Security Tips for AOL Mail

If you are using your AOL Mail account for anything private, personal or sensitive, then it is very important to take steps to keep it secure. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unsavory individuals out there who would love to break into your email account for nefarious purposes. The good news is, there are a number of things you can do to prevent that from happening.

In this post, we’ll go over some of the most powerful security tips for your AOL Mail account. First, we’ll talk about how to make sure your password is actually keeping your account safe, including how to change your AOL password in case you think you have been hacked. We’ll also show you how to set up two-step verification in AOL, view your account activity to see if there have been any suspicious logins, and be smart about how you use your computer to make you less prone to attack.

AOL Mail password tips

The first step to securing your AOL email is simply choosing a strong password. It should be something easy for you to remember (so that you don’t have to write it down—not very secure) but hard for other people to guess. You also need to make it hard for hacking software to crack, and the way to foil these programs is to use long, complex passwords with a variety of character types. A combination of lowercase, uppercase, numbers and special characters can mean the difference between a password hacking program cracking it in a few minutes and not being able to figure it out after a hundred years!

It is also an internet “best practice” to change your password periodically just in case someone manages to get their hands on it. And, obviously, if you suspect that your AOL Mail has been hacked, you need to log in and change to a new password immediately.

Below is a quick tutorial on how to change your password in AOL Mail. We’ll assume you already know how to sign in to your account and are looking at your inbox.

First, go to the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Under your AOL username, there is a link called “Options” with a dropdown menu. Click to open the menu, and choose the first item in the list, “Account Info”.

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This will take you to your AOL account settings page. At the top, you will see your basic profile information: name, email, gender, date of birth, and zip code. Below that is the “Account Security” section.

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The first line in the Account Security section is “Password”. It won’t show what your password is (that would be a great way to put your account at the mercy of anyone looking over your shoulder), just the date it was last changed. To the right is a link to “Change Password…”

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When you click on the Change Password option, you just have to follow the on-screen directions. First, you will have to enter your current password and possibly answer your security question. This is to protect your AOL Mail account from random people sneaking in and changing your password without your knowledge. Finally, when prompted, type in your new (strong!) AOL password.

Setting up two-step verification in AOL

If you are like most people, you practically always have your mobile phone within arm’s reach. For people who wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without their smartphone, two-step verification (also called two-factor authentication) is a fantastic way to add an extra layer of security to your AOL account.

Two-step verification makes it much harder for unauthorized people to get into your email account because they not only have to enter the correct password, they also have to enter a one-time code that is sent via text message to your phone number. So, unless that person can figure out your password AND has unrestricted access to your phone, they won’t be able to hack into your AOL account.

To set up two-step verification in AOL, go back into your Account Settings just like we did in the section above. Right under the link to change your password, there is a link to “Set up” 2-step verification.

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Just like with changing your password, it’s important to keep random people from setting up two-step verification on your AOL Mail account behind your back. For that reason, you will probably have to reenter your password and answer your security question before you can set up this security feature.

Next, you need to enter your mobile phone number along with the appropriate country code. AOL will send a text message to that number for verification, or they can call you if you prefer. Simply type in the phone number and click either “Text” or “Call”, depending on how you want to receive the verification.

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After you get the text message or phone call, just follow the on-screen instructions to finish the setup process.

Updating your account recovery information

While you are in your account settings, it’s a good idea to check your account recovery information and make sure it is current. You want to have a backup email address and a mobile phone number here—these will be used to verify your identity if you ever forget your password or get locked out of your AOL Mail somehow.

The third item in “Account Recovery Information” is your security question. This should be something that only you know the answer to, but also something that you are sure you won’t forget, because you will need to answer this question to prove that you are you whenever you go to make changes to your account.

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Suspicious activity on your AOL account

If you think something fishy might be going on with your AOL Mail, you can log in and view account activity to see if anything looks suspicious.

Getting to this point is a bit confusing, because it is not in your “Account Settings” with the other security tools. Rather, it is in “My Account”, which is outside of AOL Mail because it applies to all AOL services. You can find it here: https://myservices.aol.com/home

In the middle “Account Options” column, you can click to “View My Account Activity” (the last item in the list of options).

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If you, like me, have no activity for any of the things they keep track of here, you’ll see something like the image below. Otherwise, there will be a list of changes that have been made to your AOL account.

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Securing your account and your computer

You can go a long way towards keeping your AOL account secure by being smart about the way you use your personal computer and other computers.

In this digital age, it is essential to have a good antivirus program on your computer. Scan your PC regularly to prevent viruses and malware from compromising the security of your computer and all the accounts you access from it.

When using computers other than your personal one, be careful to log out of any account you sign into on that PC. Sometimes, you will be logged out automatically when you close the browser window, but the safest bet is to sign out of your AOL Mail account before stepping away from that computer. Otherwise, the next person to use it might be able to access your private information.

How to Format Emails in AOL Mail

Although it’s the content of an email that really matters, formatting can be a good way to add clarity, emphasis or even a bit of fun. AOL Mail gives you the ability to change the format of the text in your messages much in the same way you can in a word processor like Microsoft Word.

