Allow me to introduce you to E-Mail. Where would we be without it? Billions of E-Mails are sent every day. Business, personal, advertising, and of course spam.
In this guide, we’re having a look at how it all works, because like it or not, you will need to use E-Mail at some point.
It all starts with your E-Mail account. When you first set up an account with a company, you’ll get an E-Mail address.
@yahoo.com is the name of the company that’s handling your E-Mail.
In our example, it’s Yahoo.
So if we were to send Joe Blogs an E-Mail message, that message would travel around the Internet until it arrived at Yahoo’s E-Mail server (a server is just a specialised computer).
Inside the server, the message would then be put into Joe Blogs’ account inbox. Ready for him to collect.
Email Works Like Real Mail.
Think of it like an apartment block that houses hundreds of apartments. If we sent a letter to Joe, it would travel through the postal service and eventually land at the apartment block.
Once the letter gets here, it’ll be sorted into the mailboxes for the various apartments.
Our letter to Joe would be dropped into his mailbox, to which only he has the key.
The key to your E-Mail account is your password.
You do know your password, right? If you’re not sure, then find out now. Do it now.
If you get locked out of other online accounts, Facebook, Amazon, eBay etc, they’ll email you a way to get back in, a way to recover your account. Usually, it’s a link to click on. But if you can’t get into your E-Mails…… You can’t get the link. You can’t get back into any of your accounts.
“One account to rule them all”. That’s what your email account is. Protect your email accounts, set strong, unique passwords for them and keep those passwords backed up somewhere.
And while we’re on the subject of passwords, you might like this Why You Should Use Strong Passwords.
E-Mail addresses are typed as one continuous word.
There are no spaces at all.
Each number, letter, or symbol of the address simply follows on from the previous one.
This is why you’ll often see dots, underscores or hyphens used to separate words to make them easier to read, and therefore, easier to remember.
Note that each one of these addresses would be a different address.
Capitals letters, on the other hand, don’t matter.
The convention is to type Email addresses entirely in lower case. No CAPITALS.
But it really doesn’t matter. If you do throw in a capital letter, no worries, it’ll still work fine.
Addresses aren’t case sensitive.
All of these addresses would arrive at the same email inbox.
Email addresses DO, however, need to be accurate. 100% spot on.
The computer won’t guess what you mean.
Every letter, number, and symbol has to be there and in the correct place.
Close enough is not nearly good enough when it comes to E-Mail addresses, they have to be perfect.
Accessing Your Emails.
There are two main ways of accessing E-Mail. Of actually sending and receiving your messages.
The first is called WebMail and the second is by using a Mail Client.
To be clear here, when we’re referring to webmail and mail client, there isn’t any difference in the actual email account. It’s simply the way in which you access that account. The way that you collect your email.
WebMail is the most popular method, but they both have advantages and disadvantages. Not huge, not major, but a consideration all the same.
But first, we’ll need to know what exactly do we mean by the terms WebMail and Mail Client.
WebMail is where you use your browser to log in to your email account.
So you go onto the Internet, then go to your E-Mail account, type in your password, and then you can see your messages.
So in effect, you’re accessing your Mail over the Web.
A Mail Client is simply a program, that’s installed on your computer.
Its job, or function, is to get your E-Mails for you.
So instead of going on the net, you simply start your Mail Client.
That then goes onto the Internet, logs into your account and downloads your messages onto your computer.
Although the two images above look different, the emails are exactly the same. We’re logging into the same account and seeing the same messages.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re using WebMail or a Mail Client, the messages are exactly the same. It’s the same account, the same email address, and it all works the same.
The only difference is the way in which you get to your messages.
Comparing Webmail & Mail Client.
Below is a quick comparison table of some of the main features and differences between using WebMail and an E-Mail Client to access your messages.
|Need to install extra software.||No. Your web browser is all your need.||Yes, possibly. Windows does have a built in mail client. But there are better alternatives.|
|Easy to setup.||Very Easy. Email address and password is all you need.||Usually yes. Most times it’ll just work. But every tech has had problems setting up mail clients.|
|Adverts.||Oh yes. I’ve never heard of anyone complaining about the lack of ads when they use webmail.||No. Mail clients only download emails. They don’t show the ads from your account.|
|Easy to use.||Yes. Although accounts from different services will look different.||Yes. Once setup mail clients provide a consistant interface across all email accounts.|
|Multiple email accounts.||Switching between accounts can be tiresome, but certainly do-able.||Easy. Mail clients can handle all your email accounts.|
If you do have multiple email accounts and prefer to access them from the web, rather than installing and setting up an email client, you could have all your emails forwarded to just one account.
We’ll look at that later in the course. It’s a lot easier than constantly logging in and out between accounts.
Pro Guides – Windows Mail App.
Both Windows 10 and 11 have a built in email client called Windows Mail. If you’d like to try it out for your emails I have a guide to setting it up here How To Set Up The Windows Mail App.
Free Email & ISP Email Accounts.
There are two main types of email account that we, the general public, are likely to be using for personal emails.
A free account such as accounts ending @Yahoo, @Gmail, @Outlook etc.
And an account that’s provided by our Internet Service Provider (ISP), such as @BTintenet, @Virginmedia, @TalkTalk etc.
The two types have one major advantage and one major disadvantage over each other. So let’s look at the Pros and Cons.
ISP Email Accounts.
ISP-provided email accounts have a huge advantage in that, if you forget your password, you can phone them.
Your paying your ISP for a service, and part of that service is usually an E-Mail account.
So if you can’t use it, because you’ve forgotten your password, you can call them.
Yes, you’ll have to press 1 for this and 2 for that and wait forever, but eventually, someone will say “Hello, how may I help”.
But if you choose to change ISP to get a better deal, then your old ISP could close your email account down at any time.
In other words, it’ll just stop working.
And if you call them, you’ll suddenly get no help at all.
You’re not paying them anymore, so guess what, they’re not interested.
Free Email Accounts.
Free email accounts are totally independent of your ISP.
All you need is an Internet connection of some sort. It doesn’t really matter who or where you get that connection.
So long as you can get on the net, you can get your E-Mails.
So as you move from ISP to ISP looking for bigger and better deals, your E-Mail address can follow along with you.
Free accounts usually don’t provide any sort of human help at all.
They do have automated systems for recovering an account, but they can often fail to get you back in.
And oh the frustration, the sheer frustration, at trying to convince a machine that the E-Mail account is yours….
“With a free account, no one can hear you scream“.
ISP Vs Free -Summary.
The benefit of having someone to phone if you have problems with your email account can’t be underestimated. This is where ISP email accounts score well, usually.
But then being able to take your email address with you is a definite bonus.
On the whole, I’d always say go with the free accounts. Email has become so important to us these days. Changing your email address with all your online accounts can be done, but it’s painful.
You simply have to protect your email account with a good password and then back up that password.
Beware Of Email Scams.
Every day hundreds, perhaps thousands, of us fall for some form of scam that originates through an email. All of us are susceptible. And whilst your email service, regardless of whether you use an ISP service or free service, do their best to filter out junk/spam messages, inevitably some will always get through.
Be on your guard when reading through your emails. Most of what you’ll get will be simply advertising, but some will be far more dangerous than that.
Phishing emails are designed to catch the unwary. To catch you off guard. What Is Phishing?
Which Email Service Do You Use?
Below you’ll find guides for the 3 biggest Email service providers, Gmail, Outlook.com and Yahoo.
Choose the one that you use. If you don’t use any of these, then skip them by clicking the last option How to Email a folder.