How to make a Google account and optimize your security settings

Google laptop computer tech officeJens Meyer/AP Images

  • When you make a new Google account, you get access to a free Gmail account along with other services like Google Photos, Google Docs, and a Google Drive with 15 GB of online storage.
  • A Google account also helps other common Google services - like Google Maps and YouTube - remember you and retain your favorite settings and preferences.
  • It only takes a few minutes to create a Google account. All you'll need to complete the form is a phone number for verification.

A Google account is sort of like the Internet version of having a passport, library card, and driver's license all wrapped up in one. You can certainly get by without a Google account, but having one makes your life much, much easier.

First and foremost, it gives you Gmail, which can serve as your primary or backup email account. Gmail is convenient because it can include a respectable 15 GB of storage space - more than you are like to need for quite a long time.

But a Google account gives you much more than just email. You get access to Google Docs - a Microsoft Office alternative - and Google Drive, a cloud storage service, for storing documents you create (all of these apps share that 15 GB of storage space, by the way).

In fact, the list of Google services is quite long. It also includes Google Maps and YouTube, for example. And while you don't need a Google account to use those sites, having an account means Google will remember your settings and preferences.

Make a new Google account

1. In any web browser, go to Google's Create your Google Account page. You can go there directly or find it by going to Google.com, clicking "Sign In," and then clicking "Create account."

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2. Enter your first and last name. It doesn't need to be your legal name, but it should be the way you want to be recognized in email messages.

3. Enter the email username you would like to use.

4. Enter your desired password and enter it a second time in the box labeled "Confirm." For safety and security, your password should be strong. That means using a combination of upper- and lower-case characters, numbers, and symbols like #$%&*!. Make your password at least 8 characters long and don't repeat a password you are already using for another web site or service.

5. Click Next.

6. At this point, Google might tell you that your username is taken. You can click one of the suggested alternatives, or type in a different option. When you're ready, click Next.

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7. When you've chosen a suitable username, you may be asked to verify your phone number. This is one of the ways that Google ensures it's creating an email account for a real person. Enter your mobile phone number and then enter the code that's texted to you.

8. Continue to follow the instructions to set up your account. You should provide a phone number and recovery email address - Google can use these to help you recover your account if you lose your password or your account is hacked.

9. Finally, click "I agree" after reviewing Google's terms of service.

Optimize your settings from Google Account Home

You now have a Google account and are logged in, and you will see your Google Account Home page. From here, you can customize your account settings, enhance security by enabling 2-Step Verification, manage your available storage, and more.

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As a general rule, it's a good idea to stay logged in. This way, any Google service you visit will know it's you and remember your settings, preferences, and history, which should make your experience more convenient.

You'll generally stay logged into your Google account unless you deliberately log yourself out - which you might need to do if you want to create an additional Google account (for example, so you have separate personal and a business accounts). You can do that by clicking your account icon at the top right of any Google page and then clicking "Sign out."

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