Tips for Using Your AOL Mail Account

Have you ever run into an annoying problem when trying to use your AOL Mail account? Or maybe there is a feature in AOL that feels more like a flaw to you. Whatever the case, we’ve got some tips in this post for four common complaints people have with their AOL Mail: getting a blank screen when trying to log in to AOL Mail, not being able to view images in AOL emails, addresses being automatically added to your contact list when you email them, and not liking the size of the different panels in the AOL Mail inbox.

AOL Mail tips: Blank screen when signing in to AOL

If you are trying to log in and all you get is a blank screen, something in your internet browser is probably not playing nice with AOL Mail. Here are some things you can try to fix this problem:

Close and reopen browser

First, close your browser, reopen it and try again. This is the ultimate cliché in tech support, but it is often all you need to do to solve your problem. Completely exit whatever browser you are using (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.), open it back up, and try logging in to AOL again.

Clear browsing data

If that doesn’t work, your next step is to clear the cache, cookies, and history from the browser you are using. This process is slightly different for each browser, but the general steps are the same. In Chrome, you can access this function through either “History” or “Settings”.

For “History”, open your browser menu (three vertical dots in the upper right-hand corner of Chrome), and click on “History”. Then, click on “Clear browsing data” in the left sidebar, which will open a pop-up window (in Chrome).

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For “Settings”, open the browser menu and choose “Settings”. The option to “Clear browsing data” will usually be under “Privacy and security” or a similar heading. In Chrome, this will open a pop-up window, just like if you had gone through “History”.

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This is the window that will emerge for Chrome users. You can select the time range in which the cache, cookies and history will be deleted using the drop-down menu at the top. For example, if you were able to sign in to AOL Mail yesterday with no trouble in the same browser, then clearing the data from the past 24 hours may be enough.

You can also choose which types of data will be deleted by checking and unchecking the boxes. When you have everything selected the way you want, click on “Clear Data”. Then, exit the browser, reopen it, and try signing in to AOL again.

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Try a different browser

If you have another browser installed on your computer, try to log in to AOL Mail using the other browser. Even if you don’t want to use that browser, it can help you confirm whether the issue is in your preferred browser or somewhere else, like a firewall.

Check your firewall settings

Speaking of firewalls… if you have one on your PC, and you can’t sign in to AOL in any browser, your firewall settings may be to blame. This might be something you don’t have control over depending on whether it is a personal computer or not. For an institutional computer, you might have to contact the system administrator to try to fix this.

Enable JavaScript

Your browser may have disabled or blocked JavaScript, which could cause a blank screen to appear when you sign in to AOL. To check that JavaScript is enabled, go into your browser’s settings. In Chrome, this option is found under the subheading “Content settings”.

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Trouble viewing pictures in emails

If you are unable to view pictures in an email that someone has sent you, there are a few things that could be going on.

First, check whether the image is actually embedded in the email, or if it was sent as an attachment. A picture attachment will have to be downloaded for you to be able to look at it.

Second, see if you can find the file extension for the image to know what type of image it is. Not all image files are compatible with AOL Mail, so one option is to ask the sender to convert the picture to a JPG or GIF file and then resend it to you.

Third, just like with the login issue, you can try clearing your cookies, cache, and browser history following the steps in the previous section.

Finally, it is possible that you can’t see the pictures in your AOL emails because of a simple server traffic jam. In this case, you’ll just have to wait and try again later.

AOL Mail automatically add contacts when you email them

For some people, this default setting is a helpful feature of AOL Mail. But others would prefer to have more control over who ends up in their address book. If you don’t like email addresses to be automatically added to your contacts list just because you sent them a message, this is how you can toggle this option on and off:

From your AOL inbox, click on the “Options” menu (located under your username in the upper right-hand corner of the screen). From the dropdown menu, click on “Mail Settings”.

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In the left-hand sidebar, click on the “Compose” section. Then, scroll down until you find the subheading “Sending”. You will see an option labeled “Automatically add email addresses to Contacts”, which is checked (enabled) by default. To turn this off, just uncheck the box and click “Save Settings”.

