POP3 vs IMAP

A lot of people out there still use local programs on their computers to check their home email.  A lot of them still have them setup using POP3 instead of using IMAP.  And as I say these terms you may not know what they mean and why they are important, so let’s start at the beginning.  Both POP3 and IMAP are protocols your email program uses to download your email from your email server.  If you look at the instructions from your internet service provider or email service, you may find their instructions list one of them or both.  Let’s talk about how each of them works and which on may be better for you.

First there is POP3, this was the original protocol that was used long ago, and it still used today.  What POP3 does when you check your email is it downloads a copy of it to your computer.  Seems basic enough, but in most cases POP3 downloads the email off of the server and removes it.  That means your email lives locally and only on your computer in most cases.  This can make it very difficult if you have more than one device that you use to check your email.  However if you want to keep everything local and off your email service providers servers, this may be a better route for you.

IMAP works by syncing your email with the server.  That means your email resides on the email server and when you check your email IMAP simply syncs and updates to match the server.  Anything you do is actually done on the server.  This method is great if you have multiple devices like a computer, smartphone, or tablet.  Because each of the devices will sync and update your email on the server, so that your email can stay the same across all devices.

In today’s age when we have so many computers and mobile devices, if you are going to use a local email program or setup one up on a smartphone, try to set it up using IMAP.  That way your email can stay the same across all your devices.  Because if you have your computer setup to use POP3 you will find your mobile devices will not be able to access or see your email.  So in short, if you use a mobile device or multple systems to check your email, you may want to setup your local email program to use IMAP and not POP3.