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Monday 2 June 2014

Difference between POP3 and IMAP

Email is an indispensable modern tool that improves efficiency and flexibility. Your email is stored in a place called a mailbox. Separate users can have their own mailboxes, to receive emails, for example user1@example.com, user2@example.com, etc. (where example.com is your domain). Sometimes you would like a dedicated, or many, employee(s) and a specified mailbox to receive emails.  An alias can be created to accommodate this, for example the alias support@example.com receives emails related to support and those emails are also sent to adam@example.com and betty@example.com. Thus, the email would be in  all three (support@example.com, adam@example.com and betty@example.com) mailboxes.

Mailboxes can be connected either through Post Office Protocol (POP3) or Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP). Both these protocols are used for email retrieval purposes.

POP3 Retrieval Process


POP3 being the most common in email protocol, where messages are downloaded and stored on your computer. 

IMAP Retrieval Process


Whereas, IMAP stores your email folders (inbox, sent items, trash, etc) on the server. Having IMAP allows you to access your email from anywhere. Email stored using IMAP does count towards your disk space quota.

Webmail uses IMAP to connect to the mailbox. IF your email client connects using POP3, you can still use webmail to view new messages in the inbox, but however you won't be able to access email that is stored in your computer. 

If you want to be able to see new messages in the webmail inbox, while also downloading emails to your computer, you can set your email client to leave a copy of your emails on the server for a specified period of time. However when performing this action, be aware that this setting does not offer the same synchronizing benefits as IMAP.

How do I choose between POP3 and IMAP?

POP was designed for for situations when there is only one and only one desktop computer. Normally these messages are stored/downloaded onto your desktop computer and deleted from the mail server. If you choose to work with your POP email on more than one computer, you may have problems with synchronizing. (Mail archive, if you have one, will be kept on your desktop computer.)

IMAP is designed for the situation where you need to work with your email from multiple computers such as your workstation at work, your personal computer, or/and on a portable laptop. Messages are displayed on your local computer but are kept and stored on the mail server, making accessibility from any location a breeze. You can create subfolders to organize the emails you want to keep, but this will work against your email quota.

Choose IMAP 

  1. if you need to access your email, both new and old, from more than one place.
  2. use POP, but specify to leave mail in your server.
  3. use a synchronizing option

Choose POP

  1. if you work with your email from a single location (a single computer)
  2. webmail works fine for you if you just want to check email.
  3. you regularly backup your email messages, and archive it.


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