IMAP vs POP3: Difference and Comparison

To retrieve email from a mail server, two protocols are used: IMAP and POP3. They are email protocols that define how your email apps or clients communicate with the email server. But what exactly is IMAP vs POP3 Gmail, and which is better: IMAP or POP3? We’ll find out soon. Before learning the difference between IMAP and POP3, let’s define what is IMAP. Continue reading.

IMAP vs POP3: Difference and Comparison

IMAP vs POP3 : Difference Between IMAP and POP3

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) and POP3 (Post Office Protocol version 3) are two different protocols for retrieving email from a mail server. The difference between IMAP and POP3 that may make one more suitable for you than the other:

IMAP allows you to access your email from multiple devices, as it stores your messages on the server. POP3 downloads your email to your device, so you can only access it from that device.
Any changes you make to your email (such as deleting messages) will be reflected on all devices. If you delete a message using POP3, it will not be deleted from the server, so it will still be available on other devices.
IMAP allows you to organize your emails into folders on the server, and you can create, delete, and rename folders as needed. With POP3, you can only create folders on your local device.
IMAP uses a more secure connection called SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), which provides additional protection for your email. POP3 uses a secure connection to encrypt your email and protect it from being intercepted.

IMAP vs POP3 Gmail: What is the Difference?

Here are the main differences between IMAP vs POP3 Gmail:

IMAP syncs with the email server. POP3 downloads and removes emails from the server.
IMAP allows you to access and organize your emails on the server, without taking up storage space on your device. With POP3, the emails are downloaded to your device and stored locally, taking up storage space.
IMAP supports multiple folders and subfolders, allowing you to organize your emails into different categories. POP3 only supports a single inbox folder.

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What is IMAP?

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is a protocol for accessing email messages stored on a mail server. It allows a client (such as an email program on your computer or phone) to perform several functions, such as connect to a server and retrieve email messages and perform various other email-related functions:

  • Storing messages on the server
  • Searching for messages
  • Marking messages as read or unread

IMAP differs from the other major email protocol, POP3 (Post Office Protocol). IMAP is widely used as a protocol for accessing email and is supported by most email programs and services. Now you know what is IMAP, continue reading to learn about IMAP vs POP3.

Also Read: 14 Best Free Gmail Alternatives

How does IMAP Function?

IMAP uses a set of commands that the client and server can use to communicate with each other. For example, the client can send a command to the server to fetch a list of all the messages in a particular folder or to search for messages with a specific subject line. The server responds to these commands by sending the requested information back to the client.

In summary, IMAP is a protocol that allows a client to access and manage email messages stored on a remote server. Email clients commonly use it to retrieve and manage email messages in a user’s mailbox.

What are the Features of IMAP?

IMAP is a protocol used to retrieve email messages from a mail server. Let’s examine some key features of IMAP:

  • Email messages are stored on the mail server and can be accessed from multiple devices.
  • IMAP supports multiple folders, allowing you to organize your email messages into different categories.
  • IMAP supports searching for specific email messages using keywords or advanced search criteria.
  • IMAP supports both online and offline access to email messages.
  • IMAP allows you to keep a copy of the email message on the server to access it from other devices.
  • IMAP supports multiple connections to the same mailbox, allowing multiple users to access the same mailbox simultaneously.
  • IMAP supports secure connections using SSL/TLS encryption to protect your email messages from being intercepted.

Overall, IMAP is a flexible and powerful protocol that allows you to access and manage your email messages from multiple devices and locations.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of IMAP?

Here is a list of advantages and disadvantages:


  • IMAP allows you to access your email from multiple devices, such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and your messages will be synchronized across all devices. This means that if you read an email on one device, it will be marked as read on all other devices.
  • IMAP lets you organize your email messages into folders and labels on the server rather than on your device. This means you can access your organized messages from any device.
  • IMAP allows you to access your email offline using a feature called offline mode.


  • IMAP can be slower than other email protocols, such as POP (Post Office Protocol) because it requires multiple server requests to access and manage messages.
  • IMAP uses more storage space on the server than other protocols, such as POP. This can be a problem if you have a large number of emails or if you are using a server with limited storage space.
  • IMAP is more vulnerable to security threats than other protocols, such as POP, because it requires a constant connection to the server. This can make it easier for hackers to access your email account.

What is POP3?

POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3) is a protocol used by email clients to retrieve email messages from a mail server. It is a standard protocol for receiving email and is supported by most email service providers.

When you use an email client such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, or Apple Mail to access your email, the client uses POP3 to connect to the mail server and retrieve your email messages. The email messages are downloaded to your computer and typically deleted from the server. The email messages are deleted unless you have configured to leave a copy of the messages on the server. Many email service providers still support POP3 for backward compatibility. Hopefully, you’ve got your answer to what is POP3.

Also Read: How to Recover Deleted iCloud Email

How Does POP3 Function?

Here is a general overview of how POP3 functions:

  • The client connects to the mail server using a POP3 server address and port number, usually 110 or 995, for a secure connection.
  • The client authenticates itself to the server using a username and password.
  • The server responds with a greeting message and a list of messages available for download.
  • The client can retrieve specific or multiple messages by specifying their message numbers. The server will send the messages to the client.
  • If the client wants to delete a message from the server, it can specify the message number, and the server will mark it for deletion.
  • When the client is finished, it can disconnect from the server. The server will then permanently delete any messages that were marked for deletion.

POP3 is a simple protocol, but it has some limitations. For example, it does not allow the client to access messages stored on the server in any other way, such as by subject or sender. It also does not allow the client to leave messages on the server for later access.

Features of POP3

After knowing what is POP3, let us look at its features. Some of the main features of POP3 include:

  • Mail Retrieval: POP3 allows users to download email messages from a mail server to their local computer or device.
  • Multiple Client Support: POP3 is designed to work with multiple email clients, such as Microsoft Outlook, Thunderbird, and Apple Mail.
  • Message Deletion: POP3 allows users to delete messages from the server after they have been downloaded, which can help conserve server space or keep mailbox sizes manageable.
  • Simple Command Set: POP3 uses a small set of simple commands to communicate with the server, making it easy for developers to integrate it into email clients.
  • Secure Transmission: POP3 can be used with Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to encrypt communications between the client and server, providing an additional layer of security.
  • Message Size Limits: Some POP3 servers may limit the size of messages that can be downloaded, which can be a limitation for users who receive large attachments.

Which Protocol Should You Use?

After learning the difference between IMAP and POP3, you should now decide between them. In summary, if you see IMAP vs POP3 mentioned above. IMAP is generally considered better because it offers more features and flexibility. However, POP3 may be a good choice for users who only need to access their email from one device and do not need the advanced features of IMAP. Hopefully, now you can make a choice between IMAP vs POP3.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Why is IMAP considered better than POP3?

Ans. IMAP is generally considered better than POP3 because it allows you to access your emails from multiple devices. At the same time, POP3 downloads your emails to a single device and then deletes them from the server.

Q2. If I switch from POP to IMAP, will I lose my emails?

Ans. Yes. If you switch from using POP to IMAP to access your email, you will lose your emails. To avoid this, you must set up your email account using IMAP settings, and your emails will be downloaded to your device again.

Q3. Can I use IMAP and POP3 together?

Ans. Yes, it is possible to use both IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) and POP3 (Post Office Protocol version 3) together.

Q4. Does IMAP allow device syncing?

Ans. Yes, IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is a protocol that allows a user to access and manage their email messages from multiple devices.


We believe that after reading this, you have a better grasp of IMAP vs POP3, how it functions, and its components. If you have any doubts or suggestions, drop them in the comment section below. Let us know what you want to learn next.

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