IMAP or POP - Which is Better For You? 

When setting up your emails on your local device(s), you may come across a setting regarding IMAP or POP. Understanding what each is and their effects will help you decide which you should use. Neither has the edge over the other; it entirely depends on your circumstance and how you use your emails. Below we cover both in more detail but if you’re looking for a quick synopsis -

IMAP allows you to access your emails on multiple devices but takes up more server space. POP only shows the email on the first device that has downloaded it; as a result, mailboxes will fill slower.

If you’re looking for a more in-depth analysis of both, we’ve got you covered.

IMAP (Internet Messaging Access Protocol)

When a person uses IMAP, any action taken on their email service will be carried over through all connected devices. For example – if you move an email into a specific folder, that action will carry out on your phone as well.

IMAP emails are stored and backed up on the server. As they can be accessed independently through different devices, this can mean that the mailbox is likely to reach maximum capacity quicker than that of POP.

It is possible to download only the email headers (you do not have to immediately download attachments); meaning emails will be received quicker than POP (assuming the same amount of emails is being received).

POP (Post Office Protocol)

Mail is stored locally, opposed to backed-up on the server. This means that your emails are always accessible, even without an internet connection. An internet connection is only needed when you are trying to send and receive emails.

Compared to IMAP, POP settings will allow you to save more server space in the exchange for more space taken up locally.

POP merges email addresses together. This means that if you have multiple different email addresses, they will all be visible in one inbox as opposed to having to select which email you wish to view.


IMAP’s device flexibility allows you to check your emails on multiple different devices. You should use this setting if you are going to benefit from this strength. For example, if you regularly check the same email address at work, on your phone and on your tablet, it makes sense to make them IMAP so you don’t have to rely on consciously only checking your emails in one place.

IMAP is also beneficial if you are using a service provider where mailbox size limitations are not or will not be an issue. If you have a very limited mailbox size – maybe the company you work for doesn’t increase them – then POP will be better in the long run for maintaining your emails.

Similarly, if you are making a decision based on your work email – an email that you only use at work – then POP would be the better decisions in most cases. Since you do not need the ability to check on multiple devices, it is pointless to select IMAP for that capability.

Different email services also allow the ability for you to leave copies of the messages on the server. In this case, you can set automatic deletion variables in the advanced settings of your mailbox (on Outlook in this case). By doing so, the emails will be automatically removed after the number of days you set.  This then allows you to use your emails as normal with the knowledge that your emails will be passively removed and thus, not clog up your allocated mailbox space.

email settingsIf you are finding that your email box is regularly getting full, you can experiment with the allocated removal days to see what works best for you. Not all services come with this setting already enabled, make sure to check when you set up your email or when your mailbox is full. 

We host our emails through 1&1 and their basic mailbox is 2gb. Due to this, we use and recommend POP to our clients who have the same limitation. However, the mailbox size differs from host to host, thus, this may not be an issue for you. 

Business Considerations

As previously mentioned, standard mailbox sizes are generally around 1-5gb, depending on the host you go with. Whilst this size might be suitable for many users, businesses may find that their core emails (sales@ or info@) might see a larger influx of emails. In these cases, you would need to upgrade to the next available mailbox size, in order to continue to receive emails. 

Upgrading your mailbox size will require you to the next available plan that your host provides. More often then not this is a sizable increase from the monthly retainer you were paying for before. 

Why is it important to know this here? 

If you are looking to minimize the allocated budget for mailboxes, it's important to consider the steps to take in order to do so. As mentioned above, POP is useful if you are looking to mitigate large mailbox sizes. Placing automatic deletion variables on your emails is a good step to take to delay your mailbox getting full, however, this is not always the case for everyone. 

If your business email receives hundreds of emails a day, you would need to set that variable to <10 days. This then means that you need to have someone actively looking through and archiving these emails every day. This can then become problematic as each email will need to be acted upon. If they are all hastily archived, some could be missed. 

In cases like these, sometimes it's better to consider the mailbox size first and then the mail protocol second. 

If you are having trouble setting up your 1&1 emails, we have collated all of their helpful guides for you here including some critical information about email and computer security.

Still having trouble deciding? Give us a call on 01332 477575 and we'll be happy to discuss your situation and recommend an option. Alternatively, you can email us at

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