Emails – Which Protocol is for you and your Smartphone?

Now that you receive emails on your smartphones as well as your computer(s), I want to update you on what you need to know about the two main protocols, and how to decide which one to use.


Most of you are using POP3, which simply downloads the email from the server, and stores it on your computer (within Outlook or Thunderbird, or whatever email client you are using). This works well if you only check your email on one device. The problem is, the program usually deletes the email from the server once it downloads it. So, when your smartphone (or other computer) checks the server, it doesn’t find anything. If you want to access ALL of your email from your smartphone and/or other computers, IMAP is what you need. IMAP accesses your email on the server (the same way webmail does),. It does not download it to your computer or automatically delete it. So, when you set up your email account (in Outlook, etc.) as IMAP, you will see your email as it exists on the server.

Therefore, all of your devices (when set to IMAP) will see your email the same way. If you’ve read an email on one machine, it will appear as read on the other. Your sent email folder will be viewable from all, as well. And, if you delete email from one computer, it deletes it from the server and will not be viewable from an other device.

If you want to set up your email account as IMAP,  set it up as a new account, and disable the pop3 account. Do not delete it. If you do, all of your email will go with it!) The settings are almost the same as your POP3 account. All you need to change, is the PORT number to 993. As always, I’m available to help.

After I wrote this, my friend Martin Kadansky published a very detailed article on how to switch from Pop3 to IMAP. I think it’s the perfect follow-up to my article. You can find it here.

Roger Weiss owns the Boston Web Company,  a web design company located in the Boston metro area.