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POP or IMAP – Which One Should I Use?

POP and IMAP are the protocols to retrieve emails from a mail server. While setting up an email account in a mail client (e.g. Outlook, Apple Mail), one of the decisions you have to make is selecting the account type.

The following document outlines the main differences between the two protocols. This will help you to decide which account type to use.

POP (Post Office Protocol)

  • When you check your emails, complete emails (including attachments) are downloaded to your local computer and deleted from the server.

Note: Most email clients provide an option to leave a copy of email on the server.

  • Any changes made to the emails are stored locally. Other devices accessing the same email will not see that status. For example, if you mark an email as ‘read’ on your computer – it will still be ‘unread’ on your mobile device.
  • It Doesn’t allow you to create mail folders.
  • Only downloads the email header information at first. The full email is downloaded when the user checks the email.
  • Changes made to the emails are stored on the server. If you read the email from your mobile, it will be displayed as ‘read’ in your computer as well.
  • Allows you to create folders in your mailbox to manage your emails better.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)

Which one to choose?

Choose POP if…

  • You are not always connected to the Internet. As POP downloads entire email and stores it on local device, you will be able to read the email later on when you are not connected to the internet.
  • You are only accessing emails from one device.

Choose IMAP if…

  • You are always connected to the Internet.
  • You are accessing emails from multiple devices.
  • You like to create mailbox folders to store emails.