How to access and read my email

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o how do I access and read my email? The two main ways of getting at your email are running a program specially written to handle your email called an email client, and using your web browser to visit a website which is often given the name webmail. It is often easier to work with the email client, but webmail is very handy if you have to use someone else’s computer – for example in a library or internet cafe.

If you are using an email client you have a couple of options for different ways it can get your email. The traditional way of collecting email is called POP (Post Office Protocol) which works pretty much like collecting your post from a PO Box. This is now at version 3, so it is often called POP3. The email client connects to the computer handling your mailbox, tells it who you are, collects any email for you and then you can look at it. Once it is on your computer it is usually removed from the mailbox.

Of course, once someone has collected the mail it isn’t there for anyone else to read. So how do you read your email both on your computer and your mobile phone? The answer is to use a different way of collecting your email called IMAP (we’ll skip the full name because it doesn’t help much). The difference here is that your email stays in the mailbox! It’s like going to your PO Box, opening the letters and reading them, but putting them back in the box. Anybody with a key to the box can then check a letter. Both your computer and mobile phone can collect the email, but because it stays in the mailbox, you can read the same email on both. The mailbox keeps track of which email is new and which you have opened and read.

So to access your emails and read them you’ll need to know:

  • how you will collect the email (using POP or IMAP)
  • the name of the computer to connect to (often called a mail server, POP server or IMAP server)
  • the name used for accessing your mailbox (there are different ways of writing this, often it is the same as the mailbox, but some companies need you to put the domain name on as well)
  • the password for the mailbox (so other people can’t read your email)

Occasionally, there are other settings required which the company should be able to tell you more about.

As an example, we’ll tell Fred Bloggs that this is how to get his email (for the address [email protected]):

  • protocol: IMAP
  • server:
  • username: fredbloggs
  • password: ******** (we aren’t going to show you Fred’s password!)

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