The 5 best free email account services you can use online

man using phone and laptop at home
Some of the best free email accounts include Gmail, Outlook, iCloud, ProtonMail, and Yahoo Mail.

  • The best free email accounts, like Gmail and Microsoft Outlook, offer users reliable and easy-to-use features.
  • You can also go with more niche free email account services, like ProtonMail.
  • When picking a free email service, consider what features are important to you, like security, data storage, or add-ons like video conferencing.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference section for more stories.

In the early days of the internet, it seemed like there were thousands of free email service providers. Since then, a select few have dominated the space thanks to their reliable features, customizable interfaces, and extensive storage options.

The best free emails accounts

While Google’s Gmail and Microsoft’s Outlook stand above the rest in terms of well-rounded, accessible features, there are a couple outliers users should consider depending on their email needs.

Gmail

Gmail is an obvious choice for many reasons: It’s free, customizable, and gives users access to the full Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite). More than a billion people use Gmail across the world.

Here are the features that make Gmail stand out:

  • Schedule send (which lets users can schedule when an email is sent out)
Gmail schedule send page
Instead of sending an email immediately, you can schedule it to go out at a specific time.

  • Automatic Out Of Office replies
  • Advanced search via the toolbar to find specific emails
  • 15 GB of free storage
  • Offline access (with Google Chrome)
  • Spam mail filter provides security against phishing and bugs
  • The ability to snooze emails for later
Gmail Snooze until window
When you snooze an email, it’ll reappear unread at the top of your inbox at the time you select.

  • Share files directly from Google Drive with email recipients without leaving the message box
  • Automatically filter emails into categories for Promotions, Social, and Updates
  • Undo send
  • Send confidential emails that expire within a specific period of time upon receipt

While Gmail has a highly customizable interface and sleek design, its labeling system could use some work. Users often have to customize labels and manually filter emails into folders, rather than the service doing it intuitively.

Outlook

Microsoft Outlook has such a vast array of features that can either be incredibly useful, or overwhelming to those who want a simpler email service. Like Gmail, Outlook integrates with other Microsoft programs like Office, OneDrive, Skype, Calendar, PayPal, and DocuSign.

Here are the features that make Outlook stand out:

  • Schedule send (where users can schedule when an email is sent out)
  • Automatic Out Of Office replies
  • Advanced search function via the toolbar to find specific emails
  • 15 GB of free storage (subscribers get 50 GB)
  • Offline access (via the Outlook Web App)
  • Junk mail filter provides security against phishing and bugs
  • The ability to snooze emails for later
  • Automatic email filtering (Outlook organizes emails it deems important to go to the “Focused Inbox”)
  • Works seamlessly with other Microsoft-related apps within the platform
Outlook integrated Microsoft apps
Outlook integrates Microsoft apps like Word, Skype, and OneDrive into the email platform.

  • Similar editing abilities users would find in Microsoft Word

Unlike Gmail, Outlook’s template for automatic email replies is restrictive and doesn’t offer many options. However, it’s ability to filter, label, and find emails puts it a notch above the rest.

iCloud

Most Apple users know about iCloud’s email service, but don’t have one. The good news is you can set up an iCloud email account in a few minutes. iCloud’s email service is for anyone looking for a no-frills option that can accomplish basic email functions without much fuss.

Here are the features that make iCloud stand out:

  • Automatic Out of Office replies
  • 5 GB of storage (additional space can be purchased in monthly or yearly installments)
  • Junk mail filter provides security against phishing and bugs
  • Filters can be easily set up using Rules, which can be found on the sidebar
  • Access to Apple apps like iCloud drive, Notes, Reminders, Photos, Calendar, Contacts
  • Can be synced with any iOS device
  • Minimalist design is easy to use
  • Allows users to designate “VIP” senders

The biggest downside of iCloud’s email service is that you must have an Apple device to get full access to all its features. An iCloud email account also doesn’t have the ability to schedule send emails, snooze emails for later, or access email offline. However, if you have an Apple ID, signing up for iCloud is the easiest, quickest way to get an email address.

