What is the difference between POP and IMAP

In today’s day and age everyone has an email account…or five and there are different ways to set them up. You may not be aware of this but the different setups lead to different storage capabilities and can severely affect your work flow If you don’t understand it.

There are three main ways of setting up an email account and they are POP, IMAP and Exchange. Exchange accounts are directly linked to Microsoft accounts and therefor can only be used if you have an account with Microsoft. You can set up these accounts as a POP or IMAP but you can’t set up a non-Microsoft account as an exchange.

POP and IMAP are the two we are going to look at today and they aren’t actually that different in set up but the main difference comes from how they store and manage emails.


When you set up an account using POP you are telling the server that you don’t want it to hold your emails anymore. As most of us are used to doing, we access our emails via a web client or via several different devices on the move. When an account is setup using POP it downloads all of the emails onto that certain device. This will mean that it can’t be access on any of the other devices.

For many of us that is a foreign concept because we like to have access to our machines from anywhere. POP is one of the oldest protocols for reading and manging emails and was used when server space was very limited. This kept the server’s storage load down because everyone would be holding their own emails.


IMAP is a protocol that the majority of us use today but don’t realise. IMAP allows us the workflow that I mentioned above. It allows us to access our emails from all of our devices at the same time as it keeps the emails on the server. When IMAP is used it will connect your device to the email server in question and then it will make temporary copies onto your device. These copies are generally removed after a certain amount of time, to not clog up our devices.

IMAP is great because it will show all of the folder structures and changes that you make on other devices but gives it to you in a light version for on the go access. The only downside to IMAP would be that it requires a constant internet connection so that it can download any changes and new email.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *