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What is the difference between POP3 and IMAP?

In simple words, IMAP mail remains on the server whereas POP3 mail is downloaded to the local drive on your computer. This has both advantages and disadvantages:

  • IMAP allows you to access your mails from any computer . They remain available until you manually delete them from the server. Once POP mail is downloaded to a pc, pda … from that moment it is only available on that device, so mail can be scattered over several devices.
  • With IMAP you will have to remove email quicker because they remain on the server and your mailbox has a limited size. POP3 mail is stored locally and you have as much space as there is free space on your hard drive.
  • Some IMAP mail clients support IMAP-IDLE . This enables push-email which may be interesting when you are on the road with your laptop, pda, iPhone ...
  • In order to read IMAP mails you need to be online. POP3 mails can be read offline.


If you wish you can combine both technologies. For instance you can read your mail with IMAP during the week on your laptop and download your mails to your home pc once a week with POP3.

Both POP3 and IMAP accounts are protected with spam and virus filters .

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