What Is the Difference Between POP3 and IMAP?

Understanding the Ramifications of Setting Up Your Email Wrong

IMPORTANT: If you set up your email account as IMAP and you change hosts, YOU WILL LOSE ALL OF YOUR EMAIL.

Please read this document carefully.

You have 2 choices when setting up your email. The differences are HUGE

You have 2 choices when setting up your email. The differences are HUGE

The first difference is where your email is stored.

With POP3, your email is stored locally on your PC or Mac. You will always have access to the file as long as you have a copy of it. You should always have a backup of your email file. If you are using Outlook, the file name is Outlook.pst.

When email arrives, it is first stored on your host server – this can be where your website is stored unless you are using a 3rd party email provider.
When you Send and Receive email from Outlook on a PC, the email is pulled down into your email file. It is marked on the server, but a backup is kept (depends on advanced settings – “leave a copy on the server”). It is eventually deleted from the server.

Your email, including your send and receive email, is stored locally.


With IMAP, your email is stored on your server.


IMAP email is stored on the SERVER, not on your local PC.

IMAP is best used in conjunction with webmail like gmail, yahoo, or other free accounts.

IMAP can be the better option when you need to check your emails from multiple devices, such as a work laptop, a home computer, or a tablet, smartphone, or other mobile device.

With IMAP, you will get all emails on all devices, and your email will be stored on the server. It will not be stored on your PC. If you delete your email, it will be deleted from the server. IF YOU CHANGE SERVERS, you will either lose all your email or get all your email downloaded again depending on how the move was done.

With IMAP, two other bad things can happen: 1) It is a resource hog. 2) You may run out of space. You are allocated 250MB for email. We are happy to expand that, but not forever. If you use IMAP, you must constantly delete your emails so that you manage the space allocated.

If you are the type that wants to keep your emails for years, (like me), IMAP is NOT right for you. My Outlook file is about 8GB. You MUST use POP3.

Although our hardware and software supports IMAP, we DO NOT recommend it and are NOT RESPONSIBLE for loss or hassles.

If you want the feel of IMAP with the safety of POP3, then use gmail and setup your email as a POP in your gmail account. Best of both worlds.

PLEASE ALSO NOTE: We are webmasters, not email trainers.
If you have questions about how email works, please hire an IT person or Outlook trainer to help you.

We are happy to share our knowledge on email at the hourly training rate of $100.

Need more answers?

If you would like to set up an appointment to cover more email support, you may reach us at support@sandismith.com or 408-550-4325.