Setting up your e-mail client – POP3 vs. IMAP4 protocol

E-mailMore and more people are using web browser to manage their e-mail. It’s simple – you only need a web browser, which is included in all desktop and mobile operating systems. Just log in and you have full access to your e-mails, without complicated setup. Some e-mail services, like Gmail from Google, are part of a package with other services, in case of Google it’s Youtube, Google Drive, Google Docs etc. But some people still prefer e-mail client, including me. It’s very useful, especially if you have more e-mail accounts. I don’t have to manually check my e-mail, if e-mail received, my laptop (and tablet and smartphone too) will alert me. I can have unified e-mail policy synced by all my devices and off-line access to downloaded e-mails. Having unified folder structure across my devices is something amazing. This is why I use e-mail client.

If you want to use e-mail client, you must configure your e-mail client. Some big services, like Gmail, offers on selected e-mail clients automatic installation, so you don’t have to find out how to fill fields like incomg server, ports etc. But if you use not-listed e-mail service, you have to configure e-mail client manually. While these settings can be easily found at providers’ webpages, one item is little confusing – protocol for incoming server. We know POP3 and IMAP4 protocols. Which one should you choose?

First, I will describe POP3.

POP3 is base protocol without advanced features. Your e-mail client will download all e-mail from server to your computer. You can choose if you want to keep or delete downloaded e-mails from server. If you decide to keep it on server, you can download these e-mails to another computer. But if you remove e-mail from one computer, it won’t affect second computer. Here is no synchronisation, you have to manage it manually. POP3 just download Inbox items from server and that’s all what this protocol can do. If you use POP3 for few computers/smartphones/tablets, it will be messy, it could happen that some e-mails will be on computer only, some other only on tablet and some on smartphone and computer but not on tablet. And that’s not enough, just imagine that on tablet you have selected to keep e-mails on server, but on computer you set to delete from server. And here is no folder support. If you use only one e-mail address on one device, POP3 may be fine, but I do not recommend it.

IMAP4 is much better protocol. Your e-mails and folders are synced via all your devices. Just receive e-mail on smartphone, reply on computer and then look at tablet – both received and sent e-mails are here. Now delete received e-mail on tablet and watch on computer – e-mail is deleted too. Synchronisation keeps all up-to-date. Folder support is same like with e-mail. And if you login into web interface of your e-mail service provider and delete, for example, e-mail from folder “Work”, it will affect all your devices – computer, smartphone, tablet. It’s something amazing and I can only recommend it.

I hope this article helped you to understand differences between POP3 and IMAP4.

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