While you get 15GB of storage space, it’s in Google Drive. So, if you use Google Drive to store other things besides email, like documents, pictures, videos, and more, you could run out of room fast.
The second is privacy. While Google claims that they’ve stopped scanning your emails to mine data to serve you ads, their ability to do so remains in their terms of service. So, who knows if they’ve actually stopped or quietly started again.
Most Storage Space: AOL Mail
- ✓ Terrific spam protection
- ✓ Unlimited storage
- ✓ Intuitive web interface
- ✗ No dedicated mobile app
- ✗ Can't import social media contacts
Decades after America Online faded as the number one internet service provider in the United States, AOL Mail is still going strong. The most compelling reason to get that retro email address is that it offers unlimited storage capacity. That means that you can archive every message you get without running out of space. For power users, that’s invaluable.
Plus, you can pretty much forget what spam is. AOL’s many years of delivering email have given them plenty of time to develop spam filters and blockers that the rest of the tech industry envies. And its intuitive browser interface makes it easy to read, compose, and send emails.
One of the frustrating aspects of AOL Mail is that it has no email-only mobile app. You have to use the AOL app to read your messages on the go. While it isn’t a deal-breaker, when you don’t care or want the latest news, weather, and sports, it’s annoying to sift through the junk to get to your messages. Plus, it cannot import your contacts from social media sites like Facebook.
Best for Microsoft Users: Outlook
- ✓ Plenty of extensions
- ✓ Robust filtering tools
- ✓ Use for multiple email addresses
- ✗ Easily confused with Office 365 application
- ✗ Only 5GB of storage
If you ever wondered what happened to Hotmail, Microsoft bought it in 1997, and after several name changes, it became the free version of Microsoft’s Outlook 365. And it works well with other Microsoft’s online services like Skype, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, and more. So, if you’re entrenched in the Microsoft ecosystem, Outlook is the natural (and probably most logical) choice for free email.
Additionally, Outlook.com allows you to configure email addresses from other services. So, you can have your Gmail, iCloud Mail, Yahoo! Mail, and more all in one place. No more multiple websites or mobile apps to keep on top of your email from other services. You also get several alias email addresses to protect your privacy.
Downsides of Outlook include the fact that the browser interface features Microsoft’s other applications predominately on the sidebar. While integration with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc., is great, you don’t necessarily need the buttons for them in an un-closable tab of your email window. Google integrates Gmail with its other products, but they don’t have Google Docs, Sheets, Meet, etc., cluttering up the web interface. Another downside is that you only get 5GB of free storage. If you need more storage, you can upgrade to Microsoft’s productivity suite: Office 365.
There’s also the matter of its name. A free Outlook account isn’t the same service as the Outlook application found in Microsoft’s paid productivity suite: Office 365. Recycling the name of a current paid product and applying it to a free service makes confusing the two very easy.
Best for Apple Users: iCloud Mail
- ✓ Preinstalled on Apple devices
- ✓ Multiple account support
- ✓ Two Apple email addresses
- ✗ No native app for Android
- ✗ Difficult setup on non-Apple devices
iCloud Mail is one of the central services you get when you sign up for an Apple ID. And the Mail app comes preinstalled on every Apple computer and mobile device. So, it makes sense that Apple users would naturally use the service. And, like Google, you can use your Apple ID to log into other iCloud services like iCloud Drive, Notes, Pages, Numbers, Find My, and more through the iCloud website.
The Mail app is a barebones affair, nothing but email. It’s a refreshing change from some of the other email services in this article. But, some may prefer a central location for all their iCloud services. For them, logging into the iCloud website is a good solution. Plus, like Mail, all the rest of Apple’s iCloud products come loaded on each Apple computer and mobile device.
If you want to use the Mail app for other email addresses, you can set the app up to receive messages from Google, Yahoo! AOL, Microsoft, and more.
Another thing worth mentioning is that when you sign up for iCloud Mail, you get two Apple email addresses. One is attached to the icloud.com domain and the other to the .me domain.
You can get your iCloud Mail on non-Apple devices, but it takes some doing. There are some dedicated Android apps for fetching your iCloud Mail, but there’s some technical know-how required. If you’re not tech-savvy, it’s a confusing process. So, keep that in mind if you’re thinking of leaving the Apple ecosystem.
Best Encrypted Email: ProtonMail
- ✓ Ultimate privacy
- ✓ End-to-end encryption
- ✓ Easy migration from other services
- ✗ Only 500MB storage
- ✗ Daily limit of 150 messages
If total privacy is what you want, ProtonMail is what you need. In addition to end-to-end encryption for all messages, the service offers a host of security features like PhishGuard, arguably the most effective way to protect yourself from phishing attacks. Plus, Link Protection shows you the full URL of a link before opening it on the mobile device. And on top of all that, ProtonMail’s servers are located in Switzerland, which has some of the most strict privacy laws in the world.
In addition to mail, Proton also offers an integrated calendar, a free VPN, multi-platform support (including Linux), and ProtonDrive that securely keeps your files from prying eyes.
If you’re worried about the hassle of switching to ProtonMail, you’ll be pleased to know that they’ve made migration simple. The Import Assistant for free accounts only takes a few taps to make the switch. If you have multiple email addresses, you can import them all, but you’re limited to doing two at a time.
There are some major drawbacks to the service. The most notable is that you can only send 150 emails a day. And for heavy email users, this simply won’t do. Additionally, ProtonMail has a minuscule storage limit: 500MB, just half a gigabyte. So, you’ll have to pick and choose which emails are worth saving after a while.
Best Email for Multiple Addresses: Yahoo Mail
- ✓ 1TB storage capacity
- ✓ Scans messages for viruses
- ✓ Offers multiple email addresses
- ✗ Scans emails by default
- ✗ Spotty spam filter
Yahoo! Mail is one of the oldest free email services around. And while it’s not as popular as it used to be, it’s stood the test of time and innovated over the years. The most notable feature Yahoo! Mail has over most of the competition is its massive storage capacity: 1TB. Second only to AOL Mail’s unlimited storage. So, it’s great for users who send hundreds of emails a day.
Another plus in Yahoo!’s column is the ability to create disposable email addresses. That’s invaluable for those who need to stay anonymous online. Other services in this article offer additional addresses but nowhere near the scale of Yahoo! Mail.
Yahoo! takes viruses seriously. Every message is automatically scanned for malware before it reaches your inbox. Additional security features include alerts for spam and phishing scams. However, the services’ spam filter doesn’t always work, and sometimes you need to set up your own filtering system, which can be a pain. There’s also the option of marking each unsolicited email as spam, but that gets obnoxious quickly.
If privacy is a concern of yours, Yahoo! Mail may not be the right option. By default Yahoo! Mail scans all your messages looking for keywords that help the company target ads to your needs. But you can opt out if you dig deep enough into your settings.