IMAP vs POP – Learn The Difference

IMAP vs POP – Learn The Difference

Because of advancements in modern technology, it would be very difficult to find people who don’t have access to some type of email account.

It might be at work or through their internet service provider (ISP), but most people have a valid email address.

What many people don’t know is why they sometimes experience limitations on how they use or access their emails. The short answer is that limitations depend on whether a user is operating using a Post Office Protocol (POP) or an Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) based environment.

What is POP?

As technology moved into the PC age, the need for a method of communicating was sought.

POP was developed as a means of allowing people to communicate via email. This revolutionary idea was rolled out in 1984. Of course, the internet and associated ISPs were only beginning at that time.

POP was developed to allow employees within a company to communicate through the company’s server. Once an email was sent, it would be stored on the receiver’s/sender’s hard drive and perhaps on the local server, depending on how the server was configured.

The only way to access the information was to have access to that particular device/server. It was a great way to keep information private, but the information was not readily available from remote locations.

What is IMAP?

IMAP was developed in 1986 as a viable solution to the remote accessibility issue found using POP.

With IMAP, people were given access to their emails no matter where they where so long as they had a user account and password, and access to the internet. It also meant that multiple individuals could access/share the same email information using any device.

Today, IMAP is leading in popularity. If a person is using an ISP’s email service, they are operating in an IMAP environment.

All emails and attachments are stored on the ISP’s server allowing users to retrieve the data on an as needed basis. The user is basically downloading the information on their device on a temporary basis. Once they sign-out of their email account, the information no longer exists on their device.

Which is the Best, IMAP vs POP

In order to effectively compare POP vs IMAP, a comparison of certain features should help clarify which option is best under which circumstances.

  • Accessibility – With IMAP, emails can be retrieved from anywhere using any devise as long as there is an internet connection. With POP, no internet connection is needed, but the individual must have access to the device or server where the emails are stored.
  • Managing Emails – With IMAP, emails are easy to sort through using headers and summary information. With POP, the emails usually show only the sender’s name and title.
  • Local Storage Requirements – With IMAP, local storage space is not required on the device. The information is always stored on the host’s server. With POP, the user will have to make a conscious choice about which emails to save since the local storage space could become an issue if the volume of emails or other items (music, movies, pictures) is high.
  • Privacy – With IMAP, the emails are accessible anywhere by anyone who has the user name and password. With POP, the information is very private and can only be viewed on the user’s device.
  • Backup – With IMAP, email are automatically backed up on the host’s server. With POP, the host will only have a backup if it was configured that way. Otherwise, the only copy is on the original device.


All things considered, the right choice seems to boil down to access of the internet. If access to the internet is easily obtained, IMAP is the best choice. If internet accessibility is problematic, the user needs to choose POP so they can have clear access at all times.

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