POP and IMAP are protocols using which mails/messages are downloaded from mail servers to your computer, so that you can read it on mail clients directly and without opening any browser. Mails can be downloaded using mail clients such as Mozilla Thunderbird, Microsoft Outlook, IncrediMail, Windows Live Mail, etc. These are some of the best and popular Email clients used widely. We can say that they are feature rich, useful softwares to manage Emails and they even help in composing a new email and sending it to the recipient. That’s not all, there are many more features.
Difference between POP3 and IMAP
To start with, IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) and POP (Post Office Protocol), both are two different protocols. There are many differences between these two protocols, but the important difference is:
IMAP uses two way communication path. Whatever changes you make on Email client (Thunderbird, Microsoft outlook, etc) will be reflected back online (on the mail server) also. E.g. suppose you read an Email on mail client, and then moved it to Trash. These actions will also be performed online on the mail server and not just your computer. Basically, IMAP syncs with mail server, so that you don’t have to make changes twice. The changes you perform in Email client will be reflected on webmail also.
So, how does this affects us ? Suppose a person is using two mail clients, one at office and one at home. After reading the mail in office, that person deletes the mail. Now he reaches home and again opens his mail client. The same mail which this person deleted won’t again appear at his home. Thus it can be said that the changes are in real time. All mail clients and mail server stay synced, all the time. Therefore no task is required to be done for two times.
POP uses one way communication path. POP asks mail servers for data and downloads it to the computer, and that’s it. It doesn’t syncs the data with Email server. The changes which you make on Email client will not be reflected on mail server. E.g. if you read a message on Email client, and then login to webmail (mail server), the same message will be marked as unread. Thus, whatever changes you make, will be needed to be done twice – at both places. Thus, it can be said that POP just downloads the mail, and does nothing else.
POP after downloading the mail from mail server, deletes the original mail from server and then the mail will only be displayed in mail client. That mail will be deleted from online. To tackle this situation, check the settings, and change it to “leave a copy of mail on the server” (Not all mail clients have this setting). Thus, this may be problematic if a person is using mail clients at home also and at office also, because the mails are already downloaded at one place, and then get deleted from the server.
Mail client means mail programs like Thunderbird, Outlook, etc
Mail server or webmail means gmail, hotmail, etc
So, how to enable these protocols ?
It depends on the mail service provider. In gmail, you can find these settings by going to Mail settings and clicking on Forwarding and POP/IMAP. Take a look at below screenshot of POP/IMAP settings in gmail.
Which one is better – POP or IMAP ?
Good question. Its better to go with IMAP. And that’s because it uses two way communication and mails are always synced with server online. You will not need to do the same tasks twice. Also you will not need to worry about taking the mail client with you everywhere.
So now that you’re armed with all the information, why not go ahead and configure an Email client. If you are using Gmail or Hotmail, as Email service provider, then try installing Mozilla Thunderbird. The process to configure this mail client is really very easy and straight forward. Did you know that Thunderbird is a freeware. So go ahead and try out configuring Thunderbird. Its really too easy.