POP3 vs IMAP – What’s The Difference?

POP3 vs IMAP – What’s The Difference?

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Anshuman
Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content
Updated on Jan 24, 2024 18:46 IST

POP3 and IMAP are amongst the most popular email protocols that can access emails from a third-party email client or software. However, many people are perplexed by how these two are different from each other. So, in this article, we will go through POP3 vs IMAP in detail.

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Both POP3 and IMAP are Message Accessing Agents (MAA). Both of these protocols can retrieve messages from the mail server and deliver them to the receiver’s system.Apart from that, both protocols account for spam and virus filters. In lay terms, POP3 and IMAP are email protocols that can be used on the internet and allow you to connect to the mail server using the email client you used to set up your email address.

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POP3 vs IMAP: The primary difference is that IMAP is more powerful and should be used if you want to access your emails from multiple devices. In contrast, POP3 is not that powerful and only allows emails to be accessed by one device. Now that you know what POP3 and IMAP are, as well as the main difference between these two, let’s dig deeper into the topic.

Table of Contents (TOC)

POP3 vs IMAP 

For a better understanding and clarity, let’s explore POP3 vs IMAP in a tabular format.

Parameter POP3 IMAP
Full form Post Office Protocol 3 Internet Message Access Protocol
Complexity Less complex Very complex
Speed Fast Slow
Changes made reflect on both server and device No Yes
Users can organize their available emails on the server No Yes
Allows only one device to access the emails at a time. Yes No. It allows multiple devices at a time.
Allows to update or create emails on the mail server No Yes
Permits to search for mail content on any mail server No Yes
Allows its users to alter or delete any email  No Yes
Permanently stores content on the mail server No Yes
Allows syncing of emails No Yes
Current versions POP3 IMAP4rev1

What is POP3?

Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) is an application layer protocol used mainly by email clients to fetch emails from mail servers over a TCP/IP network.

POP3 has two different modes: delete and keep. When a user uses a primary device to access an email service, it continues to operate in delete mode. It operates in keep mode when the user is not attempting to access email messages from their primary device.

Under which circumstances should you prefer using POP3?

You should prefer using POP3 when: You want to access your emails from a single device and offline or if you have a large number of emails.

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Features of POP3

There are various features of POP3. But some of its most common and popular features are:

  • It keeps all of your emails on a single device.
  • The emails can only be accessed by one device.
  • When all the emails have been downloaded, they are removed from the server.
  • Emails that have been downloaded can be accessed while not connected to the internet.
  • All messages sent are also saved on the same device.

What is IMAP?

IMAP or Internet Message Access Protocol, is the most recent version of an email retrieval protocol for retrieving email messages from a server.

IMAP is the most popular email protocol and it retrieves all data from the mail server and caches it on your local device after establishing a connection with the server. All web servers and email clients support the IMAP protocol.

Under which circumstances should you prefer using IMAP?

You should prefer using IMPA when: You are accessing your email from different devices, such as laptop, mobile, desktop, etc.

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Features of IMAP

There are various features of IMAP. But some of its most common and popular features are:

  • Failures of local devices have no effect
  • Sets up flags to help you categorise emails
  • Access emails on multiple devices at the same time
  • Establishes a connection between a client and the mail server in question

Conclusion

When comparing POP3 vs IMAP, IMAP has several advantages over POP3, such as:

  • POP3 has a slower response time than IMAP.
  • You can use IMAP to search for messages on the server
  • Multiple mail clients can connect to a single mailbox simultaneously when using IMAP.
  • IMAP allows you to keep track of message states such as read, deleted, starred, replied, and so on.

So, after considering these points, I recommend that when choosing between POP3 vs IMAP, use IMAP whenever possible because it provides a faster, safer, and more convenient method of receiving emails.

FAQs

In regards to POP3 vs IMAP, what is POP3?

Regarding POP3 vs IMAP, Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) is an application layer protocol used mainly by email clients to fetch emails from mail servers over a TCP/IP network.

In regards to POP3 vs IMAP, what is IMAP?

Regarding POP3 vs IMAP, Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) is the most recent version of an email retrieval protocol for retrieving email messages from a server.

In regards to POP3 vs IMAP, which is better?

Regarding POP3 vs IMAP, IMAP is much better as it provides a faster, safer, and more convenient method of receiving emails.

What's the main difference between POP3 vs IMAP?

Regarding POP3 vs IMAP, the primary difference is that IMAP is more powerful and should be used if you want to access your emails from multiple devices. Whereas POP3 is not that powerful and only allows emails to be accessed by one device.

About the Author
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Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content

Anshuman Singh is an accomplished content writer with over three years of experience specializing in cybersecurity, cloud computing, networking, and software testing. Known for his clear, concise, and informative wr... Read Full Bio