Internet Technology Explained

IMAP vs. POP3: What Is It and Which One Should You Use?

Tina Sieber 11-12-2019

Updated by Gavin Phillips on 04/21/2017


If you have ever set up an email client or app, you will have certainly come across the terms POP and IMAP. Do you remember which one you chose and why? If you are not quite sure what these terms stand for and how each affects your email account, this article will shed some light. The article explains how POP and IMAP work and will help you decide which one best fits your needs.

IMAP is short for Internet Message Access Protocol, while POP translates to Post Office Protocol. In other words, both are email protocols. They allow you to read emails locally using a third party application. Examples of such applications are Outlook, Thunderbird, Eudora, GNUMail, or (Mac) Mail.

The original protocol is POP. It was created in 1984 as a means to download emails from a remote server. IMAP was designed in 1986 to allow remote access to emails stored on a remote server How Does An Email Server Work? [Technology Explained] Behind each email is a powerful engine called the email server which pushes the emails through the internet. Read More . Essentially, the main difference of the two protocols is that POP downloads emails from the server for permanent local storage, while IMAP leaves them on the server and just caches (temporarily stores) emails locally. In other words, IMAP is a form of cloud storage.

How Do POP & IMAP Compare?

The two protocols are best compared by looking at their most basic workflows.

POP Workflow:

  • Connect to server.
  • Retrieve all mail.
  • Store locally as new mail.
  • Delete mail from server*.
  • Disconnect.

*The default behavior of POP is to delete mail from the server. However, most POP clients also provide an option The 5 Best Free Email Clients for Your Desktop PC Want the best free email client? We've compiled the best email software for Windows, Mac, and Linux that won't cost you a dime. Read More to leave a copy of downloaded mail on the server.


IMAP Workflow:

  • Connect to server.
  • Fetch user requested content and cache it locally, e.g. list of new mail, message summaries, or content of explicitly selected emails.
  • Process user edits, e.g. marking email as read, deleting email, etc.
  • Disconnect.

As you can see, the IMAP workflow is a little more complex than POP 6 Best Practices for Outlook to Boost Your Workflow If you spend any serious amount of time using Outlook, you should investigate your workflow. Make your email work for you and save time for more important tasks. Read More . Essentially, folder structures and emails are stored on the server and only copies are kept locally. Typically, these local copies are stored temporarily. However, you can also store them permanently.

IMAP vs. POP3: What Is It and Which One Should You Use? Stock Email Photo on Smartphone

What Are the Advantages of POP?

Being the original protocol, POP follows the simplistic idea that only one client requires access to mail on the server and that mails are best stored locally. This leads to the following advantages:

  • Mail stored locally, i.e. always accessible, even without internet connection.
  • Internet connection needed only for sending and receiving mail.
  • Saves server storage space.
  • Option to leave copy of mail on server.
  • Consolidate multiple email accounts and servers into one inbox.

What Are the Advantages of IMAP?

As mentioned in the introduction, IMAP was created to allow remote access to emails stored on a remote server. The idea was to allow multiple clients or users to manage the same inbox. So whether you log in from your home or your work computer, you will always see the same emails and folder structure since they are stored on the server and all changes you make to local copies are immediately synced to the server.


As a result, IMAP has the following advantages:

  • Mail stored on remote server, i.e. accessible from multiple different locations.
  • Internet connection needed to access mail.
  • Faster overview as only headers are downloaded until content is explicitly requested.
  • Mail is automatically backed up if server is managed properly.
  • Saves local storage space.
  • Option to store mail locally.

What Is the Best Email Protocol for Me?

Obviously, it depends on your specific variables and you probably have an idea of what is best suited for your situation already. The points below should help to make a final decision.

Choose POP If…

  • You want to access your mail from only one single device.
  • You need constant access to your email, regardless of internet availability.
  • You have limited server storage.

Choose IMAP If…

If in doubt, go with IMAP. It’s the more modern protocol, it allows you to be flexible, and your email is automatically backed up How to Create Automatic Backups of Your Outlook Data Outlook keeps your mail data in a PST file. If you want to easily back this up for safekeeping or migration, this free tool does the trick. Read More on the server. Furthermore, server space usually isn’t an issue these days, and you can still store important emails locally.

