Emails – What are POP and IMAP?Posted by On


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Emails are now everywhere on the PC, phones, tablets and other gadgets. Nowadays they are now one of the main forms of communication and one of the main activities for users of a PC. Who has not used Yahoo Mail, even once? Or Gmail, or Hotmail, or any other email account? In this article you will learn more about various email protocols.

POP3 (Post Office Protocol)

POP, or Post Office Protocol, is one of the first ways of obtaining emails, being invented in the early days of the Internet. POP is suitable for computers with access to low bandwidth and was created as a way to download messages locally for reading them offline. POP3 is the current version of this email protocol, which is still used a lot nowadays.

One thing to remember about POP3 is that it makes local copies and deletes the original emails from the server, so the correspondence is linked to the device used to read it. If you have two computers that connect to the same account using POP3 client software the email is transmitted on a first come first served basis and the second computer cannot receive the message if it has been already downloaded by the first. Even if POP3 is built on this principle it should not be disregarded because it can be useful sometimes.

IMAP Internet Message Access Protocol

IMAP appeared in 1986, but it remains modern until today, especially for those who connect to the Internet constantly. Its underlying principle was to ensure that users depend on a single email client, giving them the ability to read messages from anywhere with any device, but also using webmail. Compared with POP3, IMAP allows users to authenticate (simultaneously or not) on any device and to have email messages stored locally until deleted completely from the server.

This protocol is best suited for today’s world, in which we read email on our phones, tablets, smart TVs, laptop computers, desktops, etc. Because IMAP stores email on a server, the inbox size depends on how large the email service provider has on offer. Services like Gmail or Outlook.com are very generous in this matter, but others are not.

What protocol should you use?

Depending on your own preferences and email management in terms of the frequency of checking your emails, here are some suggestions on what protocol to use:

  • if you check your email from multiple devices / PCs, IMAP is the best solution;
  • if you use webmail and want to have access to it on your phone / tablet messages, IMAP is also the right variant;
  • if you use a single client on a single computer, then POP3 is a good fit;
  • if you have lots of email messages you want to keep you can also use POP3, in order to avoid filling the space on the server;
  • if you use Outlook.com IMAP provides similar services based on cloud;
  • if you do not use Outlook.com and email synchronization, use IMAP.

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