As long as I can think, I usually set up my email client on my computer, entered my login credentials and received my mails. When I got my laptop and started working in an office, some questions arouse. How should I receive my mails on all computers? Ahh yes ” I decided that the place, where I finally need ALL my mails is the office. Therefore I enabled the checkbox in my email reader beside Leave messages on server on my home computer and my laptop. I was now able to receive my mails at home and on the road with my laptop and got them all in the office, too. But there was this thing in my mind called IMAP which didn’t let me sleep. Probably I should take a look on this and see if this is the better way of handling my emails. So what are the differences and benefits of POP3 and IMAP? When should you use POP3 and when IMAP? Here we go:The setup of POP3 is a bit easier than IMAP. After you’ve entered your account credentials you need to choose whether you want to leave the mail on the server or to delete it. You have to take care of this. When you delete it from the server there’s no way of getting this email again from another computer. It’s ok, when you’re just using only one computer. Because every received mail is stored locally, it’s no problem to read it when you’re offline.

When you have more than only one computer you should use IMAP. With IMAP, by default, you’re not storing a copy of your received mails on your local hard drive. Instead you’re working directly ON the mail server. With this approach you can connect with as many computers as you want to your account and manage your mails. Your email client usually only receives a list of email headers and when you decide to read an email it retrieves the email’s body. This saves time and bandwidth on emails you don’t want to read. A disadvantage of this behavior is that you need a direct connection to your mail server to read your mails. But you can tell your email program to save a local copy of the mail, so that you’re able to work offline, too.

What means this all for you? Use POP3 when you have only a single computer where you receive your emails and you’re the only one who has to read the mail. Activate that emails should be deleted from the mail server when you have received them and you can forget about your mail account running out of space.

Use IMAP when you have more than one computer or others should get the email, too. But you have to care about the mail server’s space to not run full. You need to delete or backup mails from time to time. When you’re often on the road and don’t have internet access, make sure you store an additional copy of your mails on your hard disk.