ProtonMail

Users who are looking for the epitome of email security should look no further than ProtonMail. ProtonMail’s mission is to provide users with the privacy and security, which has made it a favorite among journalists and government figures.

All emails are automatically encrypted unless otherwise selected, making it the best choice for anyone looking to ensure the security of their correspondence, but who can also overlook the service’s lack of extra features.

Here are the features that make ProtonMail stand out:

  • End-to-end encryption on every email, even with those who don’t have ProtonMail
proton1
ProtonMail messages can be encrypted even for non-ProtonMail emails.

  • Encrypted email data
  • Email expiration dates (automatically deletes an email after a certain amount of time, ranging from one hour to 28 days)
ProtonMail expiration date window
You can set an expiration date for an email in ProtonMail.

  • Recipients will receive a one-time password to access an encrypted email
  • Anonymous sign-up

There are a few downsides to using ProtonMail, like only being able to send up to 150 messages per day. And at just 500MB, it’s free email storage is abysmal compared to other services. There’s also no way to filter messages into more than three folders.

Yahoo Mail

Don’t cast Yahoo Mail aside just yet. Yahoo has been around longer than many of the other email providers, but doesn’t get enough credit for its features and hefty storage options. In recent years, Yahoo has scrapped the flashy, page-length advertisements for a more robust, polished email interface that resembles its competitors.

Here are the features that make Yahoo stand out:

  • Schedule send (where users can schedule when an email is sent out)
  • Automatic Out of Office replies
  • 1 TB of free storage (significantly more than most providers)
  • Junk mail filter provides security against phishing and bugs
  • Easy ability to connect external apps, like Google Drive and Dropbox
  • Disposable email address (users can create up to 500 disposable email addresses that can’t be linked back to their primary account)
  • Customizable folders and layout
  • Ability to easily unsubscribe from unwanted emails without leaving your inbox
  • GIF keyboard
yahoo gif uploader window
Yahoo Mail has a built-in GIF uploader.

  • Import contacts from sites like Facebook
  • SMS and text message capabilities
  • Track packages and mail within the Yahoo Mail app

Yahoo’s biggest downfall is it can, at times, be buggy and slow. Creating filters isn’t as intuitive as other competitors, making organization time-consuming. However, if you want to add Yahoo Mail to the mix, the app makes it easy to integrate your other inboxes (Gmail, AOL, Outlook) all in one place.

43 essential Microsoft Outlook keyboard shortcuts that you can use to work more efficiently30 essential Gmail keyboard shortcuts for optimizing your inbox and email workflowHow to add Yahoo Mail to your iPhone in 2 ways and coordinate all of your email in one placeHow to create an iCloud email account linked to a registered Apple ID

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What is Outlook Web App? A guide to Microsoft’s web email service.

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In addition to the desktop and mobile apps, Microsoft Outlook can be accessed in a browser with Outlook on the web.

  • Outlook Web App, also known as Outlook on the web, allows you to access your Outlook email account from a web browser.
  • While Outlook on the web doesn’t include all the features found in the desktop Outlook app, it’s still convenient and useful.
  • You can set up out of office messages, see your tasks and calendar, change your theme, and more when using Outlook in a web browser.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Outlook Web Access (OWA) is a browser-based way to access your Microsoft Outlook email. While it’s also been known as Outlook Web App, it’s now more commonly referred to as Outlook on the web.

OWA once applied exclusively to the online version of Outlook which came with Microsoft Exchange Server. These days, Outlook on the web is more commonly accessed from a Microsoft 365 or free Outlook.com account.

While the version of Outlook that runs on your desktop as an app for Windows or Mac still gives you the most flexibility, power, and features, you don’t need to use it – Microsoft makes it easy to open your Outlook inbox in a web browser instead. That means you can see your Outlook inbox from any computer.

