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30 most-asked email questions answered

email questions
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Belozersky)

It’s been around for decades, and is used by nearly everyone who has access to the internet, but many people still have questions about email. So, in this article, we set out to answer 30 of the most commonly-asked questions, covering things like email security, when email was invented, and which email is best.

What do CC and BCC mean?

When sending an email, CC stands for Carbon Copy and BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy. 

CC works in exactly the same way as adding more than one address to the ‘To’ field, each recipient will get the same copy of the email. Everyone in the To and CC fields will be able to see who else the email has been sent to. 

CC tends to be used when you’re sending an email that you want someone to know has been sent, but the subject of the email may not be directed at them.

BCC works a bit differently in that the BCC recipient will receive a copy of the email, but other people in the To and CC fields won’t know it’s been sent to anyone else, whereas people in the BCC field will be able to see all the other recipients. 

You would use BCC if you don’t want the primary recipient to know it has been sent to anyone else, but also if you are sending to a large list and don’t want everyone to be able to see everyone else’s email address.

Is email secure?

How secure your email is will depend on which provider you use to send your email. Some providers, like Protonmail, use end-to-end encryption which means only you and the recipient can read the contents of an email. Others, like Gmail, have security measures in place to ensure your emails can’t be hacked, but Google can still access your email data.

What should I do if my email is hacked?

The very first thing you should do is change your password. It shouldn’t be a password you’ve used elsewhere and it shouldn’t be something that’s easy to guess or remember. It’s recommended that you use a password manager to create unique passwords.

Which email is best?

The answer to that question is longer than we can fit into this article, but luckily, we’ve already covered it in our Best email service 2020 guide.

What’s the difference between IMAP and POP3?

POP3 and IMAP are what’s known as incoming email protocols. With POP3, an email is  downloaded from a mail server to a device and then usually deleted from the server, meaning the only copy exists on the device to which it was downloaded. IMAP, on the other hand, stores the message permanently on the server so that it can be synchronized across multiple devices.

Are email addresses case sensitive?

No, they’re not, which means you can type out your email addresses any way you like and they will still reach the intended recipient as long as there are no spelling errors.

When was email invented?

It’s generally considered that email was created in 1972 by ARPANET contractor, Ray Tomlinson, although others claim it was 14-year-old Shiva Ayyadurai who developed the technology in 1978 working for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

How can you email large files?

You might’ve tried to email a large file before—like a video—and got an error message back saying that the file was too large. So how do you send it? You need to use file transfer software, and we’ve compiled a guide of the best file transfer software options available.

Can emails be blocked?

Emails can be blocked, depending on which email provider you use. Services like Google, Yahoo, and Outlook all provide ways to block senders.

Why is email marketing important?

This is another question that requires an article of its own, so we’ve compiled a list of the best email marketing software which helps answer the question.

Why do some emails go to spam?

There are a number of reasons why your emails might be ending up in people’s spam or junk folders, but among the most common are you’ve included attachments, your email body contains too many links or spam trigger words, or you’ve added too many addresses to the BCC field.

Are email and Gmail the same thing?

Given how ubiquitous Gmail is, you could be forgiven for thinking they are the same thing, but they’re not. Email is a technology used for sending electronic messages, whereas Gmail is a service provided by Google for sending emails.

Which email service is owned by Microsoft?

Outlook.com is owned by Microsoft. It started out as Hotmail in 1996 before being bought by Microsoft in 1997 and renamed to MSN Hotmail, then Windows Live Hotmail, and eventually rebranded as Outlook.com in 2012.

Can email addresses be traced?

The answer to this question also depends on which email provider you use. Every email includes what are known as ‘headers’, which are pieces of information about how the email was sent. Once you have an email’s header data, you can use online tools to determine which IP address it was sent from. Some email service providers will include the IP address of the person who actually sent the email, while others, like Gmail, will only show a Google IP address.

Whose email is this?

If you’ve received an email from an unknown recipient and you’d like to find out a bit more about who they are before replying, you could type the email address into a search engine like Google, or you could do a search on a social media platform like Facebook or LinkedIn.

Are emails legally binding?

This will vary depending on where you live as laws apply differently from country to country and often state to state, but in many jurisdictions, email is considered to be legally binding. To be on the safe side, you should assume that to be the case.

Which email provider uses @me?

An @me email address is associated with iCloud from Apple with other aliases including @me.com, @icloud.com, and @mac.com.

Does email use data?

To download an email from the mail server to your device uses data, but once you’ve downloaded, it doesn’t use any further data to read it, regardless of how many times you open it.

Where are emails stored?

If your email account is set up with the IMAP protocol, then emails are stored in the cloud on a mail server. If you’re using POP3 instead, usually the email will only be stored on the device to which it was downloaded, although some email software gives you the option of keeping a copy on the mail server too.

Can email addresses have spaces?

Like any other address on the Internet, email addresses can’t have spaces, although you can break words up with periods, dashes, or underscores.

Why is my email stuck in the outbox?

There are many reasons why this could happen but some are that you’ve included attachments that are too large, you have an antivirus program which is scanning outgoing emails and has prevented the sending, or the mail server you’re sending to is offline.

Do emails expire?

Some email providers, like Protonmail, include a feature whereby email messages can be set to expire after a period of time of your choosing.

Do emails take up space?

Yes, all emails will take up space. How much depends on the contents of the email and whether there are any attachments or not.

Do emails have read receipts?

This is another feature that depends on your email provider. Some have it available, others do not. For example, Google’s Gmail for personal use doesn’t, but G Suite for business does.

Can emails be unsent?

Again, it depends on your email provider. Some include an ‘undo send’ feature whereby you can set how long after you’ve sent an email that you have to undo the action.

Is email social media?

No. While email does share some of the characteristics of social media, such as the sharing of information and content, social media is more about creating online communities, which isn’t what email is used for.

Is an email address PII?

Email is classified as confidential information and so falls under the definition of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) which should only be collected with an explicit opt-in and give people a method whereby they can remove themselves from a mailing list.

How does email spoofing work?

We mentioned email headers earlier and email spoofing works by forging or spoofing email headers to make an email seem like it’s come from a different address than the actual sender. This spoofing technique is used most often by those sending spam or phishing emails.

What is a phishing email?

Phishing emails are those that try to trick you into sending sensitive personal information like bank account details or passwords. They usually look like they come from legitimate businesses like your bank or a government agency, but have used the spoofing technique to disguise their true origin.

How do you transfer emails to a new device?

If you’ve bought a new phone and want to transfer your emails from your old one to your new one, the chances are you set your email account up to use IMAP which means that all your messages are still stored in the cloud. So all you need to do is enter the settings for your email account, and you’ll instantly have access to all your old emails.

Summary

Although most of us use it every day, there are still many mysteries surrounding email and how it works. But with our list, hopefully, you’re now better informed about things like POP3 and IMAP, read receipts, phishing, and emailing large files.