POP3 vs. IMAP Print

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IMAP and POP3 are different in how and for how long they store mail on the mail server.

Email gets transmitted amongst and between servers and ends up in your inbox through one of two processes: POP3(Post Office Protocol version 3) or IMAP (Internet Messaging Access Protocol). While you may have seen either of these two terms before when setting up mail on a a new device, we’ll break down for you exactly what is happening with these two distinct actions.


When you use POP3, your mail server deletes messages when you download them. That means that you can only access messages from the computer that you used to download them. Also, POP3 does not require a constant connection while you read email. Though this process is great at conserving space on your server, it makes it pretty difficult to access your data across multiple devices.


When you use IMAP, your mail server permanently stores messages. This means that you can access them through any computer as long as you have the correct login information. Also, unless you use a mail client that synchronizes folders and caches messages, IMAP requires a constant connection while you read email. While this method is more convenient than POP3, this method generally requires more dedicated disk space than POP3 because users tend not to delete old email. However, if the users monitor their disk usage and delete old messages when necessary, IMAP is still viable on a mail server with limited resources. 

Web hosts and users generally prefer IMAP due to its convenience. Carefully consider your system’s available resources before you choose a courier.

While IMAP has emerged as the leading method for mail delivery, both processes have their advantages and disadvantages.

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