How do I find a mail server host?

There are many reasons why you might wish to find a mail server host. From setting up a new account to troubleshooting inbox gremlins, it may periodically be necessary to undertake this step. It’s a relatively simple process – yet it can strike fear into the hearts of people unfamiliar with computing terminology.

In fact, it’s easy to find a mail server host, and we explain the steps required to do so below. But first, for anyone who’s still feeling anxious at the prospect, here’s a brief guide to the terms you’re likely to encounter when trying to determine where your emails are being stored and hosted:

  • Hosting: This is the process of storing personal or corporate data on a server (effectively a giant hard drive) in a dedicated data centre. This ensures information is accessible from any location, rather than being stored locally on a computer or other standalone device.
  • SSL: A Secure Socket Layer is a protocol used to send and receive information securely over the internet, without third parties being able to intercept or view it. Although it was replaced by Transport Layer Security a decade ago, the term SSL is still widely used.
  • IMAP: Internet Message Access Protocol is the default method of email hosting which ensures incoming mail is accessible wherever you happen to be. You can receive new emails in a dedicated mail package but then reply to them via webmail, or vice versa.
  • SMTP: Simple Mail Transfer Protocol is akin to IMAP, but for outgoing messages. It ensures messages are quickly and effectively distributed to a mail server, ready to be passed onto the intended recipients.

When attempting to find a mail server host, you’re likely to see IMAP and SMTP listed in the Incoming and Outgoing fields of any email setup page. You might also see SSL (or its TLS replacement) mentioned, but this is of little consequence.

Having established the terminology involved, here are three ways to find a mail server host, depending on the software you’re currently using:


In Outlook 2016/2019, go to File > Account Settings > Account Settings. Highlight the email account you want to study and choose Repair. Click the blue Repair button, and the IMAP account settings will be displayed. Look for the entry in the Server box, and also the Port number assigned to it – SSL/TLS should be the default encryption method. If you want to view the equivalent outgoing mail settings, click the blue Outgoing mail dropdown text. And to avoid inadvertently changing anything, hit Go Back or press the top‐right X to close the window.

Office 365

While using Outlook Web Access in Office 365, click the Gear icon in the top‐right corner of the screen. Choose View all Outlook Settings, and when the Settings screen appears, click Mail > Sync email. The IMAP and SMTP settings will be displayed, below a box marked POP setting. This relates to the obsolete Post Office Protocol method of email distribution, and can be gnored.

Command Prompt

If you want to check server host settings on a PC without using a specific piece of software, open Command Prompt (enter those words into the toolbar’s ‘Type here to search’ on newer versions of Windows). Once Command Prompt appears, enter “nslookup ‐q=mx yourdomainnamehere.tld”, substituting the latter for your domain name and top level domain (, for instance). This will display the mail exchange details for the host organisation, such as Google