A brief and clear explanation of the difference between POP3 and IMAP

A brief and clear explanation of the difference between POP3 and IMAP

When setting up an email address in an email client, you need to decide whether you want to handle your mail in POP3 or IMAP format. Both versions offer a way to connect to a mail server, allowing you to manage your emails through a single client.

With IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol), emails become automatically accessible through the server when you have a working Internet connection, meaning that you can see them instantly from another device with a live Internet connection.
As opposed to this, POP3 (Post Office Protocol) will store your mail only on the device (computer or mobile phone) on which they were created.

POP3 and IMAP are different in terms of security as well.

Both POP3 and IMAP may either leave the messages on the server or delete them. Typically, IMAP is set to leave them on the server, while POP3 is only used to retrieve and delete them from there.

If you are worried about possible data loss, it is more reassuring to choose IMAP. This is because the servers of service providers are better maintained than a simple desktop system, since service providers have specialized knowledge, redundancy and backups, among other things. Therefore, leaving the data on the server (for IMAP) may be advantageous.

POP3 is simpler to set up when it comes to firewalls as well. It is only used for querying the entire message (or possibly only the header), while IMAP can be used for querying a specific part of the message, such as a specific attachment, or even a specific byte range. This feature is used especially with mobile clients that help reduce bandwidth usage by loading attachments only as needed. Thanks to this, it makes it much more difficult for firewalls to control IMAP traffic, since several important contexts that are required for a proper examination may be missing, such as the file name of an attachment or the previous piece of a message.

Which one is better?

IMAP is best used if you need to access your email often on multiple devices, such as your work computer or smartphone, while POP3 is best used if you have a single device and perhaps a less reliable Internet connection. In such cases, it can make our lives a lot easier, because all mail and attachments are available offline. This feature used to be very handy in the past. Nowadays, since a fast internet connection is easy to find, IMAP is the better choice for most. Anvert supports the more modern IMAP protocol.

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