Dec 15, 2009

IMAP VS. POP3 - Who's the best?

MailIf you remember way back in the day, when you first registered your e-mail account, it was probably with a online service like Yahoo Mail, GMail, Hotmail, or even AOL Mail. A good amount of people still use the same e-mail address that did from the first time they signed up for their e-mail address. A good amount of that population doesn't even use e-mail clients like Thunderbird, Outlook, and even Windows Live Mail. A lot of businesses still use Lotus Notes. A lot of my friends haven't even touched a software-based e-mail client. But for those who have, there's an option they need to decide upon when creating

When you first setup your e-mail client, you have to choose what type of incoming server (the server that receives your mail) will be. You can choose between POP3 and IMAP. Now granted, some providers do not provide IMAP support, so you might be forced to use POP3.

With these two different types of technologies, comes a variety of different options. Below, I am going to run down the basic things you can do with both of them.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)


  • I don't know if it's just me, but it does seem to be faster than its competitor, POP3.
  • You're able to have your e-mails and folders exactly the same thing no matter what you are getting your e-mail on.
  • Besides making you delete every e-mail on every device/computer like POP3 does, your trash bin will be universal. Meaning if you delete anything once, the changes will be applied anywhere.
  • The ability to have folders synced up! Personally for me, this is an ideal thing for me. I use a variety of folders to organize all of the e-mails I receive. Have this the exactly the same thing on my Outlook, webmail, and iPod touch really does make using my e-mail a lot easier.
  • Takes less bandwidth because it really doesn't download everything until you open the e-mail.


  • It's not specific to that one machine; it's specific to every machine. Meaning all changes will be taken affect on every device/computer that's using your webmail via IMAP. This is a good thing in most cases, but it can be a bad thing if you want to have one thing changed on computer and not on the other.
  • It will not download your e-mails when you first get them. How IMAP works is when you go press that "send/receive button", what your e-mail client is really doing is seeing if there's any new messages, and if so, it'll only download the data from where the e-mail came from and who is was sent to. It will not download all of the content at once like POP3 does. So say if you want to check your e-mail when your on a cell phone, it will not download all of the data, saving you money on your bandwidth charges if you do not have an unlimited data plan.
  • It's not supported by everyone just yet.
  • Sadly, you cannot sync up your contacts with IMAP...

POP3 (Post Office Protocol version 3)


  • It'll be specific to that one computer; locally on that computer. Whatever changes you may make, it'll only be done on the local/user side and not the server-side.
  • Once you download all of your e-mails, it'll not connect to the server again to download more content unlike IMAP. This is good for the user if they don't have a constant internet connection like on a phone, and they need to download all of their e-mail at one time and one time only.
  • It's supported by every mail client and e-mail company.


  • It will be a slower download time because it'll download everything at once.
  • You will not be able to have your folders synced up like in IMAP globally.
  • It will use more bandwidth at one time - you should be concerned if you're using POP3 on a cell phone).

Some of the advantages and disadvantages can be taken as vice-versa. An advantage can be taken as a disadvantages; a disadvantage can be taken as an advantage. But it really boils down to what you use your email for. Next, I'll have a table for you to see which one you would like to use.

Syncing Folders
Download Faster
Compatible With All E-mail Clients
✗ (it's getting there)
Less Bandwidth
Archieve Data Locally
Syncing Contacts
Globally Changed

In the end of it, I would recommend that everyone should use IMAP. Most e-mail clients support it, but there are some (mainly the old ones) that do not. If you need to have your data archeived on the computer, use POP3. But in a sense of security, technically speaking, IMAP would be safer because it doesn't download it all at once. If your using your e-mail with a data plan on your phone, I would look into to see if you can switch over to IMAP. It will cost you less if you have to pay for your bandwidth, and you'll even notice a speed increase because it's not downloading everything.

Just as if we can just get IMAP to sync up my contacts, it would be perfect! I hope this runs down for you the differences between IMAP and POP3. If you have any suggestions to add into this blog post or even a comment, please leave it down below.


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