POP & IMAP Difference

When setting up an email service with an email client on computers or mobile devices, you may be required to choose between the two options, POP3 or IMAP. What are POP3 and IMAP mail servers? What is the difference between POP & IMAP Email?

IMAP and POP are the two most popular email protocols that allows you to access, view and download emails. Unlike SMTP which allows you to send out emails from a mail server, IMAP and POP mainly help you get emails from the mail server to your local machine. Thus IMAP and POP are also known as incomming mail server, SMTP server is also called outgoing mail server. IMAP and POP, each has its advantages and disadvantages. A rule of thumb is to choose IMAP when you’re trying to decide between using POP and IMAP. If you like to access the email account on multiple devices, IMAP is the better choice. However under some particular circumstances, POP3 works better than IMAP, for example you only access your email account with one email client on a single Windows or Mac computer, and you like to save all emails on your hard drive and more offline work, POP mail is better option.

POP and IMAP Difference

What is POP mail and its features?

POP is short for Post Office Protocol. It can download queued emails from mail server to a specific client, like a computer, mobile tablet and so on. POP mail protocol enables you the capability to delete the original email copies from mail server. It is optional, you can choose to leave a copy of the emails on remote server, or download emails to local computer and remove them from mail server. This feature allows you to store emails on local machine, thus you can save a lot of space on remote mail server. At the same time, when email messages are downloaded offline, you can open and view them with your email program on your local device even when your device is not connected to the internet. When your email account is installed on an email client via POP, your email client or device will not synced with the mail server. It will heck the server for new messages at preset or regular intervals which can be set or change in your email program. It will download the entire email messages from server and save on your local hard disk. After that, it will disconnect from server and you can then open and view the downloaded emails on your device. One problem of setting up emails via POP or POP3 is that, if you configured the same email account on multiple devices, you will actually download the same messages multiple times. You download a full copy of each message to each device. And your operations performed on the messages will be saved on your local device only, other than syncing to the remote server. IMAP however has the two-way syncing capabilities between your mail clients and remote mail server.

What is IMAP mail and its features?

IMAP is short for Internet Message Access Protocol. One big advantage to set up email via IMAP is that it can sync your emails well among different devices. It stays connected to the email server, when new email received on the mail server, it will arrive on your email clients on local devices which is connected to the mail server.

IMAP offers two-way communication between your mail server and your email client. Any actions you perform on a web browser, email clients or mobile devices will be synced to anohter device or interface instantly and automatically. For example, if you have read an email on your Android mobile, then when you open it on the web browser, or another mobile or tablet, the same email will also marked as read.

Another advantages of IMAP mail is that messages can be downloaded in parts, you can preview subject or sender information before you download and view the full message.

Since IMAP does not save all email messages on your hard disk or remove copies of mail server, you may reach the mailbox size limit. Another disadvantages is that you will need internet access whenever you want to check or read your emails. POP mail however can download a full copy of all email message to local machine, you can view them offline anytime even without internet connection.

POP and IMAP Differences Side by Side

POP3

IMAP

Email to be downloaded to computer or other device before being displayed. Possible  problems for POP3 mail:

  • You need to download all emails again when using another email client or device to access the same email account.
  • Email operations and status to be kept offline on each device, other than synced to server, you may get confused on multiple devices.
  • You may lose emails, as email client may delete source messages from mail server without proper settings.
All emails are kept on server, and synced among mutliple devices. IMAP mail benefits:

  • No need to download all emails again on a new device.
  • Email status is also synced, so you can easily find out the read and unread emails, will not get confused on multiple devices.
  • Emails deleted on a device will be removed from mail server and other devices. Easier to clear up mail server and other email programs.
All messages as well as their attachments will be downloaded when you check for new email. Support partial download. You can preview sender info and subject before open the mail and downloading the whole message. A whole message will be downloaded only when it is opened.
Folders created to organize emails locally can’t be published on to server. Create different folders within email client program, synced to mail server and other mail program on various devices.
Delete a message in email client does not remove it from mail server or other email clients. Can delete a message in any email client and remove it from mail server or other email clients.
Store emails on computer, thus can save space on mail server. Can’t store emails on computer, can’t save mail server space.
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