Miscellaneous Ramblings

8 Free POP3 Email Options

Charles Moore - 2008.08.25 - Tip Jar

Many Mac owners have used Apple's .mac online service for years, although the teething problems that have afflicted .mac's replacement, MobileMe, probably have many thinking about jumping ship.

Presumably, Apple will get the kinks ironed out of MobileMe eventually, and if you can make good use of the package of other features included with MobileMe, a case can be made for it being a reasonable (albeit not spectacular) value. However, if an email service is what you're mainly looking for, the annual MobileMe subscription fee is pretty steep.

If you've been around the Mac community for a few years, you probably remember that Apple used to offer free mac.com "lifetime" POP3 email accounts, but it proved a short life. Introduced in 1999, mac.com ended with the launch of .mac at Macworld Expo in 2000. That was around the time things were looking pretty bleak for free POP3 services, and several others went down the tubes as well.

There are still dozens of free email services on the Internet - the vast majority of them Web-based, which means that you must access your email with a browser. Web-based email can be convenient if you travel a lot or need to access your mail from computers you don't own - or even an assortment of ones you do - because you can use any computer with Internet access to check your mail.

However, for regular home or office purposes, POP3 email is more convenient, especially if you are among the two-thirds or so of Internet users who don't have broadband service.

POP3 email is the type of email account you access with client software like Eudora, OS X Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, or a gaggle of others.

Incoming messages are received by a remote server and stay there until you download them to your own computer. With POP3, you can do all your email work offline except for actually sending and downloading messages, which cuts down immensely on online time used if you're a dialup user, and since both outgoing and incoming messages are stored on your own hard drive, it's easy and convenient to access your archives.

One problem with third-party POP3 email services, free or otherwise, is that your Internet Service Provider may be blocking Port 25 for all SMTP transmissions other than ones that go through its own SMTP server, which in turn may not accept messages with return addresses other than for your ISP email account. Some third-party email services work around this by supporting Port 587 with their SMTP servers for outgoing mail.

There have been a lot of casualties since my last survey of what's available in the category - several longtime free email providers have gone fee only with their POP3 service, and some others have disappeared completely. My guess is that this is fallout from Google's Gmail service, which offers both Web and POP3 access with 2.5 GB of online free storage space.

However there are still a bunch of smaller free POP3 services as well, some with unique features that may appeal. I don't claim that the listing below is exhaustive, but I think it covers most of the bases. Apologies in advance for any inadvertent omissions, and if you know of any free POP3 email services I haven't included, please let me know.

Free POP3 Email Services in alphabetical order


The Christian.Net online community offers free Web and POP3 email to members, and membership is free. This site is open to anyone, however, it is centered around Christianity (defined according to the providers' core beliefs), and they expect everyone to respect that.

You can use any email program that is POP3 compliant (Mail, Eudora, Outlook Express, Netscape, etc.)

Note that you should not configure your mail program to check for new mail too frequently. The POP server counts each check you make, and it will stop letting you in if you exceed a certain amount per day. This is an effort to help conserve bandwidth and reduce impact on the server. This does not apply to the webmail program though. Checking once every 5 to 10 minutes is fine; checking every few seconds is not.

Christian.net don't currently allow you to use their SMTP server for relaying from external mail programs. Instead, you should configure your software to check for mail here while sending through your local ISP's mail server.

The mail server scans all incoming and outgoing messages and deletes those that contain viruses. The virus database is updated twice a day so it should always be current.

Each Christian.net email address has a completely customizable spam filter. The default spam filtering options should stop most junk mail, but you might want to fine tune it using PEP.

Currently any single message is limited to 10 megabytes.

Your inbox is limited to 10 megabytes and email will bounce once it's full. To avoid this, either download your mail or move it into a different folder in the webmail program.


Gawab.com has generated a track record offering free email service for over 7 years and currently claims 5,466,594 users and offering both POP and SMTP service. POP/SMTP service, Gawab.com offers an extensive list of features and for the past three years of operation, has been hosted in what it claims to be one of the most reliable data centers in the world, reaching an availability that has exceeded 99.9%. It is also satisfyingly fast, even over dialup connections.

Gawab provides 2147 MB of storage space and uses multilevel mailbox protection to enhance security measures. An authentication/authorization mechanism exists between all software layers involved in accessing mailboxes. All sensitive information, such as passwords, is encrypted by the system to ensure the privacy of our users.

Also supports webmail (and Webmail3) so you can check your inbox with a browser from any computer on the Internet

Signup is a bit time consuming and demands a lot of information, but once the signup process is complete, the new account is created instantly. POP3 settings info is included in the Welcome email message from Gawab Support.

I've used Gawab, and it has been fast and slick, and reliable both for checking and sending mail.

