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Talk21 and BT Basic Emails: how to save yours

September 2nd, 2013


The venerable free email service Talk21 (also known as BT Basic Mail) is being shut down by BT, and its users being asked to stump up ¬£1.60 a month to access BT’s new ‘Premium Email’ service or, to keep things free, link their old address to their BT Broadband account. Of course, if you’ve not got a BT Broadband account, “why not sign up?”

Call it cynical, money-grabbing or lazy (it’s been called all those things) but you’ll want to know how to keep your existing mail messages safe. There are several routes to go down, but this one will help you transfer your email to another account.

1) Don’t panic

As long as you’re reading this before your email is switched off, then don’t worry. Just take a few minutes to follow step 2 below, and your email will already be safe!

2) Set up email software to download your email

You may already be using this, in which case: skip this step – your email is already safe! If you check your BT email online, however, what you need to do is set up a program like Outlook Express, Thunderbird or Outlook to download your email to your desktop or laptop computer (my preference is the excellent and open source Thunderbird, from the makers of Firefox).

The easiest way to find out how to do this is to put your email address into this BT page and follow the instructions (note: be patient, sometime the page is a little slow to respond to clicks).

3) Get a new account

Next, choose a new email provider, and set up an account. GMail, Yahoo Mail and Microsoft’s Outlook are three of the biggest free services (payment-free, although you get adverts). The other route is to pay another provider for your email, such as 1and1.

There are two advantages to paying someone like 1and1:

  1. As long as it’s available, you get to pick your domain (like;
  2. Even if the provider goes bankrupt, you are the domain owner, so you can transfer your email address to a new provider.

4) Add your new email account to Thunderbird/Outlook/Outlook Express

Follow the instructions on setting up a second account in your desktop software. Here are the instructions for Thunderbird; for other software simply follow the instructions you used for the first account.

You should now have two folder trees in the left hand pane of your desktop email software, like this:

Screenshot of two accounts in Thunderbird

This screenshot shows two accounts set up in Thunderbird, the old one at the top and the new one below. Both have subfolders

Now, drag the folders from your old BT account across to the new account (GMail, 1and1 or some other provider), like so:

Screenshot of folders being dragged between accounts in Thunderbird

Here the blue box indicates folders being dragged. Just drop the folders (or drag individual emails from the pane on the right) into your Inbox and they’re safe!

5) Relax

You’re all done! You’ve dragged all your emails from your old account to your new one, and as long as your new one is active, your emails are all yours to keep.

Don’t forget to tell all your friends about your new email address, and keep transferring newly-arriving emails as they come in. Eventually, the BT service will be withdrawn, and your emails will sit there in Thunderbird, and no new ones will come in. At that time, once you’ve transferred your emails to your new account folders, you can remove the old account from Thunderbird.

Keeping your emails Ship Shape

If you’re not too sure about any of the instructions above, just leave a comment in the box below, or if you’re in the Bristol area and would like someone to pop round and sort your emails for you, then get in touch with Ship Shape PC Repair!

There are of course many ways to skin a rabbit, so if you want to ask me about your specific requirements regarding email, call me on 0771 254 1126, or contact me via the Contact Us page (linked in the previous paragraph).

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