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Differences between POP3 and IMAP

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POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3) and IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) both are MAA (Message accessing agent), and both of these protocols are used to retrieve messages from the mail server to the receiver system. Both of these protocols are accounted for by spam and virus filters. IMAP is more flexible and complex than POP3. 

In this article, we are going to discuss What are POP3 and IMAP, what are the advantages and disadvantages of IMAP and POP3 and lastly, we will discuss the differences between them.

What is POP3

Post Office Protocol Version 3 is known as POP 3. Access to the mail inbox that is kept on the email server is made possible via the POP3 protocol. Messages can be downloaded and deleted via POP3 protocol. The POP3 client may quickly retrieve all of the messages from the mail server after it has established a connection with it. Even when the user is not connected, they can still view the messages locally. Since the POP3 Protocol offers real-time synchronization, the client must manually check for new messages each time. Several email programs, including Apple Mail, Gmail, and Microsoft Outlook support POP3 protocol.

Advantages of POP3

  • You can read the message offline as well.
  • POP3 uses less space in storage.
  • POP3 is simple to set up and utilize.
  • Numerous email programmes support POP3.
  • The emails are already on our PC, so accessing them is quick and easy.
  • We have no restrictions on the size of emails we send and receive.
  • There is less requirement for server storage capacity because all emails are stored locally.

Disadvantages of POP3

  • It is not possible to achieve real-time synchronisation with POP3.
  • An email with malicious attachments can quickly compromise the system.
  • POP3 does not allow simultaneous access to the same email on many platforms.
  • You can delete a whole email folder at once.
  • The email folder that is downloaded from the mail server could potentially become corrupted.
  • Anyone utilising your computer can access the email folder because the emails are stored locally.

What is IMAP

An application layer protocol called Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) functions as a contract to receive emails from the mail server. IMAP, which is currently on version IMAP4, was created by Mark Crispin in 1986 as a remote access mailbox protocol. It is the protocol that is most frequently used to retrieve emails. Interim mail access protocol, Interactive mail access protocol, and Internet mail access protocol are some other names for this phrase.IMAP contacts your email provider to obtain a copy of all of your recent messages. Once you download them to your Mac or PC, they are immediately deleted from the email service.

Advantages of IMAP

  • It provides synchronisation between all of the user-maintained sessions.
  • Since the email is stored exclusively on the IMAP server, it offers security over the POP3 protocol.
  • All of the contents are accessible to users remotely.
  • Because a centralised server synchronises it, it provides simple device migration.
  • To store contents, no physical storage space needs to be set aside. 

Disadvantages of IMAP

  • IMAP maintenance is difficult.
  • User emails can only be accessed when there is an internet connection.
  • Message loading is slower.
  • It’s challenging to manage emails that don’t support IMAP.

Difference Between POP3 and IMAP

Post Office Protocol (POP3)Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP)
POP is a simple protocol that only allows downloading messages from your Inbox to your local computer.IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is much more advanced and allows the user to see all the folders on the mail server.
The POP server listens on port 110, and the POP with SSL secure(POP3DS) server listens on port 995The IMAP server listens on port 143, and the IMAP with SSL secure(IMAPDS) server listens on port 993.
In POP3 the mail can only be accessed from a single device at a time.Messages can be accessed across multiple devices
To read the mail it has to be downloaded on the local system.The mail content can be read partially before downloading.
The user can not organize mails in the mailbox of the mail server.On the mail server, the user can directly arrange the emails..
The user can not create, delete or rename email on the mail server.The user can create, delete or rename an email on the mail server.
It is unidirectional i.e. all the changes made on a device do not affect the content present on the server.It is Bi-directional i.e. all the changes made on the server or device are made on the other side too.
It does not allow a user to sync emails.It allows a user to sync their emails.
It is fast.It is slower as compared to POP3. 
A user can not search the content of mail before downloading it to the local system.A user can search the content of mail for a specific string before downloading.

It has two modes: delete mode and keep mode.

In delete mode, the mail is deleted from the mailbox after retrieval.

In keep mode, the mail remains in the mailbox after retrieval.

Multiple redundant copies of the message are kept at the mail server, in case of loss of message of a local server, the mail can still be retrieved
Changes in the mail can be done using local email software.Changes made to the web interface or email software stay in sync with the server.
All the messages are downloaded at once.The Message header can be viewed prior to downloading.

Frequently Asked Question on POP3 and IMAP – FAQs

What is POP3 and IMAP?

POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3) and IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) both are MAA (Message accessing agent), both of these protocols are used to retrieve messages from the mail server to the receivers system. Both of these protocols are accounted for spam and virus filters. IMAP is more flexible and complex than POP3. 

Out of IMAP and POP3 protocol which provides more security?

IMAP Provides more security as compared to POP3 as it creates multiple copies of data and stores on ICMP server .Thus if data is lost , a copy of it is resent improving security.

With POP3 is it possible to access the same email on different systems at the same time?

No, POP3 does not provide such features. The same email cannot be accessed at the same time on different systems.

Which ports are used by IMAP?

IMAP makes use of port 143 and if IMAP is used with SSL secure it makes use of port 993.

What is the POP3 maximum size?

The entire encoded email size is limited by the ServiceNow servers to 75 MB for incoming (POP3) emails and 25 MB for outgoing (SMTP) emails. Emails larger than this are not accepted.

Last Updated : 28 Jan, 2024
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