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Simple and free email signatures for Outlook

StartSSl offers free digital certificates for your Outlook email – here’s how to get yours

Email digital signatures aren’t used a lot which is a shame because they are very useful. Signed emails are verified to come from you while it’s possible to encrypt your messages (to prevent anyone else reading them) when both you and other party share the public key in your certificate.

We go into all this in step-by-step detail in Privacy and Security in Microsoft Office . has been trying another free provider of email certificates – StartSSL They offer one year S.MIME certificates with either 128 or 256-bit encryption.

The certificates are easy to get. It’s easiest to get the certificate on the computer where you have Outlook installed. However you can do it on any computer because there’s a Windows option to export certificates and import them onto another computer.

Go to – choose ‘Sign-up’ and follow the prompts.

You’ll be asked for your name, street address, phone number and, of course, the email address you want the certificate for.

You’ll end up at a web page asking for an authentication code – leave that page open in your browser. The authentication code is sent to that email address. Copy that code to the web page and click to continue.

Depending on the details you entered you may be asked to wait while the details are verified in some way.

Or the certificate is issued automatically, in which case you can choose the type of key (go for “2048 (High Grade)” unless you have a specific reason for wanting a lesser option). Click on the Install button to load the certificate into Windows (you may get a prompt to authorize the installation of the certificate into your computer).

Note: it’s a very good idea to backup the certificate – there’s instructions on the StartSSL web site

Once installed in Windows, you can go to Outlook File | Options | Trust Center | Trust Center Settings | E-mail Security:

Outlook - email security options image from Simple and free email signatures for Outlook at

Outlook should figure you that you have an email capable certificate and create default settings for you. 

If you want all outgoing messages signed (that’s the common choice) then choose ‘Add digital signatures to outgoing messages’.  Ensure that ‘Send clear text signed message when sending signed messages’ is also selected.

We like the StartSSL option not just for the price but the simple and clear path for requesting and getting the certificate. Other certificate providers with their difficult and opaque systems (yes, we’re talking about you, Comodo) could learn a lot from StartSSL.

For US$59.90 you can get a certificate for 2 or 3 years where your details have been verified. That’s a bit high for an individual but the StartSSL verification process is a lot clearer and easier to deal with.

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