Email Configuration – IMAP vs POP3

Email Address: A must for everyone and for every business.

The way we interact with our emails has changed dramatically over time. Emails are now accessible from anywhere and on any device empowering the workforce of today.

There are two ways (mail protocol) to configure email accounts on your IT devices. Which protocol you use depends on your usage needs.


The IMAP protocol will keep all email messages in the mail server, until you delete them from the trash folder. Any changes you make to your emails, such as sending, replying, deleting, or moving mails between folders is recorded and stored in the mail server. What does this mean? This means that you will be able to access the exact same email messages on any device and any app such as MS Outlook/ThunderbirdMail on your PC, your mobile devices, tablet, or even a web browser (also known as webmail). This is best for users that are mobile and require the ability to view all emails, new or old, on any devices, anywhere. However, users are always advised to perform housekeeping by deleting mails that they no longer require, or archive emails offline. This is necessary because emails are stored in the mailbox of your mail server forever, and this will take up storage space, which is usually limited.


The POP3 protocol allows you to download your email messages to your PC’s email application, such as MS Outlook/ThunderbirdMail, and and gives you the option  to remove them from the mail server after the messages have downloaded. The email messages will be stored on your computer alone and email messages are not synchronised with the mail server. If you happen to check your email on a web browser with POP configured on an email application, the mail messages shown on the web browser are emails that have yet to be downloaded onto your email application. So, who is this option suitable for? The POP setup best for users that access email with only one device or users that require large mailbox size to store all their email messages. Users are always advised to back up their local computer in case of hard disk failure because all emails are stored locally on his/her computer. Casual mobile users can also setup POP on their local computer and configure it to keep a certain number of days email messages on the mail server, so that latest email can be viewed using the IMAP protocol on a mobile device.

Summary / Conclusion

You are able to access email messages on any device, using your favourite email application or via a web browser. The most widely used email applications that are widely used are MS Outlook and ThunderbirdMail. It is possible to configure your email account using either the IMAP or POP protocol on your email application depending on the way you conduct your business communication. Another convenient way to access your email account is via a web browser, where you are required to enter your webmail URL in any web browser of your choice. Then you can simply access your email account by inserting your username and password. Email messages that appear in the webmail are emails that are stored in the mail server.

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Ho Shan Yeow
IT manager with 20 plus years experience. Specialized in Windows Servers, Linux, cyber-security, web server, mail administrator, C# and server technologies.
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