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Issue #746: November 7-13, 2021

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Q: I read with interest your recent comments on AOL accounts (I.G.T.M. Issue #737 – Sep 5, 2021). I am one of those who bought AOL e-mail, then discovered it had been made free, and later discovered you could keep your aol.com address. That is what I have done, receiving my e-mail in various formats through a long progression of phones, tablets, and computers. The current one is a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (probably dated in geek terms). I got my mail through Microsoft Edge until I was warned that the provider had not done something, so I was being cut off. I discovered at myaol that I still had an active account there, so I just deleted a few thousand old e-mails, and started using that account. I have to log into it every time, though. I liked being able to just click the mail button on my computer, but it didn’t work, so I got rid of the menu button. Microsoft has been no help; just thousands of people with a similar problem, sites with answers that have been locked, and dozens of incomprehensible solutions you are free to try. Thank you for providing usually easier solutions to common problems. I guess my question is, how do I get a more direct link to my e-mail. I do not seem to have a scam or spam problem with my e-mail. I also have G-mail, on a phone, but never check it because nothing ever appears there but promotional messages.

– John P.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: I can think of at least a couple of ways for you to continue using your AOL e-mail account, John, and they include using the tools you’re already used to.  It’s unclear to me what you were doing before that was requiring you to log in to something every time, or exactly what are the problems that all those thousands of other people are having.   

AOL’s e-mail service is implemented largely the same as any other provider.  They maintain an e-mail server which customers can access to send, receive, and store e-mail messages. 

The most direct method of accessing it is using their webmail portal that they call AOL Mail.  Accounts are free, and you can access it anywhere you have a compatible browser, including smart devices, and PCs, including those in public locations such as libraries.  Of course, all the usual cautions about protecting your information apply when using public computers.  It occurs to me that the need to “log into it every time” that you mentioned might be something like this.  Websites with individual user accounts attempt to protect individual data privacy by making someone log in before allowing access.

If you don’t like the Webmail option, you can also access the AOL e-mail server through an e-mail client application, such as Outlook, Thunderbird, or even the built-in Windows Mail application that you mentioned.  I don’t need to provide the instructions here, as AOL has done a decent job in their online help articles.  You can read the one on this topic by visiting TinyURL.com/IGTM-0746.

Believe it or not, you can also use Gmail to access your AOL e-mail account.  It’s my opinion that one of the most underused features of Gmail is its ability to pick-up mail from another provider’s server and present it within the Gmail framework.  Gmail has a highly superior SPAM scanning engine, and routing e-mails through Gmail can serve to detect and filter SPAM for you. 

Of course, to do this, you must have a Gmail account up and running.  They’re free, so that shouldn’t be an issue.  In the Gmail web interface, click on Settings (the gear icon near the upper-right corner), then select “See all Settings.”  In the navigation bar across the top, select “Accounts and Import.”  Here you will find “Check mail from other accounts:.”  Click “Add a mail account” to begin a wizard interface that will step you through the process.  You will find that AOL supports a tidy little feature called “Gmailify” that allows you to manage both accounts using only the Gmail inbox.

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