How do I get email?

You can use email on your computer, tablet or smartphone. It allows you to send messages or photos to people all around the world, at any time of the day.

Email is fast becoming an essential part of everyday life. You will usually be asked for an email address when completing a range of tasks online, such as paying a bill, booking tickets or filling out a form.

First steps

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Setting up an email account is easy, and it's free. You can choose from a range of email providers who will let you create a unique email address.

You can register for an email account on sites such as Outlook.com (run by Microsoft), Gmail (run by Google), Yahoo! Mail and AOL Mail - but there are loads of others to choose from.

The sign-up process for most email accounts is quite similar. You click on 'Log in' or 'Sign up' on your selected site.

You'll be asked to provide a unique user name and password (you might be offered alternatives if the user name has already been taken). You will then be set up with your email account.

Unique address

You'll use your email address to send emails, and it will be used by other people to contact you. As with a postal address, an email address is made up of different parts.

• the first part (which comes before the @ symbol) is your user name

• the company that provides your email address comes after the @

• the email address typically ends with .com or .co.uk

Only you can use or access your email address. And you should make sure it stays that way by creating a password that's hard to guess and keeping it to yourself.

Messages and attachments

Once you've got your address, you can write to anyone else who uses email by clicking on 'Compose' or 'New message' (depending on the program you're using).

When you've finished writing your message, type in the email address of the person you're sending it to. Then fill in the 'Subject' line of the message and press 'Send'.

All the emails you receive will appear in your 'inbox'. To read a message, you simply click on it.

To respond to a message, click on 'Reply', and to send it on to someone else, click 'Forward'. You can also store it in a folder or you can hit 'Delete' to get rid of it.

You might find that you have been sent an email with an 'attachment'. Look out for a little paper clip symbol next to it. An attachment is a file - such as a photo or document - that has been added to the email.

For more information on how to open an attachment or attach a file to an email, take a look at the Related Links section at the end of this guide.

Junk mail

Some of the emails you receive might be unwanted junk mail known as 'spam'.

Most of these messages will automatically end up in your spam/junk folder. However, some spam may not be filtered out and may appear in your inbox.

Check the sender's name before opening an email. Don't open any attachments or click on links unless you trust the sender - otherwise you will be at risk of your computer being infected with a virus.

If the email is clearly junk mail, the best thing to do is to delete it immediately.

Stay safe

You also need to keep an eye out for 'phishing' emails that attempt to trick you into handing over personal information.

Phishing emails can often appear to be from a trusted business or friend, and are sometimes very convincing, so never enter any personal information or passwords unless you are absolutely certain it's necessary.

If a message from a friend seems out of character, think twice about opening it - the sender might have had their email account hacked.

And remember to always log off or sign out when you've finished using email in order to keep your information safe.

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