What protocol do you use? Does one protocol suit your workflow better than the other? Has the popularity of web-based email services like Gmail removed the relevance of POP and IMAP from the mainstream? Let us know your thoughts below!


Image Credit: hanss via

Related topics: Desktop Email Client, Email Tips, IMAP, POP.

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  1. David Black
    June 5, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    One giant pro of POP3 is if you have requirements where emails must be stored for 5 years for legal reasons. With that much email, IMAP will take forever to sync. A way to mitigate the issue of losing POP3 emails due to computer crash or the disk dying, is to set up the account to leave 2 weeks on the server after you have downloaded it. Add a PC backup program (I have found Aronis True Image to work well - not affiliated with them). My moms compute drive died suddenly, and I could not drive up since I was on call, but because I gave her a USB drive that she plugs in once a week, she didn't lose any email, or anything else. Between backups, copy files to thumb drives if you are more paranoid.

  2. Chaz DeSimone
    October 22, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    Superb explanation of what the acronyms POP and IMAP (which have made me shudder for over 20 years...until just now) stand for and what they do. (And comically, the daunting acroynym SMPT stands for such a child-like phrase as Simple Mail Transfer Protocol.) Thank you for your article and for the valuable comments.

  3. John Charleston
    August 18, 2018 at 4:54 am

    I have been considering changing to IMAP for this reason - just can’t verify if IMAP provides this function.

    I want to keep my email on the server (Gmail and others that are off site)
    I want to be able to access my email from office, home, notebook and smartphone.
    From ANY of those devices I would like to be able to DELETE and email and have it DELETED from server AND all other devices.
    Affectively, when I delete an email I don’t want to delete it again from other devices.
    Can I do this by changing them to IMAP?

    • Jackemeyer
      January 31, 2019 at 4:19 pm

      From what I understand, this is exactly what happens when you have each and every device using IMAP (to sync) with the server. If you have more than one server (say three personal, one from work, one from school), then this is multiplied by the total number of servers you access.

      To become satisfied that things are syncing from each server, you should mitigate potential issues by observing each device's Mail software (includes: Gmail, Mail for Mac, Mail for iOS, Thunderbird, Outlook, Yahoo) to determine *how quickly* each one is able to sync with (each) server and correctly update your User Interface (New messages, Deleted Messages, Saved Drafts, Trash, etc.).

  4. SJP O'Neill
    March 8, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    Thanks...very useful...

  5. Darryl Duncan
    December 23, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Again,my concern is the security.I can see that a stranger accessed my google account on 12/19/17 using an LG Nexus in Shelbyville TN .Google does not give me an option to remove this signed in device,only my own .After changing password ,signing out and factory reset and a new password I still see the Nexus 5 signed in .Does that mean somebody else can read my mail ?

  6. Darryl Duncan
    December 23, 2017 at 9:22 am

    My concern is the security .I can see a strangers device signed into my google account but google gives me no option to remove it ( only gives me option to remove my own device .For awhile I could not access server on my IMAP accounts but its working fine now.Does that mean somebody else may read my mail ? I changed password ,signed out ,factory reset and signed in again but still see somebody elses device signed into my account .

  7. Nawazish
    May 9, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    can I setup Gmail account, outlook account, rediffmail account on imap? recently that Gmail hacking news made me a little jittery, thanks in advance

    • v1adimir
      December 16, 2017 at 5:36 am

      Yup, 100% email should be mirrored across different servers... Some will have the kind of options you're looking for and some other might (actually) not. Take a look yourself, for example Gmail has "Forwarding" and filters, which is cool! :)

  8. Nawazish
    May 9, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    I never used pop or imap coz I don't know how to set up one! process is too confusing, simply using Gmail coz setup is so easy

