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What is the difference between POP and IMAP, and which one should I use?

POP email protocol – for email access from one device

POP is a protocol for communicating with your email server. It provides simple download-and-delete access. Email applications using POP generally connect, retrieve all messages, store them on your computer as new messages, delete them from the server, and then disconnect.

POP provides a better method to access your email from one computer or device, keeping your email stored on that device rather than taking up your email server storage space.

IMAP email protocol – for synchronised email access from multiple devices

Unlike POP, the IMAP protocol offers two-way communication between your email server and your email applications. This means actions you perform from one method of connection (e.g. moving an email to a folder via your iPhone) will instantly and automatically appear in all other methods of connection (e.g. you will see that the email has been moved on both your webmail and desktop applications).

IMAP provides a better method to access your email from multiple devices and locations, and synchronises your actions throughout. If you check your email at work, on your mobile phone, and again at home, IMAP ensures that the same email files and folders are accessible from any device at any given time. If you have read new email messages from one device, they will be marked as read on all devices but remain accessible until you delete or file them.

Last Modified: 11th April, 2013