POP or IMAP protocol, which to choose?

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The aim of this tutorial is to help to you differentiate POP and IMAP protocols and determine which one to use to receive your emails.

Fleche.gif How to choose between POP and IMAP, what are the differences?

POP Protocol (Post Office Protocol), is a protocol that downloads emails from a mail server. As a rule (for default configuration) POP connects to the mail server, downloads emails, removes emails from the server and disconnects from the server.

- Thus, emails are locally stored on your computer/device

- Your folders are managed locally


IMAP Protocol (Internet Message Access Protocol) is a protocol that downloads emails stored on a mail server. Its operating is therefore very close to POP. However, it was conceived to leave the emails on the server until they get explicitly deleted.

Emails are synchronized between various devices and computers using the same IMAP account:

- reading an email on a computer implies that this email will appear as read on the webmail and any other device

- deleting an email on a computer implies that this email will be deleted on the webmail and from any other device

The below chart will help you better understand the pros and cons of each protocol :

Protocol Pros Cons
  • Allows to quickly access all your emails
  • Emails are stored on your device, you manage the local folders as you need
  • You can work offline as emails are stored on your device
  • Emails do not affect the disk space of your hosting service
  • Emails are not synced with the webmail or any other device
  • Your local folders are not accessible on the webmail or any other device
  • It may not be easy to move to another mail software or to change computer
  • Emails are synced between all devices using the same IMAP account
  • Special folders (Sent, Trash, Drafts...) and personal folders are synced
  • It is easier to move to another mail software with an IMAP account
  • Some mail software can become slow with folders holding a great number of email
  • Emails affect the disk space of your hosting service

Based on this information, it is easy to understand that POP is preferably used when a user access his emails from one device or one computer only.

While a user wishing to access their mailbox from several devices (PC, tablet, smartphone...) would prefer to use IMAP protocol.

In brief

I use POP when I use IMAP when
  • I am the only one accessing the mailbox and I access it from one device only
  • I do not want to use disk space on my hosting service
  • I want to access my mailbox from multiple devices or I share my mailbox with other users
  • I want to sync my folders between several devices
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