  9. Johnathon
    May 3, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    So heres the deal, im likely beating a dead horse here but I'm super pissed about my mail options on my new iphone. First problem is its displaying over 15000 emails. Sure I could trim the fat here but most emails I have need to be kept for an extended period of time (years) so lets ignore message deletion as an option. All I want, is 50-100 current messages displayed in my inbox like its been for years. Youd think thatd be easy these days but apparently apple is working backwards with its mail? It takes forever (or sometimes not at all) to get mail downloaded. Often my phone will display that its updated at such a time, but if I log into my hotmail account Ive got new messages, or if I scroll down to load new messages it will either not load at all or load messages but then say there is no content. Heres what I want, fast email again. I feel like we are working backwards in this department lately. Can you offer any suggestions? There are no provisions on the phone to limit email to the most current "25"

  10. Steve
    April 12, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    For your private account just use IMAP, but, if you not a freelance or working for a company, always use POP3. From my experience, companies often DELETE your email / forwarding addresses, so , in the end, you will not have any proof of the fact that you had actually deal with that 3rd party server. And yes. Use Outlook for your work related POP3 mails.

    • Tina Sieber
      April 12, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      Great points, Steve!

  11. Brian
    March 27, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    My life was organized by using catagories in Outlook for about 20 years. With Office 365 Outlook switched my Email account from POP to IMAP. Catagories can no longer be assigned nor are they sychronized to my mobile devices anymore.
    How can I get back to POP and regain control over my life?

    Thanks for any suggegtions.


    • Tina Sieber
      March 30, 2017 at 2:27 pm

      Can't you switch it back to POP, Brian? If you pay for Office 365 and use Outlook 2016 (the desktop app), then that should be possible. See this Microsoft Support article.

  12. m
    March 5, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    While the author has written a clear enough article for me to glean what I hope is the answer to my question (repeating the suggestion of choosing IMAP is also effective), this jargon rich text leaves me not quite secure.
    My question is: If my partner's email can be accessed on her device and mine (IMAP) and I delete one of the messages in her in box from my device, will my action have an effect on her ability to see that message on her machine?
    Will the message be available to her on her machine even if I delete it from my machine?
    If I delete a message on my machine before she gets a chance to download the message onto her machine, will she have missed being able to down load the message?
    Or am I to understand that while the message is deleted from my machine's inbox, it remains on the server (ISP) where it can be retrieved by her as if I never dealt with it?
    BTW this about sharing machines so nothing is lost . This is not about censoring or controlling each others mail accounts.

    • Tina Sieber
      March 6, 2017 at 10:35 am

      First question: Yes.
      Second question: Maybe.
      Third question: Yes.
      Fourth question: No.

      If you're using IMAP to access the same email inbox from different devices, then the inbox is merely mirrored from the email server to each device. Whatever you delete locally, is -- once you sync your device -- removed from the server, meaning your wife -- once she has synced her device with the server -- won't be able to see the deleted content in her inbox anymore. If her device is offline or she doesn't sync her inbox, then she won't see recent changes. Also, a deleted email may still be available in the Trash folder.

      Regarding your last question, this scenario (messages remaining on the server, even if deleted locally) is only true if you use POP3 and set your download options to leave everything on the server, even after downloading it to your device.

    • Interested Reader
      June 16, 2019 at 7:00 pm

      People should not share email accounts.

  13. Hayden
    December 23, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    Injectable Steroids

  14. hayashi
    August 8, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    thank you ^^

    • Tina Sieber
      August 8, 2016 at 9:18 pm

      Most welcome! :)

  15. Clivew
    May 1, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    If you want to make sure all emails are preserved, for legal purposes or even when you change providers, I think it makes sense to use POP on your local computer and IMAP from your mobile devices.

  16. sivanesh
    April 6, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    why do we need pop3 or imap4 for email

  17. Yogesh
    February 1, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Differences between both POP and IMAP were properly specified.

  18. Anonymous
    October 5, 2015 at 6:53 am

    The article was very useful. The differences, advantages and the terminology have been explained clearly. Thank you.

  19. Anonymous
    July 29, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Very informative and clear. Great article!