How to open Outlook on the web

To open Outlook on the web, just open the URL that’s associated with your Outlook account. That should be the Microsoft 365 sign-in page or, if you have a free Outlook account, Outlook.com. Enter your email address and password and then select “Sign in.”

If you do happen to be using an Exchange Server rather than a Microsoft 365 account, you might need to ask your network administrator for the URL to the OWA website for your account.

How to use Outlook on the web

While Outlook on the web is a simplified version of Outlook, you’ll probably still recognize it as the email program you already know from the desktop. Here’s how to find your way around:

  • At the far left of the browser window is the folder list. It includes your Inbox, Sent items, and all the usual folders you have access to in Outlook.
  • To the right of the folder list is the message list. This displays all the messages in the currently selected folder, and the selected message appears in the Reading pane on the right.
  • You can also access additional features and settings from the toolbar at the top of the page and switch among Outlook’s modes (Inbox, Calendar, To Do, and Contacts) using the array of icons at the bottom left of the page, under the folder list.
What_is_Outlook_on_the_web 1
Outlook on the web displays your Outlook email in a web browser you can access from any computer.

How to view your Outlook calendar

To switch to the Outlook Calendar, just click the Calendar icon at the lower-left corner of the page. Here, you can customize the view. By default, you’ll see the Month view, but click “Month” at the top-right and choose the view you prefer from the drop-down menu.

You can add events and appointments to your calendar using the “New event” button at the top-left of the page. For more tips on how to get the most out of your calendar, read our article on the best tips and tricks to manage your Outlook Calendar on any device.

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The Calendar can be opened from the icons at the lower-left corner of the webpage.

How to manage your tasks and to dos

To switch to your tasks, click the “To Do” icon at the lower-left corner of the page. If your left-most pane is too narrow, you might not see the icon; instead, click the three dots and then choose “To Do” from the pop-up menu.

The To Do page has a task list pane on the left side of the page and the list of tasks on the right. To create a task, click the list in which you want the task to appear. Then, in the task pane on the right, click to the right of the plus sign and type your to do. You can mark a task by creating it in the “Important” list or by clicking the star after creating it.

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You can just click the text field beside the plus sign and start typing to create new tasks.

The best Outlook on the web settings

While you can get up and running with Outlook on the web in minutes, there’s a lot more power and customization hidden just under the surface. Here are some ways to get more out of Outlook on the web:

  • Filter your email. You can control what email is displayed and how it’s sorted. At the top right of the message pane click “Filter.” In the dropdown menu, you can choose which messages you want to see – such as all messages, only unread, messages directly addressed to you, flagged messages, and so on. To change the sorting method, at the bottom of the dropdown menu choose “Sort” and select how you’d like the messages to be organized.
What_is_Outlook_on_the_web 7
Outlook on the web gives you a variety of sorting options.

  • Configure the reading pane. You can set the Reading pane to appear on the right of the message pane (which is the default), underneath the message pane, or you can even disable it entirely. Click the Settings icon (shaped like a gear) at the top-right of the page and, in the Reading pane section at the bottom of the page, choose “Show on the right,” “Show on the bottom,” or “Hide.” If you choose to hide the pane, messages will appear in a new window and take over the Outlook webpage when you click on a message in the message list.
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The Reading pane can appear to the right or below the message list – or you can turn it off entirely.

  • Change your theme. Want a different theme for Outlook? Click the Settings icon (shaped like a gear) at the top right of the page and then choose a theme from the top of the Settings pane. There are more themes available than what you see here – click “View all” to see more.
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Use the Settings icon to change the visual theme of Outlook on the web.

