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How do I download email on my computer?

How do I download email on my computer?

This article tells you how to download email messages from online accounts such as Hotmail, Gmail, etc. It gives you the basic ground-up on the topic and then points you to more specific articles on this web site that have step by step instructions.

Advantages of downloading email to your computer

Right now, the only way you would be accessing emails on these online accounts is through a web browser. The free email services provide an intuitive web based graphic user interface (GUI) which is sufficient for the needs of most users.

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But there is a major drawback. Without an internet connection the emails stored in these online accounts are not accessible. The solution is to download email messages to your computer so that they are available to you even without an active internet connection.

Also, if you’ve been using a web based email service for a bit o’ time, you’ll most likely have important messages tucked away in your inbox. Downloading the emails would let you maintain a copy of the messages on your computer! In case of accidental deletions, account hacking or inaccessibility of service, the emails are still available to you!

So how do you download the email messages – is there a program to do this?

Yes, indeed!
Emails don’t arrive directly at your computer – I guess you already knew that else you wouldn’t be reading this article. When someone sends you a message it first comes and is stored on an email server which is a dedicated computer that’s connected to the internet 24/7. To download the emails from this machine to your computer, you need to use a special program known as an email client. This software lets you connect to the email server, download, compose, send and organize emails. There are tons of such email programs available and many of the good ones are free. You may have heard of Outlook Express, Outlook, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail or Thunderbird – these are some popular free email clients.

How can you get an email program for free?

Most likely, you already have a free email program installed on your computer. For example, you’ll find Outlook Express, which is probably the most famous of such programs on Windows XP. For Windows Vista users, the inbuilt email program is called Windows Mail. Microsoft has developed another (the latest) email client known as Windows Live Mail (don’t ask me why they cannot come up with intuitive names anymore) which runs on both Windows XP and Vista. Macintosh users have the neat Apple Mail program. And there is Mozilla’s Thunderbird, a free email program which is available for Windows, Macintosh and Linux.

Can you download email from any type of email account?

Emails can only be downloaded if the email account can be setup and configured into the email software. As mentioned above, the email program needs to connect to the server and it can only do so if it’s allowed access. There are many technologies used to download emails such as POP, IMAP etc; to know more refer email protocols. So the email account from where you want to download emails to your computer needs to be POP or IMAP enabled. For example, all Gmail accounts (free or paid) come with POP and IMAP access while free Yahoo! Mail accounts don’t have this provision. POP is available only on Yahoo! plus (paid accounts) costing about $20 per year. And for Hotmail, POP settings have only recently been announced and that too for subscribers of some countries.

As you can understand, there are different types of email accounts and it’s not possible to cover all in this article because it focuses on downloading email from free online email services such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail. Having said that, most email accounts come with POP access enabled. This feature may be free or you might need to pay a small yearly free. For instance, email accounts from India’s redifmail.com can be access with POP for a little over $10 per year. Also, the Post Office Protocol (POP) is generally available on web site email accounts and those from ISP – please confirm this with your server host company or the Internet Service Provider.

Let us now focus on the Post Office Protocol (POP) for downloading emails to your computer because it’s the most popular and commonly available technology.

Download email through POP (Post Office Protocol)

Assuming you have an email program, the next thing you need to do to download email through POP is to confirm with your service provider if the email accounts can be accessed with this technology – refer list below for a heads up.

  • Gmail: POP access is 100% free for all accounts
  • Hotmail POP: At the time of writing, this is available to a select number of users – only those residing in certain countries. Microsoft will be rolling out this feature gradually.
  • Yahoo! Mail: POP access is not available for free, however, it costs a little less than $20 per year.
    FYI, you can download yahoo email even from the free accounts using the Zimbra desktop program.
  • India’s Rediffmail: About $10 per year.
  • ISP email accounts: email accounts from ISPs are generally POP enabled. If they aren’t you should consider changing your service provider!
  • Web site email accounts: Web hosting companies generally offer this without additional costs.

Once you know the email account is POP enabled, you need to get the following information:

  • Incoming POP server address
  • incoming POP server port – would be 110
  • If a secure connection layer (SSL) is required for POP
  • SMTP server address for sending emails: POP lets you download emails and you send out messages using SMTP.
  • SMTP port and authentication requirements
  • The login details: Username and password of your email account

Below are links to individual articles that provide step by step instructions along with screenshots on how to setup and configure an account in a client to download email to your computer. You need to first choose the email program you want to use and then select the email service.

For email accounts from ISPs, web sites etc.

Hotmail email accounts

Gmail email accounts

Note #1: With popular email programs such as Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail, Thunderbird etc. you can set up multiple email accounts. Thus, you can download email from different accounts to your computer’s hard-disk. This saves you time because you no longer need to login at each account separately.

Note #2: Cannot access your email with POP? Try email forwarding (if available). You can forward your email to your Gmail account and then add the latter in the email client. Don’t have a Gmail account till now? Refer create Gmail email, get Gmail address or create a free Gmail account.

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