Email – What’s the difference – POP3 vs. IMAP?

It is helpful to understand the difference between POP3 vs. IMAP email protocols before you set up your email account on your device. Your choice will depend on your needs for your email account access.

POP3 (Post Office Protocol)
POP3 downloads an email from the server and then will delete it after the number of days that you have used in your settings (ie. 7).  Because the email is deleted after (7) days, the emails are only stored on one specific machine, and cannot be accessed via any webmail or any separate client on other computers. POP3 does not coordinate with the server. Messages that the mail application marks as read, deleted, or replied to will not show up as such on the server. This means that future mail downloads with POP3 will show all messages as unread.

  • Your mailbox will not get full because you are downloading mail from the server to your local device.
  • Mail will be pulled from the server to your device (NOT sync’d)
  • It is recommended that you Keep a Copy on the Server for at least 7 days.
  • On a Mobile Device it is recommended to select to not delete from the server.

IMAP (Internet Mesage Access Protocol)
Email access coordinates between the server and your mail application. Messages that you have read, deleted, or replied to will show up as such, both on the server and in the mail application (on your device). IMAP is the better solution if you check your emails from several different devices – ie. desktop computer and smartphone. IMAP stores emails on the server where there is a limited mailbox size. If you have large number of emails that are not deleted, you could run into problems sending and receiving mail because your mailbox is full. This is especially true if the emails have attachments.

  • Everything is sync’d – you are actually looking at the email on the server.
  • If you have multiple devices accessing your email, when you delete a message on your phone, it will be removed from your computer as well.
  • Mail is inaccessible if you don’t have internet connection
  • People allow their mailboxes to get full because the mail resides on the server and if you don’t delete mail regularly or move it to local folders on your computer, it will fill up the server mailbox.

When in doubt, choose IMAP as it syncs your email accounts across multiple devices but you must make sure to keep the account cleaned up so as to avoid your mailbox becoming full.

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