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IMAP or POP3, Which do I choose?
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IMAP or POP3, Which do I choose?

Pop3 or IMAP mail, which is best

This guide has been designed to help you understand which mail protocol to use, IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) or POP3 (Post Office Protocol Version 3).

Before you try and scroll down this page looking for a quick 'which one is better' answer know that neither is actually better, it all depends on your circumstances. Below we will delve deeper into how each protocol works and whom its best suited for.

Please note which ever you decide to use (both supported by Squirrel Hosting) you will need to use SMTP for your outgoing mail.

POP3 (Post Office Protocol Version 3)

So how does POP3 work? The best way to think of pop3 mail is to view a one way street between your mail server and your computer.

POP3 one way mail

Mail comes into the mail server and sits there waiting until your computer's mail client collects it (e.g. Microsoft Outlook). Once your computer has collected the mail, it is marked as read on the mail server and often deleted. This is fine if you only have one device reading your mail but if you have two then problems can arise, this is due to the fact that POP3 doesn't sync your computers mail folder to those on the web server.

Lets say you have a phone and a PC that both checked your e-mail via POP3, whichever device checked it first would collect the mail, the other would show nothing to collect as all the mail had been read. If you replied to an e-mail on your PC, your PC's sent items would have a copy of the mail but your phone's sent items would be blank.

If you only have 1 mail client or 1 PC then POP3 would be fine and is personally recommended.

Benefits of POP3

  • Very quick as it doesn't sync any folders, it simply reads, collects and displays mail.

Disadvantages of POP3

  • If you have 1 or more mail clients then you can end up with mail on one client that isn't on another.
  • E-mails and attachments are downloaded at the same time meaning you can't read the message until they are both downloaded.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)

IMAP is the solution for most people who use more than one device to check their mail and can be thought of as a two way street. With IMAP the connection to your mail server is two way in the sense that anything done regarding the e-mails on one system is synched up with any other system checking the mail.


Whenever you receive or send an e-mail, a copy is stored onto the mail server. This means any device connecting to your mail server will not only show the same messages but will also show you which messages have been read and which have been responded to.

This is a fantastic solution for anyone who wants to access the same mail information on multiple devices.

Benefits of IMAP

  • All the devices connecting via IMAP will synchronise to show the same e-mails, folders, replies etc
  • Supported by virtually every mail collecting device
  • The user doesn't have to download the e-mail and attachment at the same time.

Disadvantages of IMAP

  • When using IMAP, mail is stored on the server and it's important to keep an eye on the server space status. If your allocated space on the mail server becomes full, your mail will not be deliverable, thus anyone sending you a message will have it bounce back.

Hope this helps you decide which mail option is best. If you don't have an e-mail account or if your mail account doesn't support IMAP then why not get e-mail only hosting from us, its free and easy to set up.

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