POP or IMAP: which protocol should I choose?

What is the difference between POP and IMAP?

First things first: what are POP and IMAP? They both are email protocols used to access email inboxes. In other words, they only manage incoming emails.

  • With IMAP, emails are stored on email servers, whether you have read them or not. Whatever device you access your email inbox from (computer, smartphone, tablet), you’ll have access to all your emails.
  • With POP, emails are downloaded from email servers to your device. Contrary to the IMAP protocol, POP doesn’t copy emails to email servers. Which means you won’t be able to read your emails from your smartphone after having accessed your inbox from your computer. Why? Because emails are retrieved, saved to your computer and deleted from email servers the first time they are opened. If you change devices, you will only be able to read new emails.

Pros and cons

Protocol Pros Cons
  • Easy email retrieval 
  • Emails are stored on your device, you can manage your local files as you see fit
  • You can work offline since emails are stored on your computer
  • Emails do not take up hosting storage space
  • Email are not synchronised across other devices or the webmail service
  • Your local files cannot be accessed from other devices or the webmail service
  • It may be complicated to manage the transfer of your emails if you get a new computer or email client
  • Emails can be accessed from any device
  • Special folders (Sent, Bin, Drafts, etc.) are synchronised across all devices
  • You can get a new email client without taking the risk of losing all your emails
  • If you have folders containing a lot of emails, you might experience slower response times with some email clients
  • Emails take up hosting storage space

To sum it up