How to Create a Free ProtonMail Account

Computer security concept
Outside your computer and apps, your email is securely locked with a ProtonMail account. StockUnlimited

Set up a free ProtonMail account for easy, anonymous and securely encrypted email.

Is Email Encryption Worth the Trouble?

Do you want to secure your email communication with encryption?

All you need to do is figure out how to install gnupg and create a public key and a private key and sign the keys, then make the cryptographic tool work with your email program somehow, or copy and paste encrypted text when you use a web interface, hopefully to extract some legible characters.

All this may be sufficient for reasonably secure email. It is not necessary, however.

How ProtonMail Offers Free, Secure Email

You can just as well create an account with ProtonMail.

ProtonMail keeps all your email encrypted on the server, and only you—not even they—can decipher it. All messages exchanged with other ProtonMail users is automatically encrypted, and you can send secure email to any email address as well. Since ProtonMail uses a standard for email encryption (inline OpenPGP), others can send you encrypted email, too, without using ProtonMail themselves.

Since ProtonMail and all its servers are located in Switzerland, your data is governed by that country's (and not the EU or US's) privacy laws.

ProtonMail Means Anonymity, Too

Speaking of privacy, setting up a ProtonMail account is not only easy, it also requires no personal information: even an alternate email address is optional (though, for what it is worth, they may log the IP address of the location from which you sign up).

So, a ProtonMail account can serve as an anonymous email address as well.

Create a Free ProtonMail Account

To set up a new account at ProtonMail and get a fresh, anonymous email address that makes encrypted communication easy:

  1. Open the ProtonMail sign-up page in your browser.
  2. Click SELECT FREE PLAN under Select Your ProtonMail Account Type for a free account.
    • Click Free to expand the free account's section if it is not visible.
    • You can also choose a paid ProtonMail account plan, of course, which will get you more storage, filters and other features as well as support ProtonMail development.
    • You can change your account type at any time after signing up to up- or downgrade.
  1. Enter the user name you want to use for your ProtonMail email address over Choose username under Username and domain.
    • It is best to stick to lowercase characters.
    • You can use underscores, dashes, dots and a few other extra characters; do note that they do not count for the uniqueness of a ProtonMail user name: "ex.ample" is the same user name as "example".
  2. Enter the password you wish to use for logging in to ProtonMail over Choose a login password and Confirm login password under Login password.
    • This is the password you will use to log in to your ProtonMail, similar to passwords you use with other email services.
  3. Now type the encryption password for your emails over Choose a mailbox password and Confirm mailbox password under Mailbox password.
    • This is the password that will be used to encrypt your emails and folders.
    • With ProtonMail all your email text is encrypted and only stored in that form on the server. When you open your account in a browser or app, you need to enter this password to have the browser or app decipher emails locally, so emails also always only are transmitted in securely encrypted form.
    • Make sure you do pick a safe password for mailbox encryption in particular.
    • Also make sure to always remember this password. There is no record of it with ProtonMail, so you cannot recover or reset this password. If you lose it, your emails will be unaccessible to everyone (safe for somebody who stole your password, of course).
  1. Optionally, enter an existing email address you own over Recovery email under Recovery email (Optional).
    • You can receive account recovery options and help recovering your account password—but, again, not your mailbox encryption password—at this address.
  2. Click CREATE ACCOUNT.

Securely Accessing ProtonMail

You can log in to your ProtonMail account using a browser or app.

If you use your browser to access ProtonMail,

  1. log in at https://mail.protonmail.com/login only and
  2. make sure your browser shows a verified and validated security certificate for the site.

If you use an app to access ProtonMail, make sure you only use the official

Download Your Public ProtonMail PGP Key

To get a copy of the public PGP key for your ProtonMail email address:

  1. Make sure you are logged in to the ProtonMail web interface.
  2. Select SETTINGS from the top navigation bar.
  3. Go to the KEYS tab.
  4. Follow the PUBLIC KEY link in the Download column under Keys.

Now, share that key freely with everybody you want to be able to send you encrypted email at ProtonMail. They need to make sure their email program or service uses the inline OpenPGP format with your public PGP key for ProtonMail to be able to decrypt the message automatically.

You can

for example, from where it can be fetched, even automatically, by email programs, or make it available through Facebook (see below).

Make Facebook Send You Encrypted Notifications to ProtonMail

You can also have Facebook send your notifications in encrypted form. First, make sure Facebook does use your ProtonMail email address for notifications:

  1. Open your Facebook settings in a browser.
  2. Click Edit under Contact.
  3. Now click Add another email or phone number.
  4. Type your ProtonMail email address under New Email:.
  5. Click Add.
  6. Now click Close.
  7. Open the email with the subject "Facebook Email Verification" in your ProtonMail account and follow the Confirm your email address link. lli

Now, add the ProtonMail public key to Facebook and make it use that key for notifications:

  1. Navigate to the Facebook settings in your browser.
  2. Select Security in the left navigation bar.
  3. Click Edit under Public Key.
  4. Copy and paste your public ProtonMail PGP key as downloaded before under Enter your OpenPGP Public Key here.
    • The key will start with something like
      -----BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----
      Version: OpenPGP.js v1.2.0
      Comment: http://openpgpjs.org

      xsBNBFgLmzwBCADyFK8…
  5. Make sure Use this public key to encrypt notification email that Facebook sends you? is checked.
  6. Click Save Changes.
  7. Open the message with the subject "Encrypted Notification from Facebook" in your ProtonMail account.
  8. Follow the Yes, encrypt notification emails sent to me from Facebook link.

Make Your Public ProtonMail PGP Key Available via Facebook

To allow people to get your public PGP key for sending you encrypted email at ProtonMail from your Facebook profile:

  1. Go to your Facebook About page.
  2. Select Contact and Basic Info under About.
  3. Click under PGP Public Key.
  4. Now click Only Me with the lock icon.
  5. Select Public or Friends to make your ProntoMail public PGP key available via Facebook, or select more granularly who can access your key using Custom.
  6. Click Save Changes.

Turn on Authentication Logs in ProtonMail

To have ProtonMail log all attempts to access your account (including the IP address of the log-in attempt):

  1. Select SETTINGS in the top ProtonMail navigation bar.
  2. Open the SECURITY tab.
  3. Make sure Advanced is selected under Authentication Logs.
  4. If prompted:
    1. Type your ProtonMail account password over Login password under Password required.
    2. Click SUBMIT.
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