How can I read my emails while I'm away?

Occasionally a Thunderbird user asks “How can I read my emails while I'm away?”

Email messages sent to you are actually sent to a server that maintains your account. This server will be provided and operated by whoever runs your email account for you. This may be:

  • your ISP

  • one of the free providers (e.g. Hotmail, Googlemail, Yahoo!)

  • your employer

  • a paid-for service part of a web-hosting bundle

In some cases, it can be a combination of the above. Some ISPs contract out their email to one of the free providers. Googlemail and Yahoo are both significant in this field.

When you want to look at your email, it has to be fetched from that server to be displayed on your computer screen. I'll assume that you have arrived at this page because you use Thunderbird.

Using either POP or IMAP (we'll talk about these elsewhere), Thunderbird will offer your login and password to the server (so long as you've told it to store the password), and will collect your email, and will show your messages on the screen.

To use either POP or IMAP, you need to set up an email client (such as Thunderbird) to access your server. If you're in a position where you are having to use a borrowed computer, you don't really want to leave your messages on that computer - and you don't want to leave the settings there which might allow someone else to access your account.

So what else can be done? Webmail.

Webmail means using your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.) to visit the your email provider's website. It is well suited to use on a borrowed computer. It requires no setting up and leaves none of your messages on the borrowed computer.

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