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POP vs IMAP is a comparison of these two top email protocols. Do you prefer POP or IMAP? Not sure, read this article to learn what POP and IMAP are, how they work, pros and cons of IMAP and POP. Discover whether POP or IMAP is the best choice for you and your email needs.

What Are POP and IMAP?

The first part of understanding POP vs IMAP is knowing what the two terms stand for. POP is an abbreviation for Post Office Protocol. IMAP is an abbreviation for Internet Message Access Protocol. POP and IMAP are both protocols for email service and delivery. The program is installed on the email server. These two are the most often used email protocols. Currently, the POP protocol is in version 3, while IMAP is in version 4.

How Do POP and IMAP Work?

In the POP email protocol, the email server with POP software stores your mail when it is received. When you request your mail, for example, by telling your email client to 'Get Mail,' the email is downloaded to your computer and no longer exists on the server unless you have told the server to preserve a message. On the other hand, when you send a message, it stays on the server only until the recipient downloads it. 

In the IMAP email protocol, the email server with IMAP software stores your mail when it is received. When you request your mail, for example, by telling your email client to 'Get Mail,' the server sends you a copy of the email, while retaining a copy on the server. Further, the IMAP server is able to sync the messages it has with the message you have, so that the same information is held in both places. So, unless you instruct it differently, when you delete an email message on your computer, the next time your mail client and the IMAP server link up, the email is deleted from the server. If, on the other hand, you compose an email and send it, when you are done with the session, the email is stored both on your computer and on the IMAP server.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of POP and IMAP?

Of course, each system has its advantages and disadvantages or pros and cons. The POP system is faster, but there is only a single copy of each incoming and outgoing email. Email takes up less space in this system.  The IMAP protocol is slower, but keeps copies of everything, taking up more space and making the email service slower, but providing better redundancy.

Suppose that you have two computers that you use to access email—one at your home and the other at your office. Using the POP email protocol can complicate things because once the email is downloaded in one location, it's no longer accessible from any other computer unless you're using an email client that has provision to keep a copy stored on the server, and you've taken advantage of that choice and made sure that you've also chosen to store the email online indefinitely.

POP and IMAP Choices

Sometimes you don't have a choice about using a POP or IMAP account. But what you can do is use an email client that allows you to accept email with both protocols. And if you do have a choice, now you know the considerations to take into account when you're choosing between POP vs IMAP.

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