Before you read this, it’s important to know that you don’t need AOL software anymore to get your AOL email. Once you cancel AOL and remove AOL from your computer, just sign in at http://aol.com/ to read your mail online.
The online version of AOL mail does everything the offline version does: it saves hard copies of email to your PC, it allows you to read and reply to email using rich or plain text formats, and it stores an unlimited amount of email.
If you would like to use the AOL program on your computer despite this warning, read on…
A Sample of My Recent Email
Subject: Thank you for your web site… a few questions, please
Date: Thursday, April 23, 2009, 3:23 AM
You have done a wonderful service with your Anti AOL web site. I hope you’ll be patient with my questions. I have a high speed ISP (AT&T) and they tell me that my free AOL account is just slowing everything down, etc. I’ve disliked AOL for years but my wife is very concerned about what might happen to our important files, saved emails, pictures, etc., if we remove all traces of AOL from our computer and just go with the ATT service. Also, she’s an avid user of instant messaging and ATT does not offer this feature. Do you know how we can be sure not to lose our files, saved emails, email address books, favorite places, etc. when removing AOL? Can all of this simply be transferred over to our AT&T account? We want to retain our AOL email addresses. So, in order to check our email (once AOL has been removed from our computer), would we have to type aol.com into the browser bar to get to the aol page to access our email?
Sorry for taking a while to respond but I needed time to get my thoughts together to give you the best answers possible.
If you’re on a computer with less than 1GB of RAM and less than 2GHz of processor power you may encounter problems with AOL slowing down your computer and Web browsing.
Browsing the Web with an AOL desktop client will be slower than browsing with IE, or Firefox, or Safari for Windows, or Opera, no matter how powerful your computer is – in my experience, anyway. Your mileage may vary.
I would suggest what AT&T suggested – backing up your needed AOL data, removing AOL from your computer, and moving on to a faster browser that will not tie up your computer with so much RAM and CPU usage. I wrote about why here.
Before you ditch AOL altogether, I should probably point you to this…if your computer has at least 1GB of RAM and at least 1.80 GHz of processor power, you may want to switch to AOL 9.5 Classic. I panned it in my first review, when I was running the Beta version, but my opinion of it improved somewhat with the final release. Read the second half of the post, which is sub-titled “Update: AOL 9.5 Is Out”.
I tested AOL Classic on my own computer, and the final version worked pretty well, not tying up the computer much at all. Your web browsing may be much slower than it would be in a traditional (non-AOL) browser…that is my only caveat.
[This didn’t make it into my original reply: Once you back up your AOL email by following the steps here you can import your email from one version of AOL into another by following the steps here. It’s also worth mentioning that AOL offers online file backup but it’s incredibly expensive.]
If you’re still determined to remove AOL completely, importing your AOL email and AOL Address Book into Outlook is explained here.
Pop Peeper, a free email notification tool with limited reply and email formatting capabilities, can import AOL email that still resides on AOL’s servers and lets you send and receive current email from your AOL account. How to set it up to work with AOL is explained here.
If Pop Peeper is not for you, you can try a program called ePreserver. It costs $24.95, and it’s specially designed to import your AOL email, your AOL Address Book, and your AOL Favorites into it’s own viewer, and/or into Outlook, GMail, or Windows Mail. ePreserver’s download and purchase page is here. A tutorial on how to use their program to import data from your AOL account(s) is here.
[This also didn’t make it into my original reply: If none of those options are for you, About.com has an almost endless list of tutorials for importing your AOL email into any number of email programs, including IncrediMail, Outlook Express, and Mozilla Thunderbird. You can also try TrueSwitch, which costs $19.95, but is free of charge for existing Comcast and Yahoo! members.]
Once you’ve imported all of your data from AOL’s software, my suggestion is to start here [How to Remove AOL with CCleaner] if you just want to remove AOL quickly and pretty thoroughly, or here [How to Remove AOL with jv16 PowerTools], if you want to be remove it more thoroughly.
To answer your question, I’m not sure what you mean by backing up “pictures” since AOL Pictures and BlueString closed down months ago. I wrote about the closings here.
To answer your other question, you cannot simply transfer your AOL data to AT&T. If you could AT&T would be one hot property, since everyone wants an ISP that automatically imports AOL’s data for them. 🙂
As to how to check your email from now on, if you do go with AOL 9.5 Classic, you’ll be able to check your email directly from the AOL desktop client, just as you always have, but if you remove AOL completely, you’ll need to sign in at aol.com to check your email online from now on.
As to your wife’s desire to use instant messaging outside of the AIM client, there are many options to choose from.
If you want to remove AIM from your computer, I have several tutorials for that (scroll down to the one you need, or let me know if you need a tutorial on it that I don’t yet have).
Good replacements for AIM that allow you to use your AOL screen name to sign in and chat are:
If you don’t mind, I may republish your email and my reply to you (slightly edited) on my blog in the near future to further educate others. One of the biggest complaints I get is that I don’t write nearly enough about how to export and import AOL’s email, Address Books, and Favorites; the amount of email I get on those topics reflects that.
Thanks for writing to me and for visiting my blog, and good luck getting your computer back in shape.
Elliott soon wrote me back to say:
Dear Marah Marie,
First of all, you are amazing. Not only did you answer all my questions (though I obviously have a lot of learning to do about all this)… you actually apologized for taking a few days to get back to me. I had to call my wife into the room because we don’t run across folks like you very often. It’s a pleasure.
One thing I noticed from your email is that my system may not even be worth the effort of going through all this. It is a Dell Dimension PC, 4550 series, Intel Pentium 4 Processor at 2.40 GHz. It came with 512MB DDR SDRAM at 333MHz. The computer is 61/2 years old and is left on for 16 hours a day (every day). Do you think that maybe we are dealing with a computer that, even purged of AOL, will still never be very fast (at least not fast enough to notice the extra fast AT&T DSL connection that I pay extra for??
I would value your opinion before I get further into this process. If the computer is not worth the effort, can you recommend a replacement? Are you an Apple fan?
Thanks a million,
My Next Response
I think the idea that Elliott’s system “may not even be worth the effort of going through all this” is absurd, so I wrote him to say:
Your processor power is certainly more than adequate for surfing the Web, reading and writing email, working with basic photo programs, watching videos online and offline, etc. If your Dell’s motherboard supports it, I would suggest bumping up the RAM to a 1 Gigabyte. If it’s possible to fit another 512MB stick into a second memory slot, that will be the cheapest way to go; otherwise you might want to make a tiny investment for a full 1GB memory stick – it will pay you back in spades with vastly improved computer performance.
RAM is quite inexpensive these days; good deals are available both online and in places like Best Buy. I was ready to replace my 7 year old eMachines desktop (born in 2002!) that I’m typing this email to you on when someone convinced me to try a simple RAM upgrade first, so I did what I’m suggesting to you: I doubled my RAM from 512MB to 1GB. The difference was huge and immediately noticeable; it was like buying myself a new computer for a tiny fraction of the cost.
I’m sure Macs are fine computers, but as a Windows person who has not used Mac extensively since 1990 I shy away from giving my opinion on whether or not it is worth buying a Mac – especially when the computer you have needs no more, in my opinion, than a RAM upgrade to get it fast enough to do what you need.
Any additional advice from readers for Elliott and others in the same boat? The amount of email I get on the above topics is somewhere between frequent and never-ending so I’ll take any help I can get. Given the way AOL ties your data down into proprietary formats and makes leaving so difficult, crowd-sourcing the best answers might be the way to go.