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POP3 vs. IMAP: Understanding the Differences in Email Hosting Protocols



POP3 (Post Office Protocol) allows you to download copies of your email messages to your personal computer. Any changes you make will NOT be seen by anyone who accesses the email account because you are only making changes to local copies. Messages sent, moved, or deleted from an email application using POP3 settings can only be viewed on that individual computer's folders. They cannot be viewed on other computers connecting to that email account, including webmail.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) allows you to read emails as they appear on the hosting server. Any changes you make (delete, reply, forward, move) are seen by anyone who logs into webmail or IMAP.


Webmail is popular due to its ease of use and the fact that it can be accessed with just a web browser. Plus, it also has the same advantages as IMAP. However, webmail depends on a web browser (e.g., Firefox, IE, Opera, Chrome, Edge, Safari, etc.), which takes time to load, access the webmail page, log in, wait for the GUI to load, browse through a likely limited view of your inbox, and view one email message at a time.

Mail Programs

An email program (for example, Outlook, Mail, or Thunderbird) is required to connect via POP or IMAP. A mail program will launch from your desktop and give you rapid access to all your emails (even faster but less secure if you let it remember your passwords). Also, mail programs have advanced tools and features that webmail may not have. There are many options, such as the program included with your operating system: Microsoft Windows includes either Outlook or Windows Mail, and Apple includes Mail. There are third-party programs such as Mozilla's Thunderbird and Qualcomm's Eudora.

Note: SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) differs from POP3 and IMAP. It's a protocol used for sending and receiving email.

POP3 or IMAP Functionalities

Although they serve similar purposes, they offer different functionalities and are designed to meet different needs in managing and accessing your email messages. Take a look at POP3's and IMAP's functionalities:


  • Download and delete. POP3 is designed to download emails from the server to the local device and then often delete them from the server. This means once the emails are downloaded, they're only accessible from that specific device.
  • Simplicity and speed. Because emails are stored locally, accessing and managing emails can be faster after downloading them. This makes POP3 a good option if you have a single device and limited server storage.
  • Offline access. Once emails are downloaded, they can be accessed without an internet connection. This makes it convenient for you if you need to manage your emails offline.
  • Limited synchronization. POP3 does not synchronize the email actions across multiple devices. If you're accessing your email from multiple devices, actions like flagging or deleting emails on one device won't be reflected on the others.


  • Server-based management. IMAP allows you to manage your emails directly on the server without downloading them. This means that any action done on an email is synchronized across all devices that access the email account.
  • Multi-device access. IMAP is ideal for you if you usually access email from multiple devices, such as a smartphone, tablet, and laptop. It keeps emails on the server, which allows seamless access and management from any device.
  • Flexible organization. With IMAP, you can create, delete, or rename mailboxes and folders on the server, which are then mirrored across all devices. This provides a more flexible system for organizing emails.
  • Online dependency. Since IMAP is server-based management, a stable internet connection is required to access and manage emails. While some clients may cache copies of emails for temporary offline access, you must be online to enjoy full functionality.
  • Storage considerations. Because emails are stored on the server, IMAP can require more server storage space than POP3. You'll need to be mindful of your server storage limits and may need to archive or clean out emails periodically.

The choice of which option to use depends on your business's needs and preferences. The choice you make will help you to manage your email messages efficiently.

POP3 vs. IMAP Pros and Cons

Pop3 Pros and Cons

Below are the pros of using POP3:

  • The POP3 protocol lets you fetch emails and files from your email server and store them on your device or hard drive. Once the files have been downloaded to your device or hard drive, they'll be automatically deleted from the email server.
  • POP3 is a server protocol that requires only a small amount of server space and won't consume all of your server's resources. This feature makes it an ideal choice for individuals who are self-employed or for smaller companies that are just starting.
  • You can use POP3 in delete mode to erase emails while maintaining backup copies in 'keep mode,' depending on your requirements and the daily emails you receive.

Below are the cons of using POP3

  • The POP3 protocol doesn't offer a way for you to efficiently and systematically manage your email messages. This can be challenging, especially for those who receive a large number of emails and internal communication daily.
  • The synchronization of multiple devices is not possible with POP3. As your business grows and expands, this could become a problem.

IMAP Pros and Cons

Below are the pros of using IMAP:

  • IMAP enables you to access the same email account from multiple devices.
  • You can sync emails between email services and local devices.
  • Emails and files exchanged are also saved as backup copies on the mail server.
  • The IMAP protocol retrieves emails from the server without deleting them from the server.

Below are the cons of using IMAP:

  • You must access the email server whenever you need to retrieve your emails and files. This might make you more dependent on the cloud and the server's uptime.
  • The use of IMAP may occupy considerable server capacity, necessitating more resources than other email solutions or protocols.

POP3 vs. IMAP Security

Port 995 is used for downloads via the POP3 protocol, while port 993 is used for downloads via the IMAP protocol. To ensure a secure POP3 connection over port 995, it's essential to use the most recent version of SSL/TLS. Configuring a valid security certificate on port 995 is crucial to prevent any security vulnerabilities.

POP3 vs. IMAP Server Configuration and Client Settings

For instructions on configuration settings and setup for most common email clients, check out How To Setup Email Account - Client Setup SSL/TLS Settings - POP & IMAP.


It is important to understand the differences between POP3 and IMAP protocols, along with the advantages and disadvantages of using each. With POP3, you can download emails to your computer and keep local copies. On the other hand, IMAP allows you to read emails directly from the hosting server. POP3 is recommended for those who want to have a backup of all their messages, while IMAP is ideal for people who use mobile devices and want to access their emails from different devices.

If you need further assistance, feel free to contact us via Chat or Phone:

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You may also refer to our Knowledge Base articles to help answer common questions and guide you through various setup, configuration, and troubleshooting steps.

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