What is the difference between POP3 and IMAP?

The key difference between POP3 and IMAP is where the emails are stored. POP3 emails are stored on your computer, whereas IMAP emails are stored on the server*.

POP3 (Post Office Protocol)

This is an older but still widespread technology typically used on laptops or home PC's.

  1. Emails are physically downloaded from the server to your local computer or device. i.e. a single computer.
  2. Perfect for quickly downloading emails and reading them offline or on the go (remember that you need to be online to reply to emails).
  3. Any changes you make will not be seen by anyone else who accesses the email account as you are only making changes to the locally stored copies of emails.
  4. Outgoing emails are stored on your local computer until you "send" them via the email server.
  5. Great for locally archiving or storing your emails permanently on your local computer.
  6. As you collect (download) your emails your mailbox is being "emptied".

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)

This is a newer and growing technology typically used by mobile devices.

  1. Multiple devices or computers can be used to access the emails stored on the server.
  2. Perfect for multiple users who need to access the same email account, or one user who needs to access emails from multiple devices or locations.
  3. Any changes you make (delete, reply, forward, move) are seen on any of your connected devices in real time.
  4. Outgoing emails are stored on the server (and can therefore be seen from all your devices) until you "send" them.
  5. You need to manually archive or store copies of your emails to your local devices as they need to be physically downloaded from the server.
  6. *As your emails are stored on the server you can soon "fill" your mailbox and run out of disk space.
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