So, this post will serve as a crash course in email formatting options in AOL Mail. We’ll go through all of the basic tools you can use to change font style, size, color, etc.


In this tutorial, we’ll assume you have already created an AOL account, know how to sign in to your AOL Mail inbox, and compose a basic email. We will start on the “Compose” screen with a blank email like this:

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Formatting toolbar in AOL Mail

All of your formatting options for emails can be conveniently found in one place: the formatting toolbar. This is located at the top of the composition screen, between the “Subject” line and the body of the email.

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However, if you don’t see it there—if it’s just a white space with no format buttons—don’t worry.

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Just go up to the main action buttons in the toolbar above the “To:” field. The second from the right has the familiar B, I, and U for bold, italics and underline, respectively. Clicking on this button will show or hide the formatting toolbar. So, if there is no toolbar under the subject line, all you need to do is click on this button, and it should appear.

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Email formatting options in AOL Mail

For the sake of illustration, in this tutorial I will use the sample email shown below. We’ll start with the basic, unformatted text, and then play with each of the AOL formatting buttons in order from left to right. (Obviously, you don’t have to use them all when writing your own emails.)

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The first formatting option, on the far left, has a button that looks like two capital “F”s. This button is used to change the font style. Arial is the default font in AOL Mail, but you can change any text in your message by highlighting it to select, clicking on the “FF” icon, and choosing the new font from the list of options. I’m going to change the font in my entire email to Tahoma:

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Moving to the right in the formatting toolbar, the next button looks like two capital “A”s, a large one and a smaller one. This is what you will use if you want to change the font size in your email. 10 pt is the default font size, and you can choose a font as small as 8 pt or as large as 36 pt. In my example, I’m going to change the font of just the first section of the email to size 14 pt:

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These next few buttons might look familiar to you if you have spent any time using a word processor program. In order, they are the Bold, Italics and Underline tools. To bold any text in your email, just highlight it and click on the “B” for bold.

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Note: You can also use the standard hotkeys here, such as Ctrl + B to bold text on Windows OS.

Just after bold, we have “I” for italics.

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Followed by “U” for underline.

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Next, you have a button that looks like a small eyedropper, which is an icon that is often used to mean color selection. In AOL Mail, this is how you change the color of your font. All you have to do is use your mouse to highlight the text that you want to change to a new color, click on the eyedropper, and then choose your desired color.

Darker colors are usually best for most emails with a standard white background because they are easier to read.

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The button to the right of the font color icon allows you to change the background or highlight color of the text. You may have guessed this from the fact that the icon itself looks like a pen being used to highlight something. Just like with font color, just select the text you want to “highlight”, click on the button and select the highlight color.

When your font color is dark, light colors are preferred for highlighting to aid in readability.

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Moving to the right, you will now see the text alignment option. You can choose to have your message be aligned left (default), centered, or aligned right. Just select the text whose alignment you wish to change, click on the alignment icon, and choose your desired alignment. In this example, I’m going to center just one line of text to make it stand out:

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If your email will include a list of some sort, formatting it with either numbers or bullets can be helpful for the recipient. The next button, whose icon looks like a numbered list, allows you to add numbers or bullet points to your email in AOL Mail. Since I have included step by step directions to my house in this sample email, I will create a numbered list by selecting those lines, clicking on the list button, and choosing “Numbered List”.

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The next button allows you to increase or decrease the indent of any text in your message. For example, if I want to set off my email sign-off, I can just select those two lines, click on the indent button, and click on “Increase Indent” as many times as it takes to get the text where I want it to be. I only had to increase it one time to shift it to where it is in this sample email (see the completed email at the bottom of the post).

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A horizontal line can be a good way to clearly divide an email into different sections. You could type one in with a bunch of repeated hyphens or underscores, but AOL Mail has an easier way. First, click on the line where you want the horizontal line to go, as if you were going to type on that line. I’ve marked this line with a star, and you can see that my blinking cursor is there. Then, click on the horizontal line button, and a line will be inserted right there.

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Emoticons, emojis, smileys… whatever you like to call them, they have practically become a language of their own. While generally not appropriate for formal emails, they can be fun to add to personal messages.

Just like with the horizontal line, you need to click on the spot where you want to insert the smiley, so that your cursor is blinking there, as if you were going to type. As in the previous example, I’ve marked my cursor with a star so you can see where the smiley will end up. Then, just click on the smiley button and choose your desired emoticon. It will appear wherever your cursor was blinking when you selected it.

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Finally, there is something called “Stationery” in AOL Mail, which—in theory—allows you to add festive backgrounds to your emails for special occasions. However, I was not able to get this option to work despite trying several times in various ways. I suspect that you are supposed to get a menu of stationery options when you click on the button, from which you would then make your selection, but I was never able to get anything to happen after clicking on it. Maybe you’ll have better luck than I did!

