What’s the Difference? Which One Should You Use?

When you arrange an e-mail shopper or app, you may come throughout the phrases POP and IMAP. Do which one to decide on, and why? If you are not certain what these phrases stand for and the way every impacts your e-mail account, don’t be concerned.

Below, we clarify how these protocols work, the variations between POP and IMAP, and easy methods to determine which one most closely fits your wants.

POP vs. IMAP: The Basics

POP and IMAP are each protocols used for retrieving e-mail from an e-mail server so you’ll be able to learn messages in your system. They’re used when connecting to your e-mail account from a desktop email app, like Thunderbird, Outlook, Apple Mail, Spark, or comparable. You needn’t fear about these e-mail protocols once you use webmail (corresponding to Gmail.com), as a result of the service handles all of it for you.

POP stands for Post Office Protocol, and is the older of the two. It was created in 1984 as a strategy to obtain emails from a distant server. Two revisions that added some enhancements, known as POP2 and POP3, adopted in later years. POP3 remains to be the present model of the protocol, although that is usually shortened to only POP. While POP4 has been proposed, it has been dormant for a very long time.

IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol, was designed in 1986. Instead of merely retrieving emails, it was created to permit distant entry to emails saved on a distant server. The present model is IMAP4, although most interfaces do not embody the quantity.

The major distinction is that POP downloads emails from the server for everlasting native storage, whereas IMAP leaves them on the server whereas caching (quickly storing) emails regionally. In this fashion, IMAP is successfully a type of cloud storage.

The Workflow Differences Between POP and IMAP

To correctly evaluate POP and IMAP, let us take a look at a simplified model of how they every work.

The POP Workflow

When utilizing POP, the e-mail shopper first connects to the e-mail server. Once it is efficiently linked, it grabs all the mail on the server. It then shops this mail regionally in your system so you’ll be able to entry it in your e-mail shopper. Finally, it deletes the mail in query from the e-mail server earlier than disconnecting. This signifies that the messages then solely exist on the system you downloaded them to.

Note that whereas POP will delete mail from the server by default, loads of POP setups permit you to go away copies of your e-mail on the server. This might be helpful in case you’re fearful about dropping your mail, but when your mail supplier would not supply a lot server house, it will possibly trigger you to expire rapidly.

How IMAP Works

IMAP works a bit of in another way than POP. After it connects to the e-mail server, it fetches no matter content material you requested, like all new e-mail or the contents of a particular message. This is cached regionally, so you’ll be able to work in your system. Once you make modifications to your e-mail, corresponding to deleting messages or sending a brand new e-mail, the server processes and saves these modifications, then disconnects.

IMAP is a bit more advanced than POP, however the largest facet to recollect is that every one modifications with IMAP occur on the server. You aren’t downloading native copies of all of your messages; you are utilizing the e-mail shopper to handle the e-mail saved on the server. The solely data saved in your system (until you explicitly obtain one thing) are cached copies for effectivity.

man pressing an email symbol

Pros and Cons of POP and IMAP

Now that you know the way they every work, what are the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing POP or IMAP?

Advantages and Disadvantages of POP

POP was designed for an easier time once you solely wanted to entry your e-mail from one system. In these days, fixed web entry additionally wasn’t frequent, so POP made sense for dial-up connections the place you bought on-line, did what you wanted, after which disconnected. It thus has the following execs:

  • Mail is saved regionally, so it is at all times accessible even with out an web connection.
  • An web connection is required just for sending and receiving mail. Managing it really works positive offline.
  • It saves server space for storing, since previous messages are deleted from the server mechanically.
  • You have the possibility to depart copy of mail on the server, giving flexibility if wanted.
  • If you want, it is attainable to consolidate a number of e-mail accounts and servers into one inbox.

An opened email mailbox.