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You can also turn on spell-check for your emails here, which is never a bad idea.

Change the size of panels in AOL Mail

Did you know that you can change the look of your AOL inbox by adjusting the size of the left and bottom-left panels?

By default, the left panel is expanded to a fairly standard sidebar width, and the bottom-left panel is minimized or collapsed. You can adjust the size of the left panel by clicking and dragging the line separating it from the main panel, and you can expand the bottom-left by clicking on the ^ arrow that sits above it.

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This is what the layout looks like with the left panel expanded to a wide width and the bottom-left panel collapsed:

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This is what AOL Mail looks like with the left panel minimized (it can’t be removed, just collapsed):

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This is what it looks like with the left panel at its default width and the bottom-left panel opened/expanded:

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So, there you have it: a few common complaints from AOL Mail users, resolved. Make sure you check out our next post on some tricks for getting the most out of your AOL email with filters, calendars, customization, and more.

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.

How to Create Folders in AOL Mail

The more you use your AOL email account and AIM chat, the faster your inbox will start to fill up with “stuff”. There will come a point where all this “stuff”, this amorphous mass of emails, makes it hard to do what you need to do in your email. The sheer number of messages floating around with no rhyme or reason can even make it hard to think straight.

Luckily, AOL Mail makes it easy to keep things organized so that you save time and mental energy when you log in to check your email and send messages. One simple way to do this is by creating email folders and sorting your inbox so that you can always find what you are looking for.

In this tutorial, we’ll go over how to create folders in AOL Mail, as well as how to move things into the folders you make. Your overcrowded inbox will be organized in no time!

For this post, we’re going to assume you have already created an AOL or AIM account, and that you are logged in and looking at your email portal. Click here for a reminder on how to sign in to AOL Mail. This is a screenshot of my email main page as it appeared today, and this is where we will begin the tutorial (yours will look different, obviously, because it will feature different news stories.

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Now, without further ado, how to create email folders in AOL Mail!

Create AOL Mail folders from the home page

You don’t even have to go beyond your AOL email portal main page to start creating folders and organizing things. Remember that, in AOL Mail, most of the navigation is done through the menu on the left-hand side of the screen. At the bottom of this sidebar is an expandable/collapsible section called “Folders”.

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You’ll see that you already have two folders there by default: “Saved Mail” and “Saved Chats”.

If you move your cursor over the section header, a + sign will appear next to the word “Folders”. Click on the + sign to “Add” a new folder to your email account.

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A text box will appear at the bottom of the list of folders. By default, the name of your new folder will be “New Folder”, but you can change this by simply typing your desired name into the box instead.

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For example, let’s say you want a folder in which to save all your receipts from online shopping. You could type “Receipts” as the folder name, and then click the + sign in the text box to create this new folder.

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Now, you will see that the new “Receipts” folder is listed in the same section as the others, right underneath the two default folders.

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Create AOL Mail folders from inside a message

Sometimes, you don’t know what folder an email should be sorted into until you have opened it to read what it says. There are even times when you might realize you want to create a new email folder while reading a specific message in AOL Mail. Fortunately, it’s easy to move messages and create folders right from the message view.

When you are reading an email in AOL, you will have a menu of options at the top of the message. The one farthest to the right is labeled “More”, and clicking on it will open a dropdown menu with various actions you can take on the message.

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The last section inside that dropdown menu is “Move to:”. This will list all the different folders that are in your AOL Mail, including the two default folders you saw on the main page, “Trash”, “Spam”, and any new folders that you have personally created.

For example, here you can see that the “Receipts” folder I created in the last section is listed under all of the standard folders. You could move the email you have open in front of you into this folder by clicking on its name here in this list, if you wanted to.

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On the other hand, you can also create a brand new folder to sort this message into without going anywhere. Simply scroll all the way down in the list of options, and select “New Folder”.

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Just like in the first section, where we created a folder from the AOL Mail portal home page, you will see a text box appear where you are meant to enter the name you want for your new folder. Once you have typed it in, just click the + sign to add it to the list and, simultaneously, transfer this open email into that newly created folder.

