Difference Between IMAP and POP3

The servers use certain protocols to bring back some data from the servers of the mail and such protocols include IMAP and POP3. Both, of them, work as the main Message Accessing Agents (MAA). IMAP and POP3 are two widely used protocols that allow access through mails from a third party. Here, you will be able to get a clear review of both of these protocols.


The main difference between IMAP and POP3 is the accessibility of the data while downloading. In IMAP, the users can have a partial glance at the mail while the downloading process is going on. And on the other hand, the mail has to retrieve first, and then the person can go through the mail while using POP3.


IMAP is a protocol that is used to bring back the email from the mail server from any remote area and on any suitable device. When an email is viewed using the IMAP, the user can read the actual message before the completion of the downloading process, and this is because IMAP enables the users to read the messages on the server.

On the other hand, the mail retrieving application is used for going through the email via the internet, and therefore the protocol is known as POP3. By using POP3, one can only read their respective email when the mails are completely downloaded and not before that.

Comparison Table Between IMAP and POP3

Parameters of ComparisonIMAPPOP3
DevicesThe required emails can be downloaded on various devices. Only a single device is allowed to download mails at a time.
AdvancementIMAP is highly advanced and featured. In terms of advancement, POP3 lacks behind.
SpeedIMAP is a bit slower while using. POP3 has a great speed capacity.
Number of Mails at a TimeEach mail can be checked before downloading process in the IMAP. While using POP3, the user is bound to download all the messages in a single shot.
SyncingSyncing of emails can be accomplished using the IMAP. The POP3 never allows syncing the emails on the server.

What is IMAP?

Emails are a very important thing in our lives, as it helps us to connect with various platforms. Therefore, IMAP is a type of protocol that was put forward to help its users to access their emails from any place, time, and as well as the device. It depends upon the user’s availability. And the most interesting fact about IMAP is that the users can go through their emails without even downloading them and the reason behind this is that the emails are read on the server itself. Therefore, the privacy of the user is well maintained.

In simple terms, IMAP is the abbreviation that is used for the terms Internet Message Access Protocol. This protocol helps the user to access their emails on various devices at a single shot, as per one’s requirement. It is a highly self-sufficient protocol as it carries numerous features with it and the speed of IMAP is also great. But, it is a bit complex to use, especially for the learners. But, on the other side, the ones who are used to it can easily work on it.

The users are allowed to organize their emails while using IMAP on their respective servers. Also, it has a feature wherein the user can check the mails even before downloading them. Therefore, this helps the users to download only the required emails, which is quite a time saving as well.

What is POP3?

POP3 which is also known as Post Office Protocol is a widely used protocol to retrieve emails. With the help of the internet servers, it helps the users to go through the emails. With the usage of POP3, one can go through their emails but it comes with an exception and that is one has to fully download their emails on their devices, and hence after the completion of the process they can go through them. It is quite a time-consuming task as one has to download every email to check whether that is the required email or not. But, in general, it works perfectly and is loved by its users.

POP3 users can only download their emails on a single device that he/she is using and not more than that. Therefore, this feature helps secure their emails without any issues. It is easy to use and popularly used by people who are beginners.

POP3 has a great speed capacity, which is very useful while downloading process, as we have already discussed that all the emails on the server are required to be downloaded, and only after this process be they can access through email. Therefore, where one process is time-consuming and the other saves a lot of time. Also, the emails are not allowed to sync with the server in the POP3 protocol.

Main Differences Between IMAP and POP3

  1. Various devices can install the mails while using IMAP and on the other hand, POP3 users can only download the mails on a single device.
  2. IMAP is comparatively advanced than POP3 while on the other hand, POP3 lacks is some features and therefore makes it a bit retreated than IMAP.
  3. IMAP downloads mail at a faster rate while on the other hand, it takes time in POP3.
  4. Before downloading any mails, IMAP allows checking each mail while on the other hand, such feature is absent in POP3.
  5. By using IMAP, one can sync the mails with the server while on the other hand, the users are unable to use the server to sync mails.


IMAP and POP3 are amongst the best protocol used for downloading emails. As we all have come to know, by such protocols we can download emails on any device and from any part of the world. But, some minor differences between them make them unique. Therefore, we can choose such protocols according to the requirements. We can also state that IMAP is a bit more advanced and usable than the POP3. But, as a whole, both of them work perfectly.


  1. https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/2810103.2813607
  2. https://arxiv.org/abs/1511.00341
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