The difference between POP, IMAP & SMTP and which one to use


    IMAP and POP are simply the protocols that are used which allow you to download email messages from the mail servers on to your computer, which you can access via an email client such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird or Mac Mail etc.

    IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)

    IMAP always syncs with mail server so that any changes you make in your email client (Microsoft Outlook, Thunderbird) will instantly appear on your webmail inbox.

    IMAP means that messages are manipulated directly on the email server, rather than downloaded to the user’s local machine. This allows the user to access mail from a various locations and machines.


    • You are able to access your emails on multiple devices as the emails are stored on a remote server.
    • Any changes made are done in real time.
    • Only need an Internet connection to access mail.
    • Saves storage space on the local device or machine.
    • Mail is automatically backed up.


    • You can not access your emails with no internet access.
    • A large amount of server storage space is necessary when email usage is extensive.

    POP (Post Office Protocol)

    POP means your email client account and mail server are not synced, so any changes you make to your email account in the mail client will not be transferred to the webmail inbox. The emails are downloaded from the mail server to your PC and then the original mail is deleted from the server so you can’t access it from any another computer.


    • Emails are downloaded and stored locally, so without an internet connection emails can be accessed.
    • Saves storage space on the server.
    • Consolidate multiple email accounts and servers into one inbox.
    • Only needs an Internet connection for sending and receiving mail.


    • Once downloaded to the local machine, the emails get deleted.
    • Sending a message from the client can take double of the time.
    • If the device or machine that the emails are downloaded to and stored is stolen or the machine stops working, the emails are lost.

    SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)

    SMTP is a protocol used in sending e-mail and is usually used in conjunction with one of the other two protocols, POP or IMAP for receiving emails.

    What is an SMTP server?

    Simply put, an SMTP server is a machine, or collection of machines, whose primary purpose is to send and/or relay messages between email senders and receivers. An SMTP server will have an address or addresses, that can be set by the mail client or application that you are using, generally formatted as

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