IMAP vs POP3

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  HotDawg 2 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #5795

    HotDawg
    Participant

    I keep hearing that we should use IMAP instead of POP3 so that we can access our emails from more than one computer. The theory being that with IMAP the emails remain on the server, and with POP3 they are deleted from the server when you download them.

    I guess my Thunderbird hasn’t been told this, so while I use POP3, I seem to access my email from different computers and email client installations.

    In Thunderbird, in the server settings, there is an option “Leave messages on server” that can be checked off. And, it works! I have have gmail, Frontier, RR, and a couple other mailboxes and can see all my email on both my desktop and laptop.

    In Gmail anyhow, they provide a ‘recent’ option so if you set up a new email client you don’t have to download all 30,000 emails out on the server.

    #5797
    Christian
    Christian
    Participant

    It was my understanding that IMAP is a superset of POP, so it should also be possible to keep a local copy of the messages when using IMAP.

    With POP there’s also usually an option to “delete messages from the server after x days.”. I use POP with that option on my main desktop and set the other computers up with IMAP.

    One advantage of IMAP is that other folders such as Sent, Drafts, and any others you create, will be synced between computers. With POP, if you wanted to look at your sent mail, you’d have to look at the exact computer and program you sent it from. That to me is the biggest argument in favor of IMAP. Of course you could always Cc yourself when sending mail.

    #5798

    RChandra
    Participant

    No, IMAP and POP are quite distinct protocols. For starters, IMAP requires a tag for every command, many implementations choose consecutive integers (converted to text of course).

    The whole idea of IMAP retaining mail while POP does not is an implementation choice for each. If you want, your POP client does not have to issue delete commands for messages received, and an IMAP could equally choose to delete everything it receives and work only from a local cache. The difference is that IMAP explicitly has commands for moving messages around, and if I’m not mistaken, for accepting messages from the client to be stored on the remote mail store. Because of this, it is rare for IMAP clients to automatically delete messages, as it is intended as a centralized repository for the mail for any one account.

    If you see email on both/all your devices using POP, it just means it’s likely that none of them is set to delete mail from the post office after retrieval. It may be possible that software syncs between devices in that if some message is deleted from the post office, it gets rid of the local copy too, but none of that is required behavior by the protocol.

    IMAP is generally preferred because of these conventions, so that as Christian says, there is a unified view of messages, folders, and generally everything; clients are typically programmed to keep a cache locally of the server contents, and is able to reconcile its cache with anything other IMAP clients do. So for example if you move a message from INBOX to Verizon on your mobile (let’s say it’s an email from Verizon telling you your bill is available for download), the desktop can see this move was made and update its display and cache accordingly. IIRC, the protocol allows constant connection and notifications of events like this.

    #5811

    HotDawg
    Participant

    Thanks for the comments. By using IMAP, I can see where the syncing of the sent folder and such would be an advantage. But, with the amount of moving messages from one folder to another here, I think I might overload my broadband connection!

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