Whenever you try to setup an email account in an email program (like Windows Live Mail, Outlook Express, Microsoft Outlook, Thunderbird…), you will be asked for incoming mail server settings and outgoing mail server settings: what are these, and how do you find out what they are? In this email tutorial, you will learn the role of these two pieces of information, and where to look to find these settings. We will also give you the answer for some of the most popular webmail services like Windows Live Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and Gmail. The first time you add an email account in your favorite email program, the process may seem daunting, but will seem a lot simpler at the end of this tutorial!
The "incoming mail server settings" are the information an email program needs to be able to connect to an email account, check for new messages, and download any new emails from the server. In many cases, the incoming mail server settings are different from the "outgoing mail server settings", which are used to send emails from your email client (email program).
To get your incoming server settings from a work email address, check with your system administrator; if you are using a free email address provided by your ISP (Internet Service Provider), call their customer / tech support phone number to get this information: they may call it any number of ways, but if you explain that you are trying to setup the email account they gave you inside a particular email program (tell them which one), they will be able to either give you the information directly, or (most likely) tell you where to go on their website to find out that information. Most ISP's will have a Support section on their site to answer common questions by category (and "Email" is likely to have its own category of help topics).
Side info: very often, incoming server addresses will start with "
pop3." or "
imap." - this allows to separate incoming credentials from outgoing ones, even to the point where different mail servers handle different kinds of traffic. For the sake of convenience though, an increasing number of providers use the same address for both, typically in the form "
Since Windows Live Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and Gmail are the most popular free email services in the world, we will list right here their incoming mail server settings:
imap.aol.com" as incoming mail server (AOL Mail server settings)
imap.googlemail.com(for security reasons, Google disables POP and IMAP access by default - customize your Gmail settings).
pop3.live.com(Hotmail server settings)
pop.mail.yahoo.com(Yahoo Mail server settings)
This of course also depends on how you setup your account in an email program; some email programs like Windows Live Mail, for example, automatically connect to Hotmail behind the scenes, without asking you to enter any mail server information - at least when it knows, or can automatically figure out, what the provider's setup is.
Just like the incoming mail server settings allow your email client to connect to your email account to download new mail messages, the outgoing mail server settings allow it to connect to your email provider to send emails. To avoid having email accounts hijacked and used as spam relay on the server, an increasing number of email providers like the big three (Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and Gmail) require what is called "outgoing authentication" - this simply means that before you can send an email from your account, you have to "prove" that you are the actual owner of that email account by supplying your user name (email address) and password whenever you send email.
Here are some common outgoing mail server:
smtp.live.com" as outgoing mail server
smtp.aol.com" as outgoing mail server
In summary, the incoming mail server and outgoing mail server are just special internet addresses that your email program uses to connect to your email account whenever it either checks on the server for new mail messages (incoming), or when it tries to send an email using a particular account (outgoing). Because these addresses point to a mail server (not a web server), you cannot load them in your browser: