How do I set up an email address for my son on my computer?
This seems like such a simple question, but it actually
demonstrates, I think, one of the fundamental confusions that many
people have about email and how it’s set up.
Exactly how a new email address is created and set up involves much
more than just your computer.
Email first requires that you have an email service provider. This could be your ISP, it could be a free email service like Hotmail or GMail (if used properly), a paid service, a domain registrar or others.
Which service you pick will depend on your needs. Do you need a personal account that you don’t care if you lose? Free email is definitely the way to go if that’s the case. Are you setting up a business? Then you probably want to own your own domain and have email routed through that domain. Depending on your needs, expectations and budget, there are many options.
It is with this email service provider that you then create the new email address. This service then sets up all the required components on the internet to make sure that when email is sent to your email address it’s collected and made available for you to access.
Note that we haven’t even touched your PC yet. Everything so far about creating a new email address actually has nothing to do with your computer, specifically, and everything to do with the email provider.
Once you’ve set up your new email address with your provider, you’ll want to decide how you want to access your email, and that’s where your PC may come in.
Web access is one popular approach, and is most typically used with free accounts. With web access you need nothing more than a web browser like Internet Explorer or Firefox. You access the URL provided by the email service provider and login with your account name and password. That’s it. Anywhere you can access a computer and a browser, you can access your email. (Just be careful to keep your account information secure from theft when you’re using someone else’s computer.)
The downside of web access is that it requires an internet connection, it tends to be slower depending highly on the speed of that internet connection, and it’s frequently not nearly as feature rich as the alternative.
That being said web access is also often provided as an alternative or option for traveling by almost all commercial email providers.
If you’re using only web access, you’ll want to judge carefully whether you should be backing up your email somewhere in addition to having it “up on the internet”.
The other approach to accessing email is to download it to your computer. This is typically done by using an email program such as Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Outlook, Thunderbird, Eudora or any of perhaps hundreds of alternatives.
The process is simple: you start your email program and it automatically connects to your email provider and downloads to your PC all the new mail that’s arrived since the last time you checked. You then read and write messages in your email program. When you hit “Send” the program connects back up to your email provider to send the message from your PC onto its destination.
The downside of downloading is that your email is downloaded to your PC, and thus typically only accessible on that PC. You also need to take responsibility for making sure that your email is backed up along with the rest of your computer. (You do backup your computer, right?)
Downloaded email is typically much, much faster to deal with, and email programs are significantly more customizable and powerful than almost anything you’ll find on the web.
Some, but not all, web-based email providers will also provide downloadable email as an option.
The Bottom Line
So you want to set up a new email account for your son? It’s a two step process:
Create a new account with an email service provider.
Decide how your son wants to access that email, and then either just login via a browser, or set up a desktop email program to download it.
Oh, and in either case, make sure to make a conscious decision about backing up. I hear of lost email accounts and information too often, and a backup easily avoids the disaster scenario.