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Create AOL Mail folders from your inbox view

Now, there will also be times when you can tell where an email needs to be moved just by looking at its sender or subject line in your AOL Mail inbox. In these cases, you can organize one or more messages into the appropriate folders without having to open them up. You can even create new folders from here just like you did in the last section, where we added folders from the message view.

The steps are similar to the last ones. From your inbox, select the email or emails that you want to move to a certain folder by checking the box next to them in the list.

Then, just like before, find the “More” option in the top menu. Scroll down to the “Move to:” section, and either select an existing folder to move all the checked messages to, or choose to create a new folder. If you click the option to add a “New Folder”, the rest of the steps are exactly the same as in previous sections: just name the folder, and click the + sign to add it.

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Editing and managing folders in AOL Mail

If you ever need to make a change to one of the folders you have created, you can do this easily from anywhere in your AOL Mail account. As long as you can see the left-hand navigation sidebar, you can edit the name of your email folders, view some basic information about them, and delete them.

To do this, just go to the “Folders” section of the sidebar, and move your mouse over the name of the folder you want to edit. When you do this, you will see a gear icon appear next to the folder name. Click on it to view the folder information and make any necessary changes.

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In the pop-up that emerges, you can make changes to the name of the folder, see how many messages are in the folder (useful if you are trying to clean out empty or infrequently used folders), the amount of memory being taken up by everything in that folder, and you can also delete the entire folder by clicking the “Delete” button in the lower right-hand corner.

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And that’s all you need to know about creating email folders in your AOL Mail account. Now you can keep your inbox clear of clutter—a place for everything, and everything in its place.

If you have other email addresses that you need to keep organized along with your AOL email, make sure you check out our next post on setting up mail forwarding in AOL Mail!

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All About the New AOL Mail and AIM Chat

80s and 90s kids, or anyone who was over the age of 13 in the year 2006 or so, hold on to your hats, because I have some potentially mind-blowing news for you. “You’ve got mail!” And your Buddy List from yesteryear may very well still exist. AOL Mail and AIM Chat are alive and well, but with a completely new concept that puts it on the same level as today’s most popular online and mobile platforms, like Gmail and Yahoo.

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Now, maybe it’s just me because I live under a rock, but I had resigned myself to the fact that the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) from my teenage years had died and vanished into the cyber ether. But, it turns out that AOL still exists, along with AOL Mail and AIM chat. Fortunately, we have all moved past the days of using AOL to connect to the internet via dialup (for those of you who remember what that was).

So, in case you, like me, had filed AOL and AIM Mail away as a relic of the past, this article will serve as an introduction to the “New AOL Mail”. We’ll talk about the new AOL portal, the free services and features from AOL, what the new AOL Mail can do, how to resurrect AIM chat, and more.

New AOL Mail portal

The new AOL Mail is part of an entire online portal, much like the Yahoo! portal. As a matter of fact, it is now owned by the same company as Yahoo, along with Verizon Wireless and several other brands. If you are a Yahoo user or at least familiar with their homepage and services, aol.com is very similar these days. Here’s a snap of a portion of the new portal as it appeared today:

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As you can see, there are some icons in the left toolbar which serve as shortcuts to the most important tools and services, including AOL Mail, Search, Sign In or Register, News, etc. At the top of the page, there is a search bar that allows you to search the internet using AOL’s search engine.

There is also a page called “AOL MyBenefits” which shows you different features and services available to you through your AOL account. The benefits you see here when you are signed in to your account may vary depending on if you have a paid plan or not.

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Finally, there is a “Discover AOL” section, which displays all the products and services offered. You can filter by the type of product or service, including the ability to only display free options.

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Features of the new AIM and AOL Mail

Today’s incarnation of AOL Mail and AIM are comparable to any other modern email and chat services. AOL has integrated AIM chat into its mail interface, so you can easily send instant messages right from your email and keep everything organized in one place.

