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The differences between POP & IMAP Email Protocols

Last updated on by Freeola Support

51 out of 67 people found this article useful.

You will likely have come across the terms POP & IMAP when setting up an email client or mail application. Deciding which one to choose can be very confusing - so lets take a look at what POP and IMAP actually are, so you can choose which is best for you.

Both of these are email protocols, which allow you to read emails locally via an email client (such as Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird or Mac Mail). Both protocols are also available on our cheap email service, EmailPro.

POP (Post Office Protocol) was created in 1984 and was designed as a simple and efficient means to download emails from a remote server.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) was created in 1986 to provide greater functionality and allows remote access to emails stored on a remote server.

The primary difference is that POP downloads the emails from the server onto your machine or device for local storage, whereas IMAP messages are displayed on your device, but are kept and stored on the server.


POP downloads mail from the server to the computer or device that you are using, it works on a more simplistic approach, assuming that only one client or machine needs access to the mail which will then be stored locally. If you are using multiple devices, the server will simply push a copy of all of the mail out to each device.

Each Inbox will then have to be managed individually. Essentially anything that you do on one device or client - such as reading, deleting, flagging or organising folders - will not be replicated across your other devices.

Emails can be kept on the mail server for a number of days before being deleted. This is determined by the advanced settings in your mail client (we would recommend you set this no higher than 14 days) and allows you to download messages on multiple devices before they are purged. You can find out how to leave your POP mail on the server here.

Advantages of POP

  • Mail is stored locally so you don't need to be connected to the Internet to read your mail once it has already been downloaded.

  • Messages load very quickly once they are downloaded.

Disadvantages of POP

  • Managing mail on multiple devices will result in duplication of reading, deleting and organising mail into folders, as changes are not replicated.

  • Uses up local storage.

  • Messages are stored locally so if your computer fails or your device is lost/stolen you may lose all emails (as the mail is stored in just one place).

  • Any messages over 60 days old stored remotely is deleted - messages stored on your local device can be stored longer.

You Should Choose POP If

  • You want to use a single device (such as home PC) to access your mailbox.

  • You regularly back up your hard drive.

  • You would like to have the ability to access your mail (already downloaded), regardless of Internet availability.


IMAP keeps your messages on the server, whilst allowing remote access to the emails stored on the remote server. It gives you the ability to use multiple clients and/or devices to access the Inbox.

Management of the mail will be synchronised with actions occurring across all devices simultaneously. For example, any message you delete from your phone will also be deleted from Freeola Webmail next time you log in.

You can log in from any device or machine anywhere with an Internet connection and see the same emails and folder structure.

Advantages of IMAP

  • Since mail is stored on a mail server, you can access and manage your mail from multiple devices and locations. Essentially you can manage it on the go.

  • You only have to manage your mailbox once and it will be reflected across all your devices.

  • It doesn't use up your local storage.

Disadvantages of IMAP

  • You will need to delete emails periodically to avoid exceeding storage limits (Freeola EmailPro allows you to add additional storage). You are also able to move important emails to a personal folder to be stored on your local machine.

  • You cannot access your emails offline.

You Should Choose IMAP If

  • You want to access your mail from multiple devices.

  • Your local storage space is limited.

  • You are worried about backing up.

  • You want to manage your mail on the go from different locations and/or devices.

The best fit for you is wholly dependent on your individual requirements. However if you are still unsure, IMAP does offer greater flexibility, and is probably more suited to modern day use, where users want to read and manage emails on computers, tablets and mobile phones simultaneously.

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