  20. Anonymous
    June 8, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    It was a nice refreshing article this morning

  21. Janice Earliene Carr
    April 12, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    I'm not very good with computers, as I had to teach myself a little of what I do know. So would I have POP OR IMAP ? - if when I bought a new iPhone & sent an email to a friend from it, ALL MY EMAILS ( over 2000 showed up on it which filled up the phone & now no one can take pictures & etc....) FROM MY I PAD SHOWED UP WHICH I THOUGHT ONLY THE ONES ON MY IPAD WOULD STAY ON MY IPAD. I only want the ones I use on my phone on my phone - I can delete them SEPERATELY from my I pad? Please help me! I have an iPhone , An-iPad & MAC computer, so I would like to keep my phone "pretty-clear." As I go. Thanks in advance! Jan Carr.
    Ps which do I need if I don't have right one now? :)

    • irorjk
      December 17, 2015 at 4:51 pm

      With IMAP, if you remove them from 1 device, they will be removed from the mail server and all the other devices, be very carefully!

    • Interested Reader
      June 16, 2019 at 7:24 pm

      If your Iphone has an email app, don't use it. All email will be downloaded to it, and you will have access to it. You can disable the email app obviously, and just access your email in the cloud through the web browser. This is generally considered more secure.
      What you are asking for is "not possible". It's "all" or "nothing" with email.

  22. dalmas
    February 10, 2015 at 10:41 am

    same comment very clear and helpful!

  23. Robert
    January 15, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    Excellent explanation and very helpful. Thanks, Tina.

  24. Jimmy Dee
    November 15, 2012 at 5:23 am

    Actually, the default for Outlook is to leave the email on the server for 14 days.

    Terrible for active accounts with small boxes on older email systems (especially commercial accounts), but still a sensible precaution.

    In our office, we use 2-4 days depending on the usage profile of the user. That gives 24 hours of backup... Our .pst files are also backed up here every 24 hours, so that's safe.

    POP3 is better for smaller email accounts. IMAP is better for modern accounts.

    POP3 is better for very high activity accounts (the boss here gets 1000-2000 emails a day and is not at all diligent about organizing and archiving... his .pst backup is nearly 500gb).

    POP3 encourages bad recoverability policies. Most POP3 users store everything in a single file on a single hard drive unless there is adequate tech staff (that they listen to). IMAP by nature is safer against hardware failure, and if it fills up, instead of automatically slicing itself up, requires specific action by the user to organize and archive properly.

    IMAP is better for redundancy as well for users who do not have a backup solution in place, but have information they want/need backed up.

    IMAP has a higher security risk, but this is not really significant and is usually overplayed by "techies". Information that is genuinely sensitive is usually kept to protected servers and internal mail domains. Otherwise, good password policies are usually adequate.

  25. Kelliann
    September 4, 2012 at 4:56 am

    I use POP, I do have one imap account, using iCloud with it. There is a delay before mail I send or move comes back to me. I find that annoying. I have no reason to need imap... I set up that account after my hard drive crashed so it could collect incoming mail. I told most users I email with that I had a temporary email address ( I was able to read my mail on my iPhone. Meantime, my ISP was collecting other email on their servers and to see that mail, I used webmail temporarily.When it all got straightened out, I had Windows Mail. not Windows Live Mail, running. I started writing to everyone from my older address and when they replied, they replied to it. I am now very happily back to POP3 mail which I can keep on my computer. If I need to access webmail messages, I just go to my ISPs site and access it from there from any location with any device I happen to have. I have a PC with Windows 7, by the way, not a Mac.

  26. Edgar Meixueiro
    August 23, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    I personally like imap. Unfortunately I have both a gmail and hotmail account. And hotmail only supports pop option.

  27. Benjamin Glass
    August 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    I'll use IMAP from now on.

  28. Dr Ramraj
    August 20, 2012 at 5:01 am

    my doubt is which one is secured . also in case of POP if i download a mail and keep it in local storage , what can i do if i lost my local data . you have also explained that POP will delete my mail on the server . so if i lost my data , it's lost forever . thinkin IMAP will be better . pls verify about security

    • Tina
      August 20, 2012 at 6:40 pm

      Yes, if you lose your local copy of emails downloaded with classical POP, then it's gone, unless you had a local backup that you made yourself.