There are also mobile apps for AOL Mail and AIM, which allows you to stay in touch with everyone without having to pay for text messages. If you use Wi-Fi instead of your mobile data plan, the messages you send through the AIM mobile app are almost always free.

Sign in for AOL Mail and AIM

If you already have an AOL account, you can sign into it by simply going to aim.com. Alternatively, you can go to the aol.com home page and try to access your AOL Mail there, which will redirect you to a sign in page if you aren’t already logged in. We’ll go over the process of how to log in and out of your AOL EMail or AIM account in detail in a separate tutorial.

Aim Mail

Creating a new AOL Mail or AIM account

If you don’t have an AOL email yet, creating a new AOL Mail or AIM account (they function the same way, so if you create one, it does double duty) is very easy. If you go to the same web address indicated in the last section, aim.com, you’ll see that at the bottom of the sign in form there is a link that says “Get an AIM account”.

Aim Mail

Another alternative, just like with login options, is to try to access AOL Mail from the aol.com homepage. The sign in form that you will be taken to will have a link that says “Get a Free Username”.

In both cases, you’ll be taken to a registration form that looks something like the image below. If you need a little extra help with the sign up process, we’ll walk through it step by step in another tutorial.

Aim Mail

One important note about the new AOL Mail: If you create an email account with AOL, it has an expiration date. Meaning, if you don’t use your account for 90 days, it could be deactivated. Furthermore, if your account is inactive for 180 days, your entire account and everything attached to it could be deleted. That includes shared media, messages, everything associated with your AOL Mail screenname or email address.

Recovering an old AIM screenname for the new AOL Mail

Now, before you go creating a new AIM account, it might be interesting to take a moment and mentally stroll down memory lane. Did you use AOL Mail or AIM instant messenger in the past? Most of us in the United States who are of a certain age did. And I suspect that most of us assumed that our old screennames died along with AIM, purged from some remote server, never to be seen again.

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Well, it turns out that this isn’t necessarily true. If you have the proverbial memory of an elephant, as I apparently do (or else very poor password security practices), you might be able to recover your AIM username from ancient history. It’s worth a try, if you’re interested in the cyber archeological dig site of your life from before smartphones were a thing.

I will admit, I fully expected this to not work, especially after learning that new AOL Mail accounts are automatically deleted after 180 days of inactivity. But in the interest of science, and despite having closer to 3,300 days of inactivity on AIM, I gave it a try.

I took it as a very positive sign when I entered my old AIM screenname and a password I guessed would have been the one I used back in 2003, and it had it associated with my first name. “Welcome to the new AIM, Emily,” it proclaimed, before asking me to accept the new privacy policy and conditions of use. Which I did, with perhaps disproportionate excitement. This is where it led me, to verify the information it already had on file for me:

AimMail

The information was still valid, so I clicked on “Looks good!” (And yes, that is the dorky chat icon I chose as a teenager. Don’t judge.)

It then took me to a screen where I had the option to import contacts from Google Chat. I opted to skip this step by clicking on “Next” without clicking on “Connect to add Google Chat”.

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Finally, the new AIM gave me a quick snapshot of the new interface, which has, of course, been updated to fit in better with the expectations of today’s internet users. In my eagerness, I skimmed over this a bit too quickly to really take it all in, but we’ll talk about everything in depth in a future article.

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And then, lo and behold, I was in the new AIM. The new AIM, but with my old buddy list, still labeled “My Buds”, the name I gave it because I didn’t have any reason to narrow it down by groups. Unsurprisingly, all my buddies from 2007 and prior were offline.

Aim Mail

This happened to work for me; your mileage may vary. I can’t promise that your decade-old AIM account is still preserved in some dusty corner of an AOL server, even if you can remember the password. But even if it doesn’t work for you, it is a fun experiment. If all your recovery efforts are in vain, you can simply create a new account on AOL Mail and use it for AIM.

That’s it for our very general introduction to the new AOL Mail and AIM chat. We will go into more detail about the most important features of this platform in future posts. Make sure you check out our next tutorial on how to create a new AOL Mail account if you don’t have one already!

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