If you’re trying to decide on a good free email service with just the right features, you’ll find there are lots of options to choose from.

This is great, as there’s something for everyone, but it can give you a little bit of decision paralysis.

To help you pick the right one for your needs, here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular free email services. We’ll look at how much storage they have, what they let you do, and why they might work for you.

These are the email services we'll be checking out in this article:

  • Gmail
  • Outlook
  • ProtonMail
  • AOL
  • Zoho Mail
  • iCloud Mail
  • Yahoo! Mail
  • GMX
  • Hey (as a bonus - not free, but new)

So let's dive on in.

Gmail

Gmail is one of the most well-known and widely-used email services out there. It’s part of Google’s suite of services, and there are a number of reasons it’s so popular.

If you want email with lots of features, and if you love the G-suite, Gmail is likely a great option for you.

Gmail Features

Here are some of its awesome features:

  • You can schedule emails to send at a certain time, snooze them so you don't lose track of them, and customize your notifications
  • You can email large attachments through Google Drive (and save docs there so they don't clutter up your local computer)
  • You can use smart compose (like auto-complete) to help you write your emails faster – and you can even translate your message right in Gmail (under the three dots - "Translate message")
  • Use the reading pane feature so you can see your inbox and the email you're reading at the same time (just go to Settings - Reading Pane - and choose where you want it).
  • There are advanced search options available (just click the down arrow on the right of the search bar).
  • In addition to regular search functionality (by folder, and so on), you can also find emails by date (type before:date – like 2020/1/1 – and it’ll search in just those messages).
  • Gmail has good security, and you can send/receive money through your email. It also has "Confidential mode" and you can set expiry times on your messages.
  • Some other cool features? Customize the amount of time you have to undo sent emails, auto-advance through your inbox (under the Advanced tab in Settings), Offline mode, and dragging email between tabs.

Storage: Gmail gives you 15GB of free storage. Now while that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that it's used by Google Photos, Google Drive, and any other Google tools you use as well.

So if you have multiple gigabytes of photos on your computer in Google Photos, you might strain your email storage capabilities.

If you want to create a Gmail account, you can do so here.

Outlook

If you're looking for a powerful email service that offers tons of features plus the ability to integrate with a bunch of business-friendly applications, Outlook is a good option for you.

It's not quite as simple to use as Gmail, for example, but you can do more with it. Many large companies use Outlook for their email, and it offers robust calendar, task manager, and other customizable features.

Outlook Features

Here are some of Outlook’s other best selling points:

  • You can create new meetings/tasks/contacts right from inbox (no switching windows involved).
  • You can also share or assign tasks (like a to-do) with your coworkers, and you can also share your calendar with them.
  • Outlook lets you make your own custom rules (like always send emails from x to this folder, and so on). You can also customize your notifications, as well as how you see your messages (like changing the text color for x sender,  and so on).
  • You can also easily create custom email templates if you send messages where the content doesn't often change (save yourself the extra typing!).
  • You can schedule emails to be delivered exactly when you want, and snooze them so you can read them later without losing track of them.
  • You can also set up message alerts (never miss a VIP email again!), and use flags and categories to help you keep track of important mail and organize your inbox.
  • Integrates easily with other Microsoft products (for example if someone sends you a Word doc as an attachment, you can open it right in Outlook).
  • If you want to create a new contact, just drag and drop an email from them into the contacts tab, and voilà – it's created for you.
  • You can use sticky notes as reminders (just type Ctrl+Shift+N from anywhere in Outlook's interface, and there's your note).
  • Outlook also has its own version of auto-complete called quick parts to save you some time.
  • And you can @mention people in mass emails to alert them it pertains to them

Many people describe Outlook as "feature-rich" email - and now you can see why.

Storage: on the storage front, Outlook offers 15GB for free – same as Gmail.

Wait a minute - are Outlook and Hotmail the same thing?

This is confusing, but here's the long and the short of it:

Microsoft bought Hotmail in 1997 (yes, that long ago). They went through several iterations of rebranding (MSN Hotmail, Windows Live Mail) but eventually settled on Windows Live Hotmail around 2012.

That's also when Microsoft rolled out Outlook.com, the final rebranding of anything Hotmail (name) related.

If you already have an old @hotmail.com email address, you can keep it. But if you're signing up for Outlook today, you have to choose an @outlook.com address. Sorry, nostalgic email hopefuls.

Anyway, if you want to give Outlook a try, you can sign up here.

Protonmail

ProtonMail is a great option for the average user who doesn't want organizations or hackers snooping through their emails. It's not the tightest security on the planet, but it's more than enough for the average user.

ProtonMail is an open-source, encrypted email provider based in Switzerland (brought to you by the famous CERN - the European Organization for Nuclear Research) and gives you all the benefits of Swiss law and privacy/security.

ProtonMail Features:

It's not the only encrypted email option, but it's one of the most well-known. Let's see why:

  • ProtonMail is famous for its encrypted email service (uses end-to-end and zero-access encryption standards to protect all email)
  • The free plan gets you one email address, 150 messages a day, 3 folders/labels, and limited support
  • You don't have to provide any personal information when signing up for an account.
  • It uses the fairly robust PGP encryption standards
  • The web client, their encryption algorithms, and the iOS code are all open source
  • The IP address is stripped from all your emails
  • The ProtonMail Bridge feature lets you use it with other email clients (meaning it can pull emails from other clients, and lets you import contacts from them)
  • You can send messages which "self-destruct" after a specified amount of time
  • You can send encrypted emails to people who don't use ProtonMail
  • Address verification lets you save your signed key into a digitally signed contract so that key can't be tampered with once it's verified (which replaced an earlier method of making encryption key management automatic and invisible to the user). This helps prevent Man in the Middle attacks

There is one important security-related thing to note, though: the subject line of your email (and the address info) aren't encrypted. So should ProtonMail need to hand that info over to authorities for any reason, they can and they will.

