When you signed up for internet access, you probably got an email address. That’s fine, but you can do better.
You’ve had that old @twc.com email address ever since you signed up for cable internet years ago, and it has served you well. But those cable company-provided email services are far from the best on the block, and in some cases, they may even disappear if you move or switch to a different internet provider, taking years of history and saved emails with them.
Sure, some internet service providers (or I.S.P.s) — like Comcast and AT&T — allow you to keep your email address when you leave, but others — like Spectrum — will disconnect your email service as soon as you jump ship. Even if you aren’t thinking about leaving your provider now, you may be forced to in the future, and you would almost certainly be better served by a more modern, feature-filled email service like Gmail, Outlook or something else. Unfortunately, choosing a new email address means you’ll need to figure out what to do with all your old messages — and set up a new email account that isn’t tied to your internet service.
Pick your new email provider
If you’re going to leave your current email service, you’ll need to pick a new service to house all your messages. There are countless email services, but most people will probably want to go with one of the following:
Gmail: Google’s Gmail is one of the most popular email services around, for good reason. It has a ton of features, a friendly conversation-focused interface, powerful search and best-in-class spam and malware filtering. All that’s on top of tight integration with other Google services like Google Drive, which is great for sending attachments over Gmail’s 25-megabyte limit. Gmail comes with 15 gigabytes of storage and is free, unless you want to create your own email domain for your business (like firstname.lastname@example.org). Gmail is, however, well known for collecting a lot of user data, though it does offer some control through its privacy settings.
Outlook.com: Microsoft’s Outlook.com — the web-based email service not to be confused with the Microsoft Outlook desktop application — is the successor to Hotmail, with a cleaner, more modern interface. It comes with 15 gigabytes of storage, just as Gmail does, and integrates with Microsoft’s online Office tools like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Sway. In 2013, Microsoft made a big deal about the fact that it doesn’t scan your emails in order to serve you ads, though it still does do so to filter spam and malware.
iCloud: Fans of Apple products may want to look at iCloud, Apple’s free email service. It integrates beautifully with Macs and iPhones and doesn’t contain any ads, though it isn’t as feature-rich as other options, either. It also comes with only 5 gigabytes of storage, which is shared with other Apple products, so you’ll need to pay up once you reach that limit.
Fastmail: Fastmail is a paid service that bills itself as being for those who want more privacy and control. Because you pay a subscription fee (between $3 and $9 per month), there are no ads, and you can create an email account at any domain you want (like email@example.com). If you want something easy to use that isn’t tied to one of the big tech giants, Fastmail is a great option.
ProtonMail: ProtonMail is a bit more complex than Fastmail, but cranks the privacy knob up to 11, offering end-to-end encryption when you want your emails to be truly hidden from the company’s servers. It requires a bit more setup, though, and requires your recipient to jump through the same hoops, but for true privacy advocates, it’s a good option. Just remember that no matter what email service you use, your privacy is only as good as the email service your friends, family and colleagues are using — just because your email service isn’t scanning your email doesn’t mean your friends’ email service isn’t scanning the emails you send to them. Privacy is tough to come by these days, and that goes double for email.
Once you’ve picked the right provider for you, sign up for an account — picking a user name you’ll want to stick with for the long haul — and get ready to migrate your old inbox over.
Migrate your old emails to your new inbox
Now you need to ask yourself a question: Do you want to keep all your old emails? If so, you may have to migrate them to your new inbox. Not every I.S.P. will let you keep your email address when you leave — Comcast and AT&T allow you to keep your email as long as you want (though Comcast requires you to log in at least once every 90 days), while Spectrum will disconnect your email service along with your internet service. If you use another I.S.P., you’ll have to call its customer service team and see what the company’s policy is.
Not all I.S.P.-provided email services support this feature, but many do. Comcast, for example, allows you to forward emails automatically using these instructions. AT&T uses Yahoo Mail for its email service, so you can find information about forwarding email in Yahoo’s knowledgebase. Again, check the help documentation for your I.S.P.-provided email to see what you can find.
Update your other accounts and alert your contacts to the change
Once your old emails have been migrated to your new inbox and auto-forwarding is up and running, the hard part is over. Now you just have to let your friends, family and co-workers know about your new address. Just send out an email with everyone you know in the BCC column, and hopefully they will promptly change their address book.
You’ll also want to go through all your online accounts — your Facebook, your bank, your subscription to The New York Times, and so on — and change your email address there as well. You’ll probably forget a few, but check your password manager for a list of all your online accounts (you do have a password manager, don’t you?) and don’t stress too much — this is what that auto-forwarding is for.
You may just find yourself updating your online accounts sporadically for the next few weeks as certain messages get forwarded, but once the transition is complete, you can rest easy knowing you have a more reliable, feature-filled email account that (hopefully) won’t go away anytime soon.