      Note that when using IMAP, if you delete emails locally, they will also be deleted on the server - changes made locally are synced to the server.

      With most accounts, you can opt to keep mails stored on the server, although downloading with POP. So maybe that is the best option if available.

  29. Aaron Couch
    August 19, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Awesome article Tina! I MIGHT have an email question to ask you later, when I have time.

    • Tina
      August 20, 2012 at 6:40 pm

      Hold on to your question, Aaron! :)

  30. Rob Hindle
    August 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Good article and some interesting comments.

    As regards "which is best" - that's the wrong question. Ask instead "which is best for me/my circumstances". Personally I use Gmail (with the web interface) for a long list of reasons which would be an article in itself. I know there are people with various concerns about Gmail but again, that's a different discussion.

    In this context Gmail's 10GB of storage is an important factor, more than most ISPs provide. That means I never need to delete anything - even if 10GB isn't enough the upgrade to 25GB is fairly cheap.

    There is the issue of whether the filed messages are safe in the cloud, might they disappear? I think the risks of my hard disk failing are greater than Google's cloud. There are options for handling the risk of Gmail losing emails - like forwarding copies of important messages to another account, maybe collecting from that with a desktop client, or if it's that important use the commercial version of Gmail which is claimed to be more reliable.

    For geeks the IMAP/POP differences and config are not a problem but I've seen others get somewhat confused with IMAP, not really understanding that delete from desktop means it's gone from the server too for example.

    I have a second "while travelling" Gmail account as default on my mobile, only known to a select few and reserved for important messages (set up with Googles two step security so I can reduce the risks of using potentially insecure WiFi and set to forward duplicates to my primary account). That's not the best solution for others and that's the point. By using more than a single account, using filters and auto forwarders, maybe even POP on one account IMAP on another you can build your own solution. The "should I use IMAP or POP?" question can become "how do I get the advantages of both with the drawbacks of neither". There's not a "one size fits all" way of handling email but with a bit of imagination it's possible to address most requirements. However, I must repeat, complicated mashups are for the geeks, if you don't fully understand the implications of every link in the chain it will screw up.

    • Tina
      August 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm


      You make excellent points! I also think data in the cloud is safer as in "better backed up than locally." For many people, however, there remains a concern around privacy, which I can understand.

      And yes, 'the best' anything always depends on your individual situation. True for most everything in life. :)

  31. lance burn
    August 18, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    thanks for this a good read

    • Tina
      August 18, 2012 at 6:21 pm

      Most welcome Lance.

  32. Seishun Kyosoukyoku
    August 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I use IMAP

  33. Piseth Mao
    August 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Fantastic, Tina. I have been using and managing e-mails for many staff at my organization for years but have never read any article regarding the different of POP and IMAP. I just read your article today and I'm pretty clear about this now. You've just cleared my brain. Thank you.

    • Tina
      August 19, 2012 at 6:07 pm

      Glad I could help. Thank you very much for the feedback! :)

  34. michael egerton
    August 17, 2012 at 5:56 am

    I've never used any of these, best keep things simple.

    • jrasulev
      August 17, 2012 at 11:54 am

      Nice article, but after years of using pop3, imap & smpt I decided gmail app and chrome browser are the best tools for my mail, besides that there is offline mode.

      • Tina
        August 18, 2012 at 6:21 pm

        Same here actually! I use Gmail with Firefox (private) and Chrome (MakeUseOf). For my private account I'm pulling in emails from various accounts (other Gmail accounts, old university accounts etc.) via POP and sort them into various folders. It's the best setup I've ever had.

        • David
          August 20, 2012 at 1:40 am

          What's to decide? We all agree on Cloud accounts' advantages, and add to those the salvation of your mail (and attachments) when that inevitable melting of one's hard drive Yet why not do both? I access two Cloud accounts from anywhere, including phone. And I use Thunderbird for hard POP copies on both my PC and my phone as well. Redundant not dunce!