Storage: ProtonMail offers "only" 500MB of storage on their free plan. But if you need more, and are willing to pay, there are 3 paid plans available (they have more features, too).

Want to try ProtonMail out? You can create an account here.

While we won't cover it in this article, a good alternative is Germany-based Tutanota.

AOL

Ah, AOL email. If you were a child of the late 80s or 90s, chances are your first email account was with AOL. Who didn't love hearing those three little words – "You've got mail!"

Since then, the world seems to have moved on – but AOL hasn't been completely left behind. The long-time email provider has kept their straightforward services up-to-date and relevant. It's especially useful if you just want to use your service to send and receive emails.

AOL Features

So here's why you might want to consider AOL:

  • Just have to come out and say it first: AOL mail has unlimited storage space. It's the only one, as far as I know. It also has a pretty generous 25 MB attachment limit.
  • It has all your typical (and to be expected) spam and virus protection, along with other basic features like a spell-checker and filters that let you sort incoming emails.
  • You can also use its panels to stay organized, which have quick links to the To-Do feature, calendar, and a blog
  • It also has reading pane mode (so you can read an email without leaving your inbox - the mail appears to the side)
  • You can create customized folders to further organize messages (although this feature isn't as sophisticated as Gmail's or Outlook's).
  • Email stationary lets you customize your email template with themes, styles, and so on – so you can make your emails extra festive for holidays, birthdays, and more.
  • It supports POP and IMAP protocols (which let you download emails onto your machine so you can access them even without internet)

While AOL mail isn't too fancy, it's great for basic emailing functionality. The unlimited storage feature also makes it standout and helps it remain relevant.

Want that endless storage space? You can get an account here.

Some other free email options

Maybe you want more options – I hear ya. You like to do your research. Well, here are a few more choices for great free email services.

Zoho Mail

Zoho Mail offers 5 GB of storage – not too bad – and offers encrypted email. It's a great option for startups and small businesses.

Here's a quick run-down of some cool Zoho Mail features:

  • You can create up to 25 business addresses (so instead of @zoho.com, you could have @tastytreatsbakery.com, or whatever your business name is).
  • It's easy to manage all your tasks, calendars, notes, and documents (easy Google Drive integration) from your inbox
  • Fully encrypted data and privacy guarantee
  • Easily migrate emails from your previous email service with their build-in tool
  • Social media-style "Streams" help you communicate and collaborate with teammates
  • Organize your attachments by type

Sounds like your cup of tea? You can sign up for Zoho mail in a blink.

iCloud Mail

If you're all about the Apple ecosystem, then you might want to consider iCloud mail. It offers 5 GB of free storage (you can purchase more starting at just $.99/month) and the interface is pretty enjoyable to use.

Here are some other great iCloud mail features:

  • There are no advertisements - compose your emails in peace
  • Helpful keyboard shortcuts for efficient emailing
  • Spam filtering (auto and manual) – you can also set up rules to block messages you don't want
  • Clean, minimalist interface (think Apple's design aesthetic)
  • You can mark certain senders as "VIP" and iCloud mail will send their emails to a special folder

If you want to give iCloud mail a try, you can sign up here.

Yahoo! Mail

Can't you just hear the yodeler singing out "Yahoo!"? Well, I can.

At any rate, Yahoo offers an impressive 1TB of storage (that's 1000GB), second only to AOL's unlimited storage.

Here are some other cool Yahoo! mail features:

  • Customizable inbox theme and layout
  • Easy calendar integration, right from your inbox (you can also use Google Calendar and any other with an iCal address, as well).
  • Integrate your other email services (like Gmail, AOL, Outlook) so you can manage all your inboxes in one place
  • Yahoo organizes your emails into "Views" in the left panel (like "Photos", "Documents", "Receipts", "Travel" info, and so on)
  • Customizable out of office responses

You can see more for yourself by trying Yahoo! mail out.

GMX

GMX mail offers a little bit of everything – and with 65 GB of free storage, plus attachments up to 50MB, it's a very reasonable free email option.

Let's see why else you might want to check it out:

  • Encryption options - stay safe (along with built-in antivirus software and spam filter)
  • You can have up to 10 different aliases if you need to receive emails from different addresses all in one place (like support, team, help, and so on)
  • The MailCheck extension for Chrome makes sure you're notified when you get new emails
  • Ability to organize all emails from your other accounts into one place
  • Customizable filter settings (create your own, or use the ones GMX provides)
  • Robust search, online calendar, and easy-to-use contacts feature

Does GMX sound like your ideal email provider? You can sign up for an account here.

Bonus – Hey [it's not free, but it’s new]

You may have heard the hype around the bold new Hey email from Basecamp. It's not free, but it does promise many drastic improvements to the old way of doing email.

Here are some of Hey.com's top features:

  • You can screen your emails – if you get an email from a pesky sender, just block it right then and there.
  • You can open, and then read through, more than one email at a time. No more open, read, close...open, read, close...and so on.
  • You can add private notes to any email thread (so all your info about that thread is in one place).
  • There's a "paper trail" folder where you can send all receipts and other transactional messages (easy to find, but not cluttering up your inbox)
  • An "attachment library" collects all your attachments so you can search directly there (without having to find the email first).
  • Extensive security features like mandatory 2-Factor Authentication and support for hardware security keys and fingerprint readers.
  • 100GB storage included

There are many more cool features, and you can read about them at Hey.com. Plans for individuals are $99/year, and for teams are $12/user per month. They do offer a 2-week free trial if you want to try it out first.

Alright, now you should be well-equipped to chose a free email provider. Good luck finding the one that's right for you!