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And that is all of your formatting tools in AOL Mail! Here is a zoomed-out version of my sample email so that you can see everything we did to it in one shot:

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Now you have all the knowledge you need to add a personal touch to all of your emails with formatting options. To keep your AOL account secure, make sure you check our next post on security tips for AOL Mail.

A Farewell to AIM Chat

I was hoping to give you a tutorial today on using AOL’s famous chat app, AIM instant messenger, but unfortunately, it would be pointless. AIM chat was officially shut down last month, on December 15, 2017. This affects all AIM products and services, including associated data (sent and received files, chat logs, etc.) that wasn’t backed up somewhere else prior to that date.


If you use AOL Mail, you should know that your email account is still fine and operational. The only difference now is you will no longer see some email options that had to do with AIM, like displaying your screen name and online status on AIM in your emails.

You can find more detailed information on AOL’s help pages. When you try to go to the old AIM homepage, www.aim.com, you will be automatically redirected to the help page about the instant messenger shut down.

Why was AIM chat discontinued?

The first questions that are listed on the AIM messenger help page ask why the chat app was discontinued, and what new product has replaced it. As you can see, the answers given to these questions are not particularly satisfying.

However, a statement from a spokesperson from AOL’s new parent company (which also owns Verizon and Yahoo, among other major brands) offers a better explanation, saying that AIM was a pioneer in its day, “But the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed.”

Knowing that many people had given up AIM chat years ago in favor of newer products like Facebook, WhatsApp, or SnapChat, the decision to shut down the instant messenger didn’t exactly come as a surprise. Still, the program had just celebrated its 20th birthday, so there is still a bit of a nostalgic sting to the loss.

Nor is this a decision without precedent—MSN Messenger was discontinued the year before (it was no longer needed due to Microsoft’s ownership of Skype), and Yahoo Messenger was also shut down (and later reincarnated).

So, instead of a tutorial, this post is a farewell to AIM chat. You can almost hear its iconic sign out notification sound as the door closes one last time.

How to Save Important Messages in AOL Mail

We have already talked about how you can keep your AOL mailbox organized by creating folders and moving emails into them. Today, we’re going to look at one folder in particular, which can be used to save important messages in AOL Mail. The folder is called “Saved Mail”, and it comes by default with your email account (in other words, you don’t have to create it yourself).

So, whether you don’t have any need to create more specific folders or you simply have some important messages that you want to save but don’t quite fit in any other folder, this “Saved Mail” option may be what you need.

How to Save Important Messages

For this tutorial on saving important messages in AOL Mail, we will assume you have already created an AOL account and that you know how to sign in to AOL Mail. We’ll start from the inbox view, as in the image below:

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In the navigation sidebar on the left side of the screen is where you can find the “Saved Mail” folder. It is the first option under the “Folders” heading in this menu. This is what we will be working with throughout the course of this tutorial.

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If you have not moved any messages to “Saved Mail” before, then when you click on the folder name, this is what you will see:

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There are two easy ways to save important messages in AOL Mail, and we’ll go over both of them step by step in this post. The first is from an open email that you are reading, and the second is from your inbox’s main view.

How to save an open message in AOL Mail

Let’s say that you have opened up an email you received in AOL, and once you read it, you realize that it is a message that you would like to save for future reference. Now, if you already have a personal folder that you have created where this email could go, that is always an option. If not, you can simply move it to “Saved Mail” for easy access later.

To do this, with the important email open in read-view, find the button near the top of the screen that says “More” with a small downward arrow. This button opens up a menu of additional actions you can perform on this message.

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After clicking on “More”, scroll down in the options menu to the “Move to:” section. Here, click on “Saved Mail”. This will move the open email from your AOL inbox into the Saved Mail folder.

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Once moved, you will be automatically taken back to your inbox. A notification will pop up letting you know that the message was successfully moved, with the option to quickly undo this action. As you can see, the message that I moved no longer appears in my list of emails there.

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However, if you return to the “Saved Mail” folder as we did in the introduction, you will find that the email is now there instead.

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How to save important messages from your AOL Mail inbox

Sometimes, you can tell an email is important and needs to be saved even before you open it. In AOL Mail, you do not need to have a message open in order to move it to another folder, and this includes the “Saved Mail” folder. In fact, the steps are almost exactly the same as in the previous section.

Like before, you will use the “More Actions” button to move the email. The difference here is that you must first select the message you wish to save by marking the checkbox next to it. (You can also move multiple messages at once this way by checking all of their boxes). Once your desired message is selected, click on the “More” button at the top of the screen.

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Doing this will open a dropdown menu of actions you can take. Scroll down until you reach the “Saved Mail” option under the heading “Move to:”. Click on this to move the selected message or messages from your AOL Mail inbox into the Saved Mail folder.

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The message you moved will now disappear from your inbox, and you should see a small notification telling you which folder it was moved to, with the option to undo.

You can access the saved message at any time now by clicking on “Saved Mail” in the left navigation menu.

Saving important messages in AOL Mail helps you keep track of everything, but what about unwanted messages? Make sure you read our next post on how to mark emails as spam and delete them in AOL.