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If you want to know what an email is, see our guide to how email works.

There are two types of email. One type is ISP-based, where you have to download your emails to your computer to read them. The other type of email (which is now more common) is to have a web-based email. This keeps the emails on the web, so you can read them using any computer, anywhere, as long as you are connected to the internet.

Here are links to some web-based email companies:

Gmail Hotmail Yahoo Lycos Excite

To start your own email account, click on one of these companies. Then click on the 'Sign up' or 'Register' button. Make sure you choose a free option, not a paid-for service! You will be asked to fill in a form with some personal information, and to suggest a 'user id' - most people use their name - and password. Type your user id and password without capital letters, to make it easier to remember. Spaces are not allowed. Try '.' or '_' (such as tom_smith). If someone has already chosen that user id, try something different, like adding a number (such as tom8).

The password is your protection against anyone else looking at your emails. Choose some word that you will remember. It appears on the screen as stars, in case anyone is looking over your shoulder. When registering, you are asked to type your password twice, to make sure you haven't mistyped it.

You may wish to check the boxes saying that you do not want special offers or promotions, since this will reduce the spam (unwanted email) that you get.

Be sure to remember:
    ~   your user id;
    ~   your password;
    ~   your new email address;
    ~   the email company you have chosen.

You can now send your own emails, read emails you have received and reply to them.
    ~   Click on your email company (see above);
    ~   Type in your user id and password, and press 'Enter';
    ~   Click on 'Check mail' or 'In box' to see your latest emails;
    ~   Click on any listed email to read it; or
    ~   Click on 'Write' or 'Compose' to write an email.
When you have finished, click on 'Logout' to exit the email account. If you don't, someone else could read your emails!

Click here for more information on using email. It is also important to learn about viruses and spam.

This sort of web-based email service is supported by advertising. Unfortunately, they can be very slow because so many people use them. If you have trouble, try again at a less popular time of day. They also may not last forever, so don't depend on them. Any important information in your emails should be copied somewhere else, either onto your own computer or USB stick, or even by just printing it off.

Some web-based email services require you to use them regularly, such as every few weeks. If you don't, they make the account dormant. You might be able to retrieve the account later, but you might not!
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