  • Turn on dark mode. Dark mode is a popular feature that some people find easier on the eyes, especially in the evening hours. Click the Settings icon (shaped like a gear) at the top right of the page and then and then turn on Dark mode by swiping the button to the right.
  • Turn on desktop notifications. If you’d like to see a pop-up notification about new messages even when your browser is not the focus of your desktop, you can turn on desktop notifications. Click the Settings icon (shaped like a gear) at the top right of the page and then turn on Desktop notifications by swiping the button to the right. In most cases, you’ll also need to enable your browser to show notifications – look for a pop-up from your browser to enable these notifications. If you’re using Chrome, for example, click “Allow.” In Firefox, click “Allow Notifications.”
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If you turn on notifications, be sure to enable notifications in the browser as well.

  • Customize display settings with display density. You can vary how many messages appear in the message list at once – you can pack them in more tightly or space them out, making them easier to browse. Click the Settings icon (shaped like a gear) at the top right of the page and find the Display density section. Choose “Full,” “Medium,” or “Compact.” Full is the most relaxed view and each message includes a small icon representing the sender. Medium removes the icon, which shrinks the size of each message slightly. Compact tightens up the spacing and puts the most messages on the page at once.
  • View and group your conversations. You might be familiar with Outlook’s Conversation view from the desktop version of the email app. Conversation view groups related emails together, making it easier to follow a conversation thread. You can control this setting in Outlook on the web as well. Click the Settings icon (shaped like a gear) at the top right of the page and find the Conversation view section. You can arrange your email so the newest replies in a conversation appear on top, appear on the bottom, or you can turn off conversation view entirely. If you do that, every message appears independently in the message pane, regardless of its relationship to other messages.
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You have several options for configuring how to group and view messages in Outlook on the web.

How to start a newsletter with Microsoft Outlook and share information with your subscribers43 essential Microsoft Outlook keyboard shortcuts that you can use to work more efficientlyHow to unshare a calendar in Microsoft Outlook on your PC or Mac computerHow to check which version of Microsoft Outlook you have, on desktop or mobile

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The 6 best tips and tricks to manage your Outlook Calendar on any device

business professionals working together at desktop laptop in office
Your Outlook Calendar can be customized in many ways to suit your professional and personal needs.

  • You can use these tips and tricks to get the most out of your Outlook Calendar on a variety of devices.
  • The Outlook Calendar can be accessed in a desktop app, on the web, or in a mobile app, though only the Outlook desktop app includes all of the service’s features.
  • You can create a free account to use the Outlook Calendar on the web, but a subscription to Microsoft 365 gives you the most features.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Microsoft has offered a full-featured calendar as a part of its Microsoft 365 suite of productivity apps for decades. But rather than being a stand-alone program like other apps, Office’s calendar is so well integrated with the Outlook email app that they are literally the same program; the only way to see your digital calendar is via Outlook.

There are a lot of lesser-known features hidden in the app, and unless you’re already an Outlook power user, you’ll find that there are a lot of ways to get more out of your Outlook Calendar.

How to get an Outlook Calendar with or without Microsoft 365

Microsoft’s digital calendar is only available as a part of Outlook. You can get Outlook three ways: with a Microsoft 365 subscription on desktop, for free on the web, or as a mobile app for iPhone and Android.

The most full-featured version of the calendar is on the desktop with a Microsoft 365 subscription, such as Microsoft 365 Family ($100 per year) or Microsoft 365 Personal ($70 per year). In addition to giving you access to the full suite of Office apps, these subscriptions also include OneDrive storage.

Without a subscription, you can still access the Outlook Calendar on the web or via the mobile app, though with fewer features and capabilities.

Outlook Calendar tips and tricks

There are countless ways to personalize your Outlook Calendar to get the most out of the program. Here are some of the most useful tips and tricks.

How to add your Outlook calendar to an iPhone in 2 ways, and sync your schedule when you’re on the goHow to add holidays to your Microsoft Outlook calendar and keep your schedule up-to-dateWhat is Microsoft 365? Here’s what you need to know about the subscription service to Word, Excel, and other Microsoft programsHow to use reminders, flags, and categories in Outlook to organize your email

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