        • Tina
          September 14, 2012 at 5:58 am


          Now that I'm happy with my webmail setup, I'm reluctant to keep a desktop client up to date and have it download my email. It would take up tons of hard drive space and some resources and I don't have a need for this redundancy.

    • Tina
      August 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm

      So you use webmail exclusively, Michael?

      • michael egerton
        August 18, 2012 at 6:34 pm

        I got email X-notifier on the browser so I log in automatic with a click of the mouse; and before that I've always gone to the web page and logged in like hotmail, so why complicate matters and have space taken up on the hard drive? It was probably different with modems but now with DSL the internet is there all the time.

        • Tina
          August 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm

          To be honest, that's my take exactly. :) But I still use POP to route emails from various accounts into my one main account.

        • michael egerton
          August 19, 2012 at 6:40 pm

          The X-notifier checks all my accounts whether I'm using Opera, Google or Firefox, and shows which has new emails, so I know if its worth checking straight away, because I've got accounts for business, personal, rubbish and certain contacts so I don't need them all into one main account. I also don't want hard disk space used up by storing locally because the internet is always on with DSL, Google gives you loads of storage I'm still only 9% full. If DSL is off then I've always got my smartphone; so I guess you use POP on your phone too with such limited space? You can't be! Write another article of what you suggest for a smartphone.
          To me, the whole idea of POP and IMAP is such an outdated way of checking emails that it belongs in the dial-up modem era of 20 years ago, whereas now you check them with two clicks of the mouse.

  35. Oron
    August 16, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Hi Tina, good and useful article. A few points:
    IMAP works just as well offline as POP3. Of course, if you only download the headers then you won't be able to read the messages, but those who want to read their email when not connected to the internet would need to download their email anyway before disconnecting, however they connect!

    Barry Weingart: Thunderbird has not been killed (a new version was released very recently!). Development is just going to be a lower priority at the company.

    Tip of the day: one of the easiest ways to move your email folders from one email account to another is to connect to the new account using IMAP from the same email client you used previously and drag the messages INTO the new account!

    • Tina
      August 18, 2012 at 6:18 pm


      Thought I had replied to this comment already, but guess my internet connection was shaky. Great tip, thank you for sharing!

  36. Roger Bertrand, P. Eng.
    August 16, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Another point that should be added to the Benefit of POP / SMTP:

    For OUTLOOK users the RULES one can write up to classify his Emails, to assign categories, work erratically with IMAP, when one uses POP it works 100 % of the time. This Business of MS Exchange server does not work well with OUTLOOK's RULES. In addition the CONNECTOR is always generating SYNC errors when you use IMAP. MS needs to polish that side up a bit.

    In summary if you always access your Emails from YOU machine, or almost all the time, it is a lot safer to use POP. In addition you don't have your information sitting on some server that can be hacked.

    Frankly when you use your machine all the time, I cannot see any benefit to IMAP.

    Roger Bertrand, P. Eng.

    • Tina
      August 18, 2012 at 6:17 pm

      Great point about emails being stored on the server, Roger!

  37. Tara Drennen
    August 16, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Just ran into an interesting issue with this when I set u0 Mac Mail in Mountain Lion - I can no longer use Gmail POP3, only IMAP, and the Gmail doesn't like to share the inbox.

    I got it working, but it's awkward compared to what I'm used to.

    Also: Gmail IMAP is for downloading - sent mail still goes out using SMTP.

    • Tina
      August 18, 2012 at 6:16 pm


      I'm not a Mac user myself, so I don't know what it wouldn't support POP.

      Sending mail is always done through SMTP; it's a separate protocol for sending. POP and IMAP are protocols for receiving/downloading email.

    • coconut
      December 5, 2012 at 9:50 pm

      Hi, I found a solution for this. When you add a new gmail account to mail, use first a fake email address, so it doesn't configure automatically as IMAP. After that you can manually setup your gmail account using POP3 settings

  38. Barry Weingart
    August 16, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    You might want to mention PostBox as a replacement for Thunderbird which is no longer being developed. Anyone using TB should switch to PostBox. Its $10 but well worth it!

