IMAP VS POP3 – Which Email Protocol Should You Choose?

IMAP VS POP3 – Which Email Protocol Should You Choose?

Have you heard of IMAP and POP3? It is quite likely that you would have come across them as they are email-related protocols. If you are not aware of what they are, you are at the right place as here we’ll discuss the difference between IMAP vs POP3 and learn which you should use. Click here to learn about SMTP, IMAP and POP3.

Table Of Contents

What Is An Email Protocol?

As IMAP and POP3 are email protocols, it would be helpful to know what an email protocol is in the first place. An email protocol refers to rules that enable email clients to transmit messages to and from servers. 

IMAP and POP3 both are used for retrieving email messages from a server to the recipient’s system. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Both IMAP and POP3 are used for retrieving email messages from a server to the recipient’s system. There is also another protocol known as SMTP that is used for sending emails. Talking about its working, when you use IMAP, it retrieves the email from the server and caches it locally to enable you to work on the email on your device. Upon deleting messages from the server or making changes to it, the changes get saved, and the connection gets disconnected. Read the difference between SMTP VS IMAP.

Let’s get into the IMAP vs POP3 discussion.

What Is POP3, And How Does It Work?

POP3 of Post Office Protocol 3 is a protocol for retrieving messages from the mail server to a receiver’s device. POP3 is the latest version of the protocol. This email protocol has been active since 1985. There have been two revisions to it, and POP4 is also underway. 

When you use POP3, the email client connects to the server and retrieves all the emails on the server. It then stores your message on the device to access it with your email client. In the end, POP3 deletes the email from the server before disconnecting. Therefore, the email messages are only available on the device you downloaded them. 

POP3 stores emails on one device, and you can access emails on only one device. The messages get saved on that device. 

By default, the messages gets deleted, but if you wish to keep the messages on the server, you have a setting to enable leaving copies of the email there. 

You can access the downloaded emails without an active internet connection. However, POP3 does not synchronize the email across different devices, which means you can’t access the message from other devices.¬†Read the difference between SMTP VS POP3.

Default POP3 Ports

The default port for POP is 110 and for POP with SSL secure is 995.

Pros And Cons Of POP3

Post Office Protocol was developed when people used to access emails from a single device. We know that there was no constant access to the internet back then.

 It offers the following benefits,

1. You can access the email even if the internet connection is not there as the email is stored locally.

2. There is the saving of server storage space as old messages get deleted from the server.

3. There is the option to leave one email copy on the server 

Despite the above pros, POP3 isn’t the ideal choice as it has a lot of disadvantages as well, 

1. It is not meant to let you access your email from multiple devices. 

2. It doesn’t sync the message across devices, which means that when you delete an email on your PC, the email will be there on other devices. 

3. There is too much space usage on your device as every email gets downloaded to it. 

What Is IMAP, And How Does It Work?

IMAP stands for Internet Messaging Access Protocol. Like POP3, it is another protocol that retrieves emails from the server. It was developed in 1986, and there have been 4 revisions to date. 

Talking about its working, when you use IMAP, it retrieves the email from the server and caches it locally to enable you to work on the email on your device. Upon deleting messages from the server or making changes to it, the changes get saved, and the connection gets disconnected. Read the difference between SMTP VS IMAP.

IMAP stores emails on the server and not the email client. As the message is also there on the server, you can check the email anywhere and on any device, increasing flexibility. This way, you won’t have the risk of losing the email message if you lose your device. The status of the email also gets saved on the server, and you can check it from any device. 

Default IMAP Ports

The default port for IMAP is 143, and for IMAP with SSL secure, it is 993.

Pros And Cons Of IMAP

IMAP aims at allowing you to access your email anywhere and from any device. The changes made in the email get synced to the server so that you get to see the same version of the email no matter which device you use to access it. So, here are the pros of using IMAP,

1. It lets you access emails from multiple devices.

2. Changes get tracked on the server so that the same version of the message is everywhere.

3. There is an automatic backup of the email on the server.

4. It saves local storage space as there is no need to download messages on your device. 

The benefits may look too attractive, but IMAP has disadvantages as well. It needs an internet connection to access email, but you can make changes offline, and they will get synced once you get access to the internet again. Apart from that, the speed of IMAP is less when compared to POP3. 

IMAP vs POP3 – The Difference 

By now, you may have an idea of the difference between IMAP vs POP3. Let’s take a quick look at them. 

IMAP VS POP3-Infographic

Full form

POP3 stands for Post Office Protocol, and IMAP stands for Internet Message Access Protocol.

Function

Both protocols are designed to retrieve emails from servers to the recipient’s device.

Level of complexity

POP3 is a relatively simpler protocol than IMAP. The latter has increased complexity as it allows you to read emails from any device you wish. 

The number of devices that can access email

With POP3, only one device can access the emails at a time. On the other hand, IMAP lets multiple devices access the emails simultaneously. 

Downloading emails

POP3 downloads the email to the device to access it, but with IMAP, you can partially read emails before downloading them. 

Ability to make changes

You can’t alter or delete an email on the server when you use POP3, but IMAP makes that possible. It lets you make changes or delete an email using email software.

Speed

POP3 is quite fast when compared to IMAP. 

Email sync

Using IMAP, you can sync emails, whereas, with POP3, it is not possible. 

Location of email storage

POP3 downloads the email to your device if you don’t opt to keep a copy on the server. IMAP, on the other hand, stores the email on the server. 

Need for internet

When you use POP3, you can access the emails downloaded to the device even if you don’t have an internet connection. In the case of IMAP, you can make changes to the downloaded email offline, and the changes will get synced as soon as you go online. 

Conclusion – IMAP vs POP3 – Which One Is Better?

After reading the above IMAP vs POP3 comparison, you would yourself choose IMAP over POP3. IMAP aligns with the current times as it lets you access emails from multiple devices, which is not possible with POP3. 

If you are still wondering which protocol is suitable for you, find out your needs.

POP3 will be the best bet for you if you want to access email from only one device, have very little storage space on the server and are in an area where you don’t have an internet connection all the time. When connected, you can download the email on your device and access it when you wish to. 

IMAP will be a better choice if you use multiple devices to access your email and have no interruption in your internet connection. It would also be a wise option when you have limited storage space on your device. 


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