What’s The Difference Between POP & IMAP and Which One to Use

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IMAP and POP are the protocols or technologies using which you can download messages from mail servers on your computer and access them with the help of mail clients such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird etc. The main advantage of this technology is that you can access your emails via a feature-rich browser-independent mail client. In case of POP, you get offline access to old mails too.

Difference between IMAP and POP

IMAP and POP are two different protocols. There are many differences between these two. The main difference is that IMAP(Internet Messaged Access Protocol) always syncs with mail server so that any changes you make in your mail client (Microsoft Outlook, Thunderbird) will instantly appear on your webmail inbox.

On the other hand, in POP(Post Office Protocol), your mail client account and mail server are not synced. It means whatever changes you make to your email account in the mail client will not be transferred to the webmail inbox.

In simple terms, if you are using IMAP and mark a mail as read, it gets marked as read in your web based inbox too (because the changes are happening on the server). However, this won’t be the case if you are using POP, because the mails are downloaded to your PC and the changes won’t reflect on the server.

How to activate these protocols

Different mail services have different settings for dealing with protocols. In Gmail you can find options to activate both the protocols: POP and IMAP (Go to settings -> Forwarding and POP/IMAP). In Hotmail, only POP is present and it doesn’t support IMAP.

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Here is a screenshot of Gmail POP/IMAP settings.

POP IMAP in Gmail


The biggest advantage of using IMAP is you can access your mail from multiple mail clients and each client detects the change in real-time. Suppose mail server is connected with two different mail clients (let’s say Client 1 and Client 2) on different computers. If the user deletes a message in mail client 1, the change will appear on mail server immediately and also on mail client 2. In IMAP all messages from mail clients and servers are synced with each other.


You can download emails from mail server to your PC using POP. After downloading, the original mail is removed from the server and hence you can’t access it from another computer (Note: In Gmail there is an option to keep the copy of mail in inbox. Thunderbird also provides an option to leave messages on server until you delete them). But there are lots of other options missing (for ex. if you send a message from mail client then you won’t find that message under sent items in your mailbox).

Which is better? POP or IMAP?

Given a choice, I’d go with IMAP. That’s because IMAP offers two way connection. Changes are synchronized to the server and you don’t have to worry about taking your mail client with you everywhere. However, if you are someone who hardly checks mail on any other computer then you could make use of POP too.

So what do you use? POP or IMAP?

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Show archived comments (24)

Archived Comments

  1. Wwwwwwwww says:

    I use IMAP

  2. Gudu722 says:

    i prefer IMAP

    • Folkstar says:

      I prefer Pop3 as I can go back over all my e-mails off line which are stored permanently on my own drive. If I need remote access, my web mail is still intact (option) and I could still delete from here if I choose without affecting mail stored off line in my e-mail client.

      • Sewing Marina says:

        me too – I want Pop3 – I hate the sync time waiting and waiting IMAP, gonna try to get mine back to Pop3. Only thing, what location is the settings – been trying to change this since 8.1

  3. Hash says:

    Great difference & helped me a lot! IMAP is damn better!! Thanks man!

  4. Fischerh29 says:

    What is the difference between using the “forward” function versus the IMAP or POP functions? What would you recommend?

  5. rajiv kashyap says:

    I use imap beacuse it is more secure

  6. Misha says:

    You forgot to add one important factor: IMAPs works really slowly on mail clients as it grows in size.

  7. aftayeb says:

    i have a privet web page hosting by yahoo,,
    i tried ti add my email on my mobile ( xperia s) and it ask me to chose my type of acount if its POP3 or IMAP? dont know what to do :(
    any help, plz!

  8. Vats says:

    Thanks for the info. Would prefer downloading my mails thru the IMAP route.

  9. Abeed says:

    Excellent Explanation… Thanks

  10. My name is Connye. says:

    I would like to thank you for your help. It was clear, informative, and very help full.

  11. Shashank Singh says:

    Nice explanation

  12. vishal kumar says:

    Good explanation

  13. hari says:

    super explanation

  14. Mohd Tanzeem says:

    nyc suggestion

  15. Vasant says:

    Gud explanation

  16. MarcusWoodson says:

    Gonna try IMAP. I access my server’s email occasionally from remote computers and this would help

  17. pratik says:


  18. Kristina says:

    Can I use Imap on my computer but use POP on my Iphone. Or, is it a designated thing? Like, has my IT guy designated the server IMAP. Cause If so, then I guess I can’t change my ipone to POP. I don’t mind my two computers to be IMAP, but not liking the phone link.

  19. FALI says:

    Thanks and really well explained

  20. laneyb says:

    In Outlook, you can elect to keep POP3 mail on the server forever, so in the end, for small business and the home-based user, POP3 is a much more user-friendly protocol.