    • Tina
      August 17, 2012 at 7:38 am


      As Oron said, Thunderbird development has not ceased. Also, this article was not about email clients, just about email protocols.

  39. WD
    August 16, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    How does SMTP fit into all of this email stuff?

    • Tina
      August 17, 2012 at 7:38 am

      SMTP is the 'simple mail transfer protocol' used to send emails. POP and IMAP are protocols for receiving email.

  40. susendeep dutta
    August 16, 2012 at 11:28 am

    I use IMAP and don't like to use POP as after Mozilla stopped development of Thunderbird,I've no trust in other offline email clients.

    • Pat Wiegand
      September 13, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      Really? Seems a bit harsh -- there are a lot of fine email clients out there. Even the basic Outlook is very stable -- I've never had a problem with it.

    • Tor
      November 23, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      Mozilla have not stopped development of Thunderbird! Where did you hear that?

      • susendeep dutta
        November 24, 2012 at 3:59 pm

        I mean to say that Mozilla would never release any new version of Thunderbird and would release hotfix for current version.

  41. Oluwafemi Ajayi
    August 16, 2012 at 7:39 am

    I think IMAP is best suitable for me , because i need a quick overview of my mails, because POP will have to download all the mail before i view them which might take a longer time. IMAP is still the best because you can as well download mails you want locally

  42. Shakirah Faleh Lai
    August 16, 2012 at 12:33 am

    I don't need POP, just use IMAP.

  43. Andrey Zvyagin
    August 15, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Nothing has been written about the important advantage of IMAP over POP3: an encrypted connection to the server process. In POP3 passwords are transmitted in the clear. Therefore, IMAP definitely better!

    • Tina
      August 16, 2012 at 11:17 am

      You're right, the original POP3 specification didn't support encryption. However, there are extension mechanisms to securely transmit user details. Anyhow, IMAP still seems to have an advantage over POP3 in terms of security. So this is a good point. Thanks for raising it, Andrey!

  44. Scott
    August 15, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    I do the same as Kaashif Haja. Although I don't know that POP is necessarily 'better,' I know it's better *for me.*

    My main email is, and I usually access my email using the web interface (on my home desktop only), archiving all the emails I keep and simply doing a search for specific ones when I need to.

    But whenever I'm in the mood for using a client -- or whenever there are emails important enough to keep a back-up copy of -- I open my Outlook 2007 and download the message(s) via POP. Outlook allows me to color-categorize the email and even edit the subject line of incoming mail ! (I'm not sure how IMAP would affect either of these things, but with my modest email needs I don't even worry about it.) :-)

    So, I have an online copy and an offline copy of my important emails without concern about any syncing of messages and folders. And if I want to get rid of one of the copies of an email, I can delete it from either location without it doing the same in the other location, since the two functions are independent.

    I guess I'm just not a power-emailer. So POP3 "works for me." ;-)

    • Tina
      August 18, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      Thanks for sharing your workflow, Scott! I think whatever solution works best for you is the best one. Often it helps to know what is available to figure out what works best for oneself, especially if you're not a power user. But if you have already found something that works well, don't bother fixing it. :)

  45. Kaashif Haja
    August 15, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    I use POP. I feel it's better that IMAP. I always have a copy of my mail on the server, i don't delete it.

  46. GrrGrrr
    August 15, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Thanks Tine, nice read.

    I use IMAP. It has another biggest advantage over POP that an email read on say phone, would be marked as READ while accessed elsewhere, unlike in POP where READ is locally on the device, but not on the server (should you opt to keep a server copy).


    • Gideon Pioneer
      August 15, 2012 at 7:59 pm

      Very true!

  47. Tug Ricks
    August 15, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Thanks for the info. I've always wondered what the differences were, but never had the idea learn more about them.

    Historically, I've gone with IMAP, perhaps simply because it sounded cooler. And I I'll stick with it in the future given that I use multiple devices to access my mail.

  48. SKK
    August 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    After reading this article i completely understand the difference between both the terms.Now i will use IMAP because i have to use multiple devices to access my Inbox.
    Thanks to makeuseof team to explain with these two terms with in the simple manner.

    • Pat Wiegand
      September 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      Actually, this is the one complaint I have about Tina's article. I use POP3 on multiple devices all the time. Just set the email client to leave the mail on the server for a specified number of days or until it is deleted from the deleted items folder. I have 3 computers and a phone that all receive mail via POP. When sending email if you want to keep it synced among all computers, just blind copy yourself and you will have sent mail synchronized as well.

      • Tina
        September 14, 2012 at 5:56 am


        If the client allows you to leave the messages on the server when using POP, then that means you're getting the best of both worlds. As far as I know it's not a standard feature, so it's not available to everyone. However, I did come across this option and should have mentioned it. Thanks for bringing it up!

  49. NSM Techie
    August 15, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    yes, but i think there are new version of both i.e is POP 3 and IMAP 4.
    Difference between is mail cannot be searched in pop 3 and mails can be searched over the server in imap 4

    • Pat Wiegand
      September 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      Any decent email client will allow you to search your mails delivered by POP3, and you don't need to be connected to the internet to do it. Not saying this makes POP3 better overall, just adding clarity to your statement.

  50. Adjei Kofi
    August 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I use IMAP

  51. Vipul Jain
    August 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    coincidently i need help regarding this matter.
    I have been using GMail on my droid for long now. recently i got a hotmail/outlook or (whatever its general name is) mail address from my college.
    Now i have the Mail app in my phone (the exchange sync i guess).
    And i just cant add my mail into it. I followed instructions for POP3 & IMAP, given in mobile section in the hotmail but all futile :/

    • Tug Ricks
      August 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm

      Hey, if I'm thinking correctly, I believe I know what to do. If not, sorry for my confusion.

      User name:
      Incoming server:
      Incoming port: 995
      SMTP server:
      SMTP port: 587

    • Gideon Pioneer
      August 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm

      You need to contact your college's IT department for the details. They most likely have different server addresses than the default hotmail ones. So contact the IT department and ask for instructions on how to set up an email account on your smartphone

    • jrasulev
      August 17, 2012 at 11:44 am

      As far as I know before one could not have a corporate exchange mail account and other non-exchange mail accounts together, see with your IT

  52. Lee
    August 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    I use IMAP with my email clients for Gmail because I like everything being in sync. Sometimes I like using desktop clients (right now, I have Gmail setup in Outlook since I have another email account that's on an Exchange server and integrates really well with Outlook).
    One big plus about using Gmail with Outlook instead of just using the web-based version is that you can do things like send and receive read receipts, which aren't available on the web-client for Gmail (unless you have Google Apps).

  53. Bill
    August 15, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Provided you tell your IMAP client to store your mail locally then IMAP gives you all the "advantages" of POP plus a lot more.

    Not mentioned in article: make sure you have enough storage server space for your mail if you use IMAP or if you don't delete your POP mail.

    Note with IMAP, unless you delete your mail and save it locally, then all your mail is in the cloud. This could be a consideration if you're worried about the security of cloud based services.

    • Tina
      August 16, 2012 at 11:11 am

      Thanks for the additional tips, Bill. I thought I had made the last one clear. You have a good point with the first one.

  54. Timothy Liem
    August 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I use pop on my mobile since it's the one recommended by Google.

    • Pat Wiegand
      September 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm

      I also use POP because I often need to access my emails when I have limited access to the internet while traveling. With POP I can quickly download via a phone tether or pay-by-time internet at an airport then drop the connection and peruse the emails, write replies, etc. at my leisure without an internet connection. When I'm done, jump back on the internet and hit send/receive and then I can drop off again. With IMAP you would have to be connected to the internet all the time. Expensive when you are traveling.

  55. Ashwin Ramesh
    August 15, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Good that I had IMAP enabled even though I didn't know how it worked until I read your article. Thanks for sharing, Tina!