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Blog > POP3 vs IMAP – Which is best for email?

Meet the author:
Jill Olkoski

Jill has a MA in Clinical Psychology, a BS in Computer Science, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

She currently owns Aldebaran Web Design in Edmonds (near Seattle WA) and enjoys educating her clients on topics related to small business website design.

In Jill's previous life, she spent 17 years in the engineering and quality organizations of a Fortune 100 tech company.


POP3 vs IMAP – Which is best for email?

October 31st, 2010

This question comes up most often when setting up a client’s email account to handle their website email, such as Outlook or Thunderbird. Which is the best for email: POP3 or IMAP?

POP3 – Stands for “Post Office Protocol”. When you read the email, it is pulled from the email server, just like when you take a letter out of a PO Box. It’s not there anymore, it’s now only available on your computer.

IMAP – Stands for “Internet Message Access Protocol”. When you read the email, it’s still left on the server unless you specifically delete it. Since it’s still on the server, you can access messages from multiple computers.

Which one is best for reading email? Personally I use IMAP. I choose IMAP so that I can always access my email from anywhere (from my laptop, from my iPhone, etc), and only when I decide to delete an email, does it disappear from the server.

Update: I recently helped a client set up Outlook on her computer, and noticed that in Outlook, if you add a POP3 email account, it simply directs that incoming mail to your main Inbox that’s listed under Personal Folders. However, if you add a IMAP email account, it will create a separate Inbox with it’s own sub folders for sent, trash, etc. This is another aspect to consider if you’re using Outlook and choosing between POP3 and IMAP for your incoming mail server.

J. Olkoski
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.

2 Responses to “POP3 vs IMAP – Which is best for email?”

  1. John S Says:

    Hi Jill,
    nice clear explanation, thanks.

  2. Jill Olkoski Says:

    Hi John,
    Glad you found it helpful. The feedback is appreciated.

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