Whenever you are setting up an email account on a device, you will eventually be asked to choose either POP or IMAP. But which one should you choose? Well, that depends. While most mail clients will be able to handle both protocols, which one you use is up to you and how you use emails. You can use both protocols on the same account, but the differences in how they function can cause issues.
- POP (Post Office Protocol)
- IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)
POP (Post Office Protocol)
A POP mail client retrieves messages from the server and stores them on your local device (phone, tablet, computer, etc.). It is best used when you only use one device to check your email, as it does not sync with multiple devices.
By default, POP will download any new email in your Inbox and then remove the email from the server. Most modern email clients allow you to set the POP account to leave a copy of the email on the server. You need to go through the account settings in the mail client to activate this.
Advantages of POP
The advantage to checking emails with POP is that you aren't limited by the space allocated to that email address on the server side, since the messages are removed from the server once downloaded.
You can also set up your mobile device to use POP so you can quickly sort out your mail on the go and delete unnecessary emails, without removing them from the server, as long as you have your POP account to leave a copy of the email on the server.
It is also a good solution if you want to keep all of your emails in your possession and not leave them stored on a server for security reasons.
Disadvantages of POP
The main disadvantage of checking email with POP is that, by default, you will only receive your messages on a single device.
If you have several devices all set up to use POP, only the first device that sees the new message will download it. You may end up with some emails on one device with different emails on another.
Another big downside of POP is that your client will only check your Inbox. It will not check any of your folders. This means that if you have any filters on your account, you may not receive those filtered emails. This also means that Email Plus Addressing will not work with POP accounts.
While most modern devices will allow you to keep a copy of the message on the server when downloading messages, the default behavior is to remove them from the server. At that point, you might as well use IMAP protocol.
IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)
An IMAP mail client syncs with the messages on the mail server. Each IMAP client will check the mail server and update the client of any new emails or changes. IMAP allows you to manage your mailbox from any of the connected devices.
Advantages of IMAP
The advantage to checking emails with IMAP is that you have a central storage for all of your mail and your archives, which can be checked and managed from any computer with an internet connection. This is beneficial if you are checking from multiple devices as any changes made on one device will be synced to all of your devices. If you delete mail on one device, it will be removed from all devices.
Mail clients using IMAP can also take advantage of folders and filters more effectively. You can move email from folder to folder on one device and is will be reflected on all. If you are using Email Plus Addressing, than you will need to set up your accounts to use IMAP.
Disadvantages of IMAP
The main disadvantage of IMAP is that you are limited to the allocated storage space on the server for that specific email account. If you are checking email from a single computer 90% of the time and/or regularly receive large attachments, you may want to set up your mail as a POP account.
Another potential issue with IMAP is that, because all of your devices are synced, if you delete a message, the chances of retrieving it are low. Once it is deleted from one device, it will removed from them all.
While both protocols have their use cases, for the majority of users, IMAP will be the preferred protocol to use. These days, most people will have their email accounts set up on several devices. Their main computer at home or at the office, their iPhone and possibly their iPad. If you are checking from multiple computers or devices (such as an iPhone and an iPad or desktop), then you will want to setup your email to check with IMAP.
While most modern POP clients can be set up to function like an IMAP account, unless you enjoy digging through MacMail settings, it it best to just set your client as IMAP from the start.
There are some cases there POP can be used for your advantageous. One thing that POP is great for is for archiving emails. What you can do is set up one device (perhaps your home computer) as POP, but set it to leave a copy of the message on the server, and never delete it. Now, whenever a new message arrives, your POP account will download a copy, but the rest of your devices can still manage your email using IMAP. If you delete the message with your IMAP account, you will still have the copy in your POP account.
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