IMAP vs POP Mail: Your Choices for Accessing Emails

If you use computer-based email clients like Microsoft Outlook, or you have a web host that gives you email addresses, you may have heard these terms. Their use is pretty straightforward – you plug in the right info, and emails come to your email client for you to read. But just what IS IMAP and POP, and what is the difference? Which one should you choose? Read on for more info!

POP Mail

POP stands for “Post Office Protocol” and this works by downloading your emails, images, and attachments to your computer and Outlook. Once an email message is downloaded, it’s there on your computer, although you can have the server store copies online as well if you wish to access your mail from a webmail client, or another computer. The result here is that the messages will stay on the server and re-download to the new client.


IMAP means “Internet Message Access Protocol.” Where POP downloads the emails to your computer, IMAP effectively allows the client to view emails while they are on the server. This means that what you view from your client will be the same from different computers. If you move email messages or delete things, you are deleting them from the server itself. If you leave emails alone, there they stay.

Which Is Better?

The decision to use POP or IMAP depends heavily on your intended use for email. Do you plan on accessing your email from just one computer? Or you may have to access your email at times that you don’t have internet access? POP is the best choice here, since everything just downloads straight to Outlook, or your client of choice.

On the other hand, if you access your email from your phone, your tablet, your laptop, and your office computer, IMAP is almost certainly the way you’re going to want to go. Managing email on multiple devices can be overwhelming – you do not want to view and delete multiple copies of sent and received email. However, if you need to access things away from the internet you may not have access to all prior messages, images, and attachments if you’re using IMAP settings.

Where Does Web Mail Come In?

Web mail – be it your own host, or Gmail, Yahoo, or any other web mail client – is email that you access from an internet browser. You open Internet Explorer or your web browser of choice, go to the webpage, log in your credentials, and view your emails from there.

This email is essentially sitting on the server until you do something to it and is accessible only if you are on the internet. Additionally, many of these services give you optional POP or IMAP access. Plug the appropriate info (which the client’s website will generally provide) into your computer or phone’s email client, and you can use these web mail clients there as well.

Remember that in the case of POP mail, unless you make a point to leave things on the server, everything will empty from your web email’s mailbox onto your computer. In the case of IMAP? Whatever you do in your web mail will be reflected in Outlook or Windows Live Mail, and vice-versa.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Like this post? Share it!