Frequently Asked Questions

Should I use IMAP or POP3 to collect email?
Last Updated 4 years ago

If your email client supports both IMAP and POP3 we recommend you use IMAP.  IMAP does more and does it better.  IMAP works especially well if you wish to collect email using different computers at different times (or even at the same time if you have a desktop, a laptop and a mobile phone each connecting to your mailbox).

That's all you really need to know, but if you enjoy technical details, read on...

By default POP3 downloads mail from the server and deletes mail from the server after collection.  You can access your mailbox using different computers at different times but they will see different sets of messages because each deletes messages from the server after downloading them.  Collecting mail by POP3 using more than one computer at the same time is a recipe for disaster.  You could get around these problems by telling your email client not to delete mails from the server after collection but then you would keep downloading the same old messages each time you connected.

In contrast, IMAP is designed to leave messages on the server.  These days most IMAP email clients keep local copies of the messages too (the older ones that did not keep local copies could not refer to mail you had already received unless your computer had an internet connection).

Most email clients let you organize your messages into folders and keep a folder of sent messages.  With POP3 those folders exist only on your computer.  Use a different computer to collect mail using POP3 and there is no sign of the already-received messages or folders.  With IMAP any computer you use to connect to your mailbox will see those folders and their contents.

IMAP also plays nicely with webmail.   Webmail sees your mailbox exactly the same way that IMAP does (there's a reason for that: webmail uses IMAP behind the scenes to access your mailbox).

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