One of the most common questions I am asked is “how to set up email on a computer“. So here goes… This article is written primarily for beginners who want to download and store messages at the local machine.
Email messages, as you probably know, don’t come directly to your computer. They instead arrive at a web server machine (computer that’s connected to the net 24/7) and are stored there. To download email to your computer from this web server you need to connect to the remote machine using an email program or email client. But before that you have to set up the email account and configure it with the correct settings in the email program.
There are many types of email accounts, tons of email programs to choose from and different operating systems. So it’s not possible to cover each variation individually. However, the good news is that most of the steps in setting up the email account are the same. For instance, whether you want to set up Hotmail on Windows Live Mail Vista, Gmail on Windows XP Outlook Express or set up your ISP email on Thunderbird running on a Linux computer, the basic steps are similar with only a few changes. What I do advise it to use a bit of common sense whenever you get stuck. FYI, Windows Live Mail, Outlook Express and Thunderbird are three popular email programs (clients).
First find out if you can indeed set up email on your computer
You can set up email on a computer only if it’s permitted. To download messages from a web server to a computer the email account should have POP or IMAP access. POP (or POP3) and IMAP are email protocols – in simple terms, technologies used for transferring email.
Thus, the first thing is to get in touch with your email service provider to know if your email account has either POP or IMAP enabled. Here is information on some of the popular email accounts:
- Gmail: POP and IMAP are enabled for free. Gmail accounts can be set up in most email programs.
- Hotmail: The Hotmail POP settings have recently been announced and only for subscribers of some countries. If you are one of the lucky few, good news, you can download Hotmail email messages directly to your computer using most email clients. Read set up Hotmail email account on computer
- Yahoo!: POP is not available on free Yahoo accounts. So how can you download Yahoo email? There are two options: pay about $20 for Yahoo! Plus upgrade and get POP access or use Zimbra desktop to set up your Yahoo email program (the preferred choice for people who don’t want to spend a penny).
- Internet Service Provider- ISP: Email accounts from ISPs are typically POP and/or IMAP enabled. However, you do need to confirm with the company.
Which email program can you use?
Once you’ve confirmed POP and/or IMAP access of your email account, you need to choose a program in which you have to set up the email on your computer. This depends on the operating system you are running. Here is a quick checklist of the most popular operating systems and the email programs one can use on them.
- Windows XP
For Windows XP users there is a lot of choice. The famous Outlook Express is the inbuilt email program which means you don’t need to download and installed one. Other free choices are Thunderbird, IncrediMail, Yahoo! Zimbra desktop and Microsoft’s Windows Live Mail. Outlook is the commercial email program from Microsoft and costs a pretty penny.
FYI, the new free email program from Microsoft called Windows Live Mail can be installed in a few minutes.
- Windows Vista
Unfortunately, Vista users cannot install Outlook Express. However, the native email program that comes with the operating system is Windows Mail and is almost like the popular Outlook Express program in looks and functionality – it has a couple of added features like the automated junk email filter (sorely missing in O.E.) and a super quick search utility. For most purposes Windows Mail can be regarded as Outlook Express new version.
The other free option is obviously the new email program from Microsoft – Windows Live Mail – which includes an RSS reader and a blogging tool. MS Outlook is, however, the one with most features.
Non-Microsoft free products like Thunderbird, Zimbra desktop (to download Yahoo email and others) and IncrediMail will also work well.
- Apple Macintosh Users
Use the preinstalled Apple Mail or choose from Thunderbird or Yahoo Zimbra desktop.
- Computers running Linux
All the famous and Linux distributions come with a native email client. You can also get Mozilla’s Thunderbird or Zimbra Desktop from Yahoo!