Marvin Tan Software Tester • OSCP Wannabe • Open Source Lover
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Free Custom Email Address

#howto #improvmx #emailforwarding Oct 10, 2019 4 min
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I want to have a custom email address using my domain but my domain registrar (Namecheap) can’t do email forwarding when using custom DNS. I’m not using their DNS because I’m deploying my site on Netlify. I don’t want to pay for G Suite just to have a custom email address so I searched Google Duckduckgo and found a Gmail-based solution.

When a sender sends an email to my custom email address, it will go first to Namecheap then it will look at its DNS which is pointed to Netlify. Netlify is using ImprovMX’s mail servers so ImprovMX will forward the email to my Gmail email address.

To give you a better picture, look at the diagram below.

Email forwarding flow

Previously, I’m using Zoho to do this but I stopped using them after they moved the email forwarding feature to paid plan.

Zoho - Email forwarding

Below are the best alternatives for free email forwarding service:

  1. ImprovMX (free)
  2. Forward Email (free and open-source)
  3. Mailgun (free up to a certain limit)

I decided to go with ImprovMX since they provide aliases, multiple destinations, logs, and webhooks. I also find the setup for it very easy. This is how I configured it.

Receiving email

Step 1. Use Netlify’s DNS

Configure Namecheap custom DNS and use Netlify’s DNS.

Login > Domain List > Manage

Namecheap - custom DNS

Step 2. Create ImprovMX alias

Go to https://improvmx.com/, put your domain name and Gmail email address then click Create a free alias

ImprovMX - Create alias

After clicking the button, you will be instructed to configure your MX record on your domain.

ImprovMX - DNS settings

Step 3. Add MX records

Login to Netlify, click the site, go to Domain settings then Go to DNS panel

Netlify - Domain management

Now we need to add 2 new MX records here. Click the button Add new record

Netlify - DNS settings

MX Record 1

Field Value
Name @ (will automatically set marvintan.com as the host name)
TTL leave blank (default: 3600 seconds)
Type MX
Priority 10
Value mx1.improvmx.com

MX Record 2

Field Value
Name @ (will automatically set marvintan.com as the host name)
TTL leave blank (default: 3600 seconds)
Type MX
Priority 20
Value mx2.improvmx.com

Let’s verify MX records were added.

Netlify - MX records added

Step 4. Test email forwarding

Let’s go back to ImprovMX website and send a test email.

ImprovMX - DNS propagation

If it shows “Waiting for DNS propagation” click CHECK AGAIN until it shows Email forwarding active

ImprovMX - Email forwarding active

We can now click TEST and check if it will reach our Gmail inbox.

Gmail - Test email received

If you received an email the same as above, it means that any email sent to your custom email address will now be forwarded to Gmail.

Sending email

Now, we need to make sure that we can also send email using our custom email address.

Step 1. Enable 2-Step Verification on your Google account

First, you need to have 2-Step Verification enabled for your Google account.

Google account - 2-step verification

Click here to enable 2-Step Verification. You will see a welcome page like below. Click GET STARTED and follow the instructions until you complete the steps.

Google account - 2-step verification welcome page

Once completed, it will verify if you want to turn it on. Click TURN ON.

Google account - 2-step verification working

Step 2. Create an App Password

After enabling 2-Step Verification, App passwords will now show below.

Google account - 2-step verification on

Click it then select Mail as app and Mac as device. (select it even if you are not using Mac.)

Google App password - generate code

Click GENERATE, take note of the code then click DONE.

Google App password - code generated

Step 3. Add your custom email address to Gmail

Go to Gmail > Settings > Accounts and Import

Click Add another email address you own under “Send mail as”.

Gmail - Accounts and import

After clicking, a pop-up window will open. Set your custom email address and your sender’s name. Untick “treat as an alias” then click Next Step.

Gmail - Add another email

Input the details below:

Field Value
SMTP Server smtp.gmail.com
Port 587
Username Gmail email (including @gmail.com)
Password App password
Connection TLS
Gmail - SMTP settings

Step 4. Confirm ownership

You will receive an email from Gmail asking you to confirm ownership. Just click the link to confirm. You can also go to Gmail > Settings > Accounts and Import and confirm the custom email address under “Send mail as” section by entering the code provided in the email.

Gmail - Confirm ownership

That’s it. You now have a working custom email address! It will help you build a better reputation for your clients as a professional or even a startup company. All you need is a domain name. No need to get G Suite.

If ever you notice that you are not receiving any email or you can’t send an email, you can always check ImprovMX status page.

Have you tried any other free email forwarding service? Please feel free to share your experience in the comment section. I’m not sure how to benchmark this so we can determine who got the best email forwarding service out there. For now, I’ll stick with ImprovMX. Thank you for reading. Cheers!

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