IMAP vs POP: Which is the right protocol to use?

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IMAP vs POP – which is better? Do you know what IMAP and POP stand for? IMAP is an acronym for Internet Messaged Access Protocol while POP stands for Post Office Protocol.

Well, these are channels or technologies with which you can download your emails from servers with the support of software such as Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird. One of the impressive features of these channels is that you can read your messages with unique mail clients. If you use POP, you can have also read your old messages without a data connection.

Using this article, we would like to tell you more about each protocol and also suggest the best one to use.

Comparing IMAP vs POP

IMAP and POP are two different protocols. There are many differences between these two. The main difference is that IMAP (Internet Messaged Access Protocol) always syncs with mail server so that any changes you make in your mail client (Microsoft Outlook, Thunderbird) will instantly appear on your webmail inbox.

IMAP and POP do not have similar features. In fact, many differences exist between both channels. For one, IMAP frequently syncs with the mail server hence any upgrade you make on your mail client will reflect on your email inbox.

While with POP technology, both your mail client account and mail server are not synced. This makes it impossible for you to notice any changes on your email inbox after performing any task on your email account.

In simple terms, if you are using IMAP and mark a mail as read, it gets marked as read in your web-based inbox too (because the changes are happening on the server). However, this won’t be the case if you are using POP, because the emails are downloaded to your PC and the changes won’t reflect on the server.

In layman’s language, when you mark your email as read, the message will be marked as read on the web-based inbox. This is what happens when you use IMAP tech. But if you use POP, your email messages are downloaded to your PC while the changes will not be noticed on the server.

How Do I Enable these Protocols?

Various mail services come with numerous settings for handling protocols. For example, Gmail offers settings which allow you to enable both protocols i.e., IMAP and POP. First head to Settings, then Click on Forwarding and POP/IMAP. However, Hotmail supports only POP and not IMAP.

Gmail imap and pop settings
Gmail settings for IMAP and POP


One of the most exceptional features of IMAP is that you can read your email messages from different mail clients and each client will record the change immediately. For example, a mail server is connected with two separate clients, A and B on two different computers. If you read a message on mail client A, the change will reflect in real time on the server and mail client B. With IMAP all emails from mail clients and servers are in sync.


POP allows you to download emails from mail servers to your desktop or laptop. Immediately the download is complete; the original copy will become no longer exist on the server. This means you cannot read that message from another computer.

However, all hope is not lost as Gmail allows users to have a copy of the received emails. Thunderbird also lets you keep messages on the server unless you delete them manually.

Although these email services help ease the problem, we have other issues. For instance, if you won’t find sent messages in the sent folder in your mailbox.

IMAP vs POP: Which should I Use?

As we can see from the article, IMAP comes as the better channel as it has a two-way connection. Changes are made on the server, and you do not need to move your mail client around on different systems. But if you do not check your email on different computers, then POP comes as an ideal option.

Posted by Abiodun Adewusi

Abiodun Adewusi is a freelance writer who lives in Nigeria. As a writer, he is passionate about providing content on technology helping people keep up with the latest trends. You can see some of his work on Medium and Ezine.

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