POP has some benefits in particular conditions, but it surely’s largely outdated right now. It’s not designed for checking e-mail from a number of gadgets, so you’ll be able to expertise issues even in case you go away a replica of e-mail on the server. For occasion, in case you delete an e-mail on one system, that deletion would not sync to the server, so different gadgets will nonetheless have that message. And since every system downloads each message from the server, it is easy to finish up with a bunch of duplicates and never know what you have already handled.

Downloading each message out of your POP account can burn up loads of house in your system, relying on how a lot mail you could have. Numerous POP use right now is to entry mailboxes offered by your ISP, hosting firm, or comparable, which are likely to endure from extraordinarily restricted storage.

Advantages and Disadvantages of IMAP

As talked about earlier, IMAP was created to permit distant entry to emails saved on a distant server. The concept is to permit a number of shoppers to handle the identical inbox, which is according to how most individuals use e-mail right now. So whether or not you log in from your property or work laptop, you’ll at all times see the identical emails and folder construction, since they’re saved on the server. All modifications you make are instantly synced to the server, so you do not have to fret about complicated duplicated inboxes.

Gmail POP IMAP Settings

As a end result, IMAP has the following benefits:

  • Mail is saved on the distant server, so it is accessible from a number of gadgets.
  • All modifications are tracked on the server, stopping duplicate inboxes, despatched messages current on only one system, and comparable points.
  • Faster overview, as solely headers are downloaded till content material is explicitly requested.
  • Mail is mechanically backed up, so long as the server is managed correctly.
  • Saves native space for storing by not requiring your laptop to obtain all messages.
  • You have the choice to retailer mail regionally if wanted.

While an web connection is required to entry mail utilizing IMAP, it is nonetheless attainable to work offline and sync modifications once you’re again on-line. The solely main downside of IMAP, which can be an issue with POP, is that the majority e-mail suppliers supply a restricted quantity of house. Thus, you might want to wash out your e-mail usually when you have numerous messages in your account.

POP vs. IMAP: What’s Right for Me?

In nearly each case, we suggest IMAP over POP right now. There’s a superb likelihood that you’re going to wish to entry your e-mail from at the very least two gadgets, and doing so with POP is a big headache. Since each e-mail service value its salt helps each, there are not any compatibility considerations.

However, in case you’re nonetheless undecided, beneath are a couple of factors that will help you determine whether or not to make use of IMAP or POP:

Choose POP if:

  • You solely entry your mail from a single system, and by no means plan to entry it from one other.
  • You want fixed entry to all of your e-mail.
  • Your haven’t got a constant connection to the web.
  • You have restricted server storage.

Choose IMAP if:

  • You wish to entry your e-mail from a number of gadgets.
  • You have a dependable and fixed web connection.
  • You wish to obtain a fast overview of latest emails or emails on the server.
  • Your native space for storing is proscribed.
  • You are fearful about backing your emails up.

What About Microsoft Exchange?

While POP and IMAP are supported by each trendy e-mail service, you have probably seen one other entry when organising mail: Microsoft Exchange. Also known as Exchange ActiveSync, this selection makes use of Microsoft’s Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) to fetch e-mail and different information so your mail shopper can learn it. In addition to e-mail, MAPI can sync different information like calendars and contacts.

Related: Hotmail Is Dead! Microsoft Outlook Email Services Explained

If you utilize Outlook in your laptop at work, or if your organization has e-mail powered by Microsoft 365, you may use Exchange in your e-mail protocol. It’s much like IMAP in performance, however is extra particular to Microsoft’s providers.

POP and IMAP: Your Mail, Delivered

It’s necessary to understand how POP and IMAP work so you can also make the proper alternative in your e-mail wants. Remember that in case you use webmail, the service handles all this, so you do not have to consider it. But subsequent time you arrange a brand new e-mail app in your cellphone or laptop, you may understand how each of those protocols deal with mail. IMAP is sort of at all times the proper alternative, until you could have some particular purpose to go together with POP.

There’s much more to study how e-mail works, together with the safety measures constructed into trendy messaging.

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