So, you just got your first smartphone and you’re setting up your email accounts, when you see these two options: POP or IMAP? If you’re like most people, you aren’t really sure what either of them mean or what they do. So, with eyes closed… you select one and hope for the best, right? Wrong! Here is a little tech tip to help maneuver through the email set up process.
First, what are they used for and what do they mean anyway?
Well, both POP and IMAP are the protocols used to deliver your emails to you – whether it be on your computer or some other device (i.e. – smartphone) . POP stand for Post Office Protocol – this was the first protocol or method used to grab your emails and pull them off the server to your computer. Due to low band width of early internet usage, it was a quick way to get the mail off the server and free up the space. Because POP pulls the mail off of the host server into your system, when you delete, save, or relocate your mail – it is done on your computer. Once downloaded to your system, you can’t retrieve it from another remote location. UNLESS, you specifically set it up to save a copy of your email to the server as well. IMAP (which stands for Internet Access Message Protocol) on the other hand leaves your emails on a mail server, so you can access it from various devices and remote locations. There is a catch though – if you move, delete, or relocate your email on one device, it does those same actions on the server side, not device. It’s much like the “cloud” – if you have an iPhone, you know what I mean. When you save a picture or document in the cloud and alter it on one device, you’ll see those changes on your others as well.
So, which option is better for me?
There are a few factors to take into consideration… Do you use multiple devices and want to get your email on all of them? Do you have a high volume of emails that you want to keep? Or, are you just lazy and don’t bother to delete, so you have a few thousand emails hanging out in the inbox? Important questions to consider. If you primarily use your home computer and don’t check your email at nauseam throughout the day, you’re probably good to use a POP setting. However, if you’re an email junkie and want to be able to view it from any location and any device, then IMAP is probably right for you. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Bottom line… you know your needs and habits; and hopefully this little bit of information helps you decide which protocol is best for you.