IMAP or POP3: which is the best for you?

choose IMAP

With clients accessing emails from multiple devices these days, most of them will use IMAP in their email settings. It’s seen as more seamless and definitely less of an admin nightmare (than POP3) if you lose a device for any reason or it gets corrupted. We do feel it is important here at Vander Host to explain the difference between the two though.

What is IMAP and POP3?

IMAP and POP3 are basically two different types of email protocols to retrieve email from an email server. Whether you are using Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, macOS Mail, IncrediMail, Mailbox, iOS Mail or any other email client, you’ll need to configure it with either IMAP tor POP3 to receive and send emails from your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can use either one of the two email protocols, but here are the main differences:

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)

This email protocol allows you to view your emails on the server from any device that is linked to that email, and emails are kept on the server. It also loads copies of all the emails to your linked devices and synchronizes all your folders across devices, including custom folders. So if you delete an email on one device, it will be deleted from all the other devices and the server.

POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3)

Known as the ‘simpler’ of the two email protocols, POP3 downloads emails to your device from a mail server. It only downloads what’s in your Inbox folder (no Drafts, Sent, Deleted items, etc.) and doesn’t synchronize across devices.

So if you have more than one device linked to the same email, POP3 doesn’t synchronize the emails on the relevant devices. This means that once you download an email, it is only stored on that device and automatically deleted from the server. If you lose the email on that device for any particular reason, you will not have any backup of it, unless your email client has a setting that you can check to leave copies of emails on the server.

Which one should you choose?

Essentially this is really your choice, but here are the pros and cons:



Downloads emails to all linked devices. Only downloads email to one device (the first one you use to access your email).
Syncs folders across all linked devices. Doesn’t sync folders across devices.
Keeps a copy of all emails on the server, so if your device is lost, stolen, or corrupted, you always have a backup.

This takes up more storage on email servers. You can either upgrade to a bigger storage plan, or download important emails to your hard drive (archive) and then delete them off the server to make space.

Saves storage space on the servers (if you don’t request a copy to be kept there).

However, if you don’t have a backup of these emails you’ll lose them if your device gets lost, stolen or damaged.

You won’t be able to view your emails without an internet connection, unless you choose to fully download emails via your email client. You can view emails on your device without the internet. Emails are however fully downloaded, so it’s easier to get a virus on your device.
Can always check emails on webmail after they’ve been downloaded, unless you delete them. Can’t check emails on webmail once they are downloaded.


We strongly recommend using IMAP, as it is a more modern email protocol, you have access to your email from all your devices and your emails are safely stored on the server.

Vander Host technical support

If you would like to switch from POP3 to IMAP, follow these steps, depending on your email client. If you get stuck and you’re an existing Vander Host client, send an email to support (at) vander.host or call us on +27 21 300 3873.

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