AOL Desktop final alert message
Are you an AOL user? Read on.

AOL Desktop vs. AOL Webmail

Before we continue, it’s important to understand the difference between AOL Desktop and AOL webmail.

AOL Desktop read mail icon
If this is how you check email, you’re on AOL Desktop.

AOL Desktop is a program that has to be downloaded and installed on the computer. It provides email, web browsing and news headlines all in one place. However, it’s not without it’s flaws. It’s loaded with ads, slow and prone to errors. I go into more detail in the Stay Away from AOL Desktop blog post.

However I will applaud it for one thing: its design has been consistent for decades. AOL users know their way around. To many, that comfort outweighs the many technical issues.

AOL web mail
Access your AOL mail from any device on

AOL webmail is a website. It can be accessed from any computer or device that has a web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, Firefox) by simply going to and clicking on Mail. This method has many advantages, such as the ability to block ads. On the other hand it requires a bit more familiarity with the web. Printing an email or saving an attachment can be a task if you’ve never been shown how to do so.

At the end of the day, AOL Desktop and AOL webmail provide access to the same email and address book, and are just different ways to reach the same destination.

What Is AOL Desktop Gold?

AOL Desktop Gold
Now it’s secure? What was it before?

I’m going to be frank; AOL Desktop Gold doesn’t appear to have any newsworthy features over the current version of AOL Desktop. They tout security improvements such as two-factor authentication and encryption, but they fail to realize that:

  1. AOL’s user demographic generally doesn’t care about two-factor authentication or know what it is
  2. AOL’s competitors (Gmail, Yahoo Mail, etc.) offer such security features for free.

In short: AOL is basically slapping a $50/year price tag on the same old product, with “new” features the average user won’t use or care about.

Use AOL Free

Regardless of whether you’ve received a message to switch to AOL Desktop Gold, you don’t have to pay for AOL.

Check Your Membership Status

AOL free plan description
AOL has a free plan.

First, it’s a good idea to check if you’re already paying for AOL. Many users are, and don’t even realize it. You can find out by going to If your plan isn’t shown as “free”, similar to the photo above, you can click the “Change Plan” option and switch to free. You won’t lose your email, contacts, or favorite places. You probably won’t notice a difference.

Use AOL Webmail

If you are receiving messages to pay for AOL Desktop Gold, you’ll have to stop using AOL Desktop and start checking your mail on from your computer’s web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome). It’s the same email and address book as AOL Desktop, and it doesn’t take long to get used to the new layout.

Use a Mobile Device

Do you own a smartphone, Kindle Fire, iPad, or Android tablet? All of these devices come with a mail app that is compatible with all major mail providers, including AOL. You can also download the AOL app, which is nice if you want the all-in-one experience of news, weather and email.

If you’re reading this article on a mobile device, click on the appropriate link below to download the AOL app.

iPhone & iPad

Android (Samsung, LG, etc.)

Kindle Fire

Call a Professional

Are you having trouble with the latest AOL changes? Schedule an appointment to work with an expert. We’ll ease your transition away from AOL Desktop and make you more proficient with your computer as a result. Lessons are available for PC, Mac and mobile devices.

Make sure you forward this to friends on AOL!

Published by Kamryn

I.T. Consultant & digital wizard