Easy way to understand the difference between POP3 and IMAP?

This post explains how you can easily understand the difference between POP3 and IMAP email protocol for your daily email use. When you set up an email address in an email client, you will need to decide if you want to set it up as POP3 or IMAP. Both of them are ways to connect to the mail server so you can read our emails through an email client.


(Post Office Protocol)

  • Offline email access (emails are downloaded in entirety)
  • Email is primarily stored on the user’s machine
  • Setup may differ across multiple devices
  • Has SSL/ TLS options


(Internet Message Access Protocol)

  • Limited offline email access (one to two weeks of messages downloaded, but no images or attachments)
  • Email primarily stored on server
  • Same setup across multiple devices
  • Has SSL/ TLS options

Pop3 vs. IMAP: Which is better?

IMAP is better if you are going to be accessing your email from multiple devices, such as a work computer and a smart phone. POP3 works better if you are only using one device, but have a very large number of emails. It is also better if you have a poor internet connection and need to access your emails offline. For most people, IMAP will suit their needs better.

Note: If emails start disappearing from your inbox without you deleting them, it almost always means one of your devices is on POP3. Backing up the emails and then resetting up the email account as IMAP will fix the problem.


Which Email Protocol Should You Use?

You may still be considering what email protocol to use.

If you’re on the fence, we recommend using IMAP. Since it works with multiple devices, it’s accessible even if you lose the original device. It also makes it easier to set up email customization that will span across all devices.

However, we have compiled some use cases that might help inform your decision:

You use multiple devices to access your mail

You should use IMAP.

IMAP keeps your email account consistent across devices, so you never have to worry about your email accounts being out-of-date or differing from device to device.

You only use one device to access your email

You could use POP3, but we recommend IMAP

While POP3 can work well for single devices, IMAP is the better option in case you ever need to use a new device. If you are using POP3 and lose access to your main device, you would also lose access to all your past emails.

That’s why we recommend using IMAP in this instance, instead of POP3.

You are trying to conserve space on your server

You should use POP3.

POP3 only stores new emails on the server end. When a device access the email account, the server sends the email data to the device and then scrubs the data from its memory. IMAP stores all the email data on the server, which can potentially use a lot of disk space.

You use custom folders

IMAP and POP have different ways of dealing with folders. Since both options have a sort of storage system, we recommend IMAP.  


IMAP has two different types of folders: private and public ones. Private folders only exist on the client side (your device), while public folders are available to any device that connects to the email account.


POP keeps all folders on the client side. This means that folders are only available from the device they were created on. Any other devices that access the email account will not have access to the folders.

You want to set up server-side delivery rules

You should use IMAP. IMAP filters the mail on the server side so that it is already sorted when a device accesses it. POP server-side sorting works, but it will not download email that has been sorted outside of the Inbox folder.

If you want need to setup a secure email server, please feel free to contact us and let us know.