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Summary This article can help you decide whether you want to use POP3 or IMAP settings with your email client.

If you have ever gone into your email settings, it is likely you have been asked to make the choice between POP3 and IMAP.  What do these settings really mean?

  • The “POP” in POP3 stands for Post Office Protocol and this setting works just like the Post Office of the digital world. When a POP3 server delivers a message; it only delivers it once, and it can only be accessed from that location. POP3 deletes emails from the server as soon as they are downloaded.

    This could cause problems if you want to open an email on your phone that you previously viewed on your laptop. If you are someone who wants to have access to all of your emails though all of your devices (phone, laptop, tablet, computer, etc.) you should consider using IMAP settings.

  • IMAP, which stands for Internet Message Access Protocol, can be useful for people with multiple email clients and webmail interfaces. With IMAP, your messages are kept on a remote server and every time you check your inbox, all of your emails are downloaded from the server to your device. IMAP syncs all of your emails so that your activity (reading, moving and deleting) is the same across all locations.

POP3 may be better for those with smaller inboxes or limited data on their internet service plans, because each email only downloads once. IMAP downloads your email in each location, which uses up a little more data each time you check your email. Issues sending and receiving email can also occur if your inbox is full.

In short, POP3 stores your mail locally on whichever device you used to check it, while IMAP stores everything remotely on a server than can be accessed through any of your devices.

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