Gmail/Google Mail

Gmail is the biggest free POP3 (with webmail as well) service that includes over 7062 megabytes (and counting) of free storage. The backbone of Gmail is a powerful Google search engine that quickly finds any message an account owner has ever sent or received and not deleted. That means there's no need to file messages in order to find them again.

When Gmail displays an email, it automatically shows all the replies to that email as well, so users can view a message in the context of a conversation. There are no popups or untargeted banner ads in Gmail, which places relevant text ads and links to related web pages adjacent to email messages.

I've been using Gmail for about three years and have found it reliable and generally excellent - especially since POP3 access was added.

Quick Facts

  • Cost: Free
  • Storage: 7062.491243+ megabytes (and counting)
  • Superior spam protection using innovative Google technology
  • Languages: Messages can be sent and read in most languages. The Gmail interface is available in 38 languages: US and UK English, simplified and traditional Chinese, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.
  • Access: Free automatic forwarding and POP3 access
  • JavaScript and cookies must be enabled for web access.

10 reasons to use Gmail

  1. You don't like spam - Gmail blocks spam before it gets to your inbox. If an unwanted message ever finds its way through, you can fight back by reporting it and help make the spam filters even better.
  2. Search your mail instantly - Use Google search within Gmail to find the exact message you want
  3. Organize replies into conversations
  4. Chat is built in
  5. Labels, filters, and stars
  6. Get your mail on the go
  7. Lots of space
  8. Ads, but only the good kind - With Gmail, you'll never see popups or untargeted banner ads. Instead Gmail displays text ads and related links you might find useful and interesting.
  9. Save time - Take advantage of Quick Contacts and Keyboard Shortcuts in Gmail to get through your email even faster. And don't forget that you can quickly find messages using Gmail's search feature powered by Google search technology.
  10. All this is free


HotPOP LLC is a privately held company based in Newton, Massachusetts. Founded in 1998, HotPOP offers email accounts from various domains with a combination of features not found with other providers. It has proved to have staying power, and it's been reliable.

HotPOP's owners pledge that the free service is here to stay, noting that while many other free email providers, especially free POP email providers, have been discontinuing their services, HotPOP has no plans to discontinue or change new or existing free accounts.


  • Free POP Mail Access - Read your mail with your favorite program.
  • Large Mailboxes - Store thousands of messages with up to 100 megabytes of space.
  • Ad-Free Options - Opt-out subscriptions available for as low as $0.99/month.
  • Mail Filtering - User-defined filters can stop spam and other undesirable mail before it ever gets to your mailbox.
  • Instant Signup - You can be ready to go in a few minutes.
  • Free Support - If our site can't help you, our free email support can.
  • Free Mail Forwarding - Have your mail forwarded to up to 15 addresses.
  • Free SMTP Access - Send mail directly from your favorite client.
  • Cool Domains - Fun, frisky and memorable.
  • No Popups - We use no popups, not even for free accounts.

There is also Web access to your HotPOP account. There is a limit of 500 KB per message and a maximum of 1,000 incoming email messages per day.

Signup is easy. Just fill out the form and survey, and you are ready to go. An email will be sent to your current email address with your password and some helpful information. If you are using a POP account, you can log in right after you configure your client.

HotPOP offers a combined POP3/forwarding and web-based email service. At the free level, HotPOP includes 10 MB of storage for email messages and the ability to specify up to 3 destination addresses to forward messages to.


LPeMail provides free POP3 and web-based email service with 10 MB of storage.

Fast, easy signup, and immediate use access.

Spam Free Email

  • Free Email Account
  • A Spam Filter that works. An Email Manager that Blocks SPAM from your Inbox Stops 99.999% of SPAM and Viruses at the server
  • Protect yourself from annoying SPAM
  • Protect your computer from Viruses, Trojans and more and sophisticated anti-spam protection, including whitelist, blacklist and keyphrase options.
  • Take Back all that wasted time sifting through junkmail
  • Protect your Family from being subjected to pornography
  • Reduce the Spread of Harmful Viruses
  • Guard your friends from rerouted Spam email
  • Use an Email Account that Works to Protect YOU

How can LPeMail's Spam Filter be Free?

LPeMail is supported by voluntary donations from those in the community. If you would like to make a donation, go to <http://liveprayer.com/donations.htm>.

Note that you will receive a daily devotional email in your LPeMail account.


LavaBit (formerly MailShack) is a free POP3 service I've been using for over a year, and I've found it both fast and reliable. LavaBit claims 90,000 users.

Incorporated in the state of Texas during the summer of 2004 as Nerdshack LLC by a dedicated group of programmers, the company has changed significantly since the days it operated as a single server in the back of an advertising agency closet. To reflect that change, the company name was officially changed in December of 2005 to Lavabit LLC. The name change was made to reflect change from a service catering primarily to information technology professionals into the mainstream email service provider it is today.

