Difference: IMAP versus POP – Right Choice?

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If your email service provider, provides the facility to access emails via protocols, namely IMAP and POP, you might have come across these terms, while setting up your email account with a desktop or mobile email-client. But if you yet aren't aware about the differences between the two, this breakdown of the key differences between POP and IMAP might help you decide which way to go.

There are two ways your devices and clients can communicate with your email - IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol, and POP, or Post Office Protocol - both of these let you download messages from Email servers onto your computer so you can access your mail with a program like Microsoft Outlook Express, Mozilla Thunderbird or Apple Mail, even when you aren't connected to the Internet.

The difference between IMAP and POP:
1. POP (A one-way communication path): Your device or program asks for data and pulls it from the email servers, but that's it. Things you do on your device or program, have no effect on the server. If you read a message on your phone or an email client, then log in to your Email Account via a web browser, you will still see that same message marked as unread.

2. IMAP (A two-way communication path): Unlike POP, your device or program, talks back to the email servers and syncs your changes automatically across all the devices and programs, you've configured with that email address. When you sign in to your email account in a web browser, actions you've taken on your email client or mobile device. This is really helpful when accessing Email from multiple devices.

If you check an email at work, on your mobile phone, and again at home, from your computer, IMAP ensures that the email is marked as read, yet accessible from any device at any time.
Now, if you're a Gmail user, this one's for you to learn about the Gmail-specific difference between the two communication protocols.

Here's a quick rundown of the key differences between IMAP and POP:



- offers one-way downloading of your emails from the Gmail servers to your computer.
- always downloads the entire message, making it easy to back-up your emails.
- only downloads your messages -- not the labels.
- good for people who don't want to leave mail on Gmail's servers, or don't want two-way synchronization.


- offers two-way syncing between Gmail, email client or phone actions. If you read a message in your email client or phone, it will be marked read across everywhere!
- save space by downloading only the message headers, or download whole messages to work offline.
- your labels appear as folders -- so it's easy to stay organized.
- provides access to Gmail's Drafts, Sent Mail and Spam folders.
- great if you check your mail from multiple computers or mobile devices -- you'll see the same messages and folders, no matter what email client you're using.
- a flexible, more reliable, more complete access choice.

While POP is prone to losing messages or downloading the same messages multiple times, IMAP avoids this through two-way syncing capabilities.

As you can see, the benefits of IMAP clearly outweigh those of POP, we too recommend IMAP over POP

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