What is the Difference Between IMAP and POP Email?

What is the difference between IMAP and POP?

  1. This applies to how you set up email applications on your devices (Mail, Outlook, etc)
  2. IMAP and POP are ways you can choose to set up your email application on all of your devices (phones, tablets, computers, etc)
  3. POP delivers and entire fresh copy of ALL NEW mail from when you left off on that particular device to your inbox each time you check your email, no matter if you have read it or deleted it on another device.
  4. IMAP delivers an “edited” copy of all mail to your device.  If you have deleted mail on another device or read mail on another device or even in your webmail, IMAP will show you what you have done on other devices.
  5. POP is more cumbersome because you need to re-read and re-delete emails on each device running your email application
  6. IMAP is easier to use because your changes are synched across all devices.



Are you setting up your email on a phone a tablet or a computer? If so you may be asked this question during installation. We’re going to make this very simple and we’re going to relate this to a post-office box that lives at the post office. This is like your email server. The people that check your post office box are like your devices (phone, tablet, laptop, computer)

What is IMAP?

So it’s let’s first talk about IMAP.


The Post Office

When I go to the post office box and I take my mail out say I have three pieces of mail: I open two letters and I don’t read one letter.  One of the letters I read I throw it away and I put two letters left (one read and one unread) back the mail into the post office box.  Now when my spouse goes to check to the post office box my spouse opens it up and my spouse sees one open piece of mail and one unopened piece of mail, and does not even have to see the one that was thrown away, so my spouse sees exactly what I did.

Our Devices 

Relating this to our devices and to email:  if I set up my email as IMAP and I set up my phone is as IMAP and I open my email app on my phone and I read some of my mail, leave some of it unread, and I delete some, when I open my mail application with my tablet, I will see some read (opened) email, some unread email and won’t even need to deal with the email that was deleted on the computer.


Now let’s talk about POP


The Post Office

Now say this is a POP post office box.  POP uses a really really big photocopier at the post office to deliver a FRESH COPY of ALL of your mail every time a new person (device) goes to check the mail.   So what happens when I go to the post office box is I open up the mail: I read this one,  I leave this one unread and I throw away this one.  I put the mail back into the post office box. Now my spouse goes to the post office box to get the mail. This is POP, so instead of getting an opened mail an unopened mail and not having to deal with a thrown away mail, my spouse gets a large stack of brand-new unopened mail and needs to do all the work that I’ve already done again!!!

Our Devices

This can become really cumbersome when you are getting hundreds of emails a day and you open your email app on your phone and throw away a lot of email, reply to many emails, and leave some email unread.  When you open up your tablet or when you go sit down at your computer you will get a fresh copy of all of your email, and need to do all the work again!

This is a difference between IMAP and POP and the reason we have both is many years ago we did not have the ability to have IMAP, we only had POP. At that time, POP was really great because email was new and we had the ability to get email on multiple devices.  This was really exciting and amazing for us so we were willing to do the work!  Now there’s too much email that is being sent to all of us and so we need to streamline what we do.  So, if you have the option when you are setting up your account to choose IMAP we at TechCare suggest you choose IMAP so it will simplify your life and simplify your email!

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