Lavabit was founded as a direct reaction to the larger free email services available. The developers felt it was possible to create an email service that was fast, reliable, feature rich, and didn't achieve profitability by "prostituting" its user base to marketers.

A large part of Lavabit's personality comes from its founders, a small group of Dallas based programmers with extensive experience building mission critical systems and high profile websites. It is with this experience, a maniacal level of dedication, and a few smart people that Lavabit has been built.

Today Lavabit provides email service to over 90,000 individuals, who collectively send and receive over 200,000 electronic messages per day. At any given moment almost 1,000 of those users will be connected to the Lavabit network. Since the deployment of Lavabit's proprietary mail server, the network has handled over 50 million messages. Growth continues with an average of 100 new user accounts per day.

To economically and reliably handle the growth of its user base, Lavabit has developed a proprietary mail server that currently supports the SMTP and POP3 protocols. This proprietary mail server combines the best open source libraries to provide a fast, reliable mail server that rivals anything else available today. The mail server has been written exclusively in C and runs across a cluster of Linux based servers. Lavabit has been using its proprietary mail server since February of 2005.

LavaBit features include:

  • Spam Filter
  • Realtime Time Blacklist's (DBL)
  • Greylisting
  • Whitelisting
  • Blacklisting
  • Scatter Back Blocking
  • Challenge and Response

And much more.


SAFe-mail™ is a secure, easy to use email system. It includes encrypted collaboration features and document storage functions.

3 MB of space is free. More space and functionality is supplied under Premium Services. There are no advertisements, downloads, or cookies. SAFe-mail supports most hardware platforms and any operating system. It includes spam filters and has full compatibility with most browsers, email clients, and all relevant protocols including POP, SMTP, IMAP, S/MIME, and PKI.

SAFe-mail is designed to provide maximum security and privacy without any complexity.

SAFe-mail has developed a comprehensive, feature rich communication system that provides a wide range of applications including messaging, collaborative document development, statement/invoice delivery, data distribution/access, data storage and on-line payment. Uniquely in the current market place, every application is robustly secured by state-of-the-art encryption ensuring the highest level protection and privacy to users. Within the overall system as with each application, security is not an add-on feature but has been designed in to the fundamental architecture of every function.

SAFe-mail provides the following functions, features and benefits:

  • Feature-rich secure email system including security of attachments providing private end-to-end email communication among SAFe-mail users and between SAFe-mail users and non-SAFe-mail users.
  • All messages are registered and tracked with read receipts so that users know when their emails are delivered and opened by recipients.
  • Address Book with secure grouping and sharing facility so that users' private address books may be securely exported and imported between SAFe-mail users.
  • Folders and nesting of subfolders enabling users to organize archived data content.
  • User level Authentication facility enabling users to filter communication and data access to specific user groups.
  • Scheduler with secure sharing facility enabling users' schedulers to be securely exported and imported between SAFe-mail users

SAFe-mail provides a high level of protection against invasion of privacy. Using SSL (Secure Socket Layer), which is a component of all current browsers, for all data transmissions and strong proprietary encryption for server security, it offers the highest possible protection for all email communications and file attachments.

The policy is to enable free service, and if the resources available for free are enough for you, you may use the service as long as you wish.

Features and functions of premium accounts and free accounts are similar. The main difference is in the quantities i.e. less names in the address book, less folders, filters, mails per hour, disk space, frequency of backup, etc.

Free service also enables corporate senders such as banks, lawyers, heath care firms, etc., to tell their customers to open a free account at SAFe-mail so that they can correspond with their customers securely.

The system is available at any time and from any location using any device or operating system, be it PC or Macintosh, Windows or Unix, Sun or i-mode enabled wireless device.

Virus Free Email

Virus Free Email provides businesses and endusers a quick and convenient way to ensure their own security when it comes to email.

VFEmail scans each complete email, including attachments, for viruses and spam before it gets to your inbox. If a virus is found, it is blocked at the gateway and isn't even allowed onto VFEmail.net servers. VFEmail utilizes greylisting, public and private blacklists, and the award-winning SpamAssassin to detect spam, which is then discarded and will only appear in your spam folder if it's potentially legitimate.

Virus Free Email provides POP/IMAP/SMTP interfaces with SSL encryption, but also provides a convenient web interface (intended for "Road Warriors") to your email, with an auto-detecting WAP interface. The flexibility of the 'Horde' interface includes online HTML, Word, and Excel document viewers. It will also recognize your mobile device and automatically display a 'mobile' version of webmail when you login. There is also a sharable calendar, addressbook, notes, and a task list. The Roundcube interface provides a fast Web 2.0 based email client, and an addressbook that is interchangeable with the Horde interface. VFEmail also supports individual email forwarding, aliases, vacation messages, domain forwarding, ftp storage, and email searches.

The free version of the service offers 50 MB storage and a limit of 50 MB monthly bandwidth.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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