I often get asked how to keep email synchronized across all my devices. For example, if I read then delete and email on my smartphone, I do not want to have to see it again when I get back to my desktop computer.

The answer is straight forward.  When you setup your email, make sure to configure it as an IMAP account, not POP.  You should see the two options/instructions in the configuration settings.

That is all you really need to know.  If you want to know what the differences are and the technical details, I have repeated a great excerpt below:

(Taken from: POP vs IMAP – https://www.bol.ucla.edu/services/email/popvsimap.html)


POP stands for Post Office Protocol and is a simple set of instructions that let your computer retrieve messages from the BOL mail server. After authenticating the request with the user’s password, the POP protocol asks the server if there is any new mail, and if your mailbox on the server has messages, then POP usually downloads them to your computer and deletes them off the server.

IMAP stands for Internet Mail Access Protocol and allows a “client” email program to access a message stored at a remote location as if they were on the local computer. Email stored on an IMAP server can be manipulated from a desktop computer at home, a workstation at the office, or a notebook computer while traveling, without the need to transfer messages or files back and forth between these computers.

Generally, you want to use POP if you access your mail from one computer , and IMAP if you need to manipulate your mail from more than one computer, say an office and a home computer. Below is a table to help you understand which service fits you better.

POP service:

  • POP was designed for, and works best in, the situation where you use only a single desktop computer.
  • Normally, messages are downloaded to your desktop computer and then deleted from the mail server.
  • If you choose to work with your POP mail on more than one machine, you may have trouble with email messages getting downloaded on one machine that you need to work with on another machine; for example, you may need a message at work that was downloaded to your machine at home.
  • If you choose the POP option “keep mail on server”, your POP “inbox” can grow large and unwieldy, and email operations can become inefficient and time-consuming.
  • Your archive of mail, if you have one, is kept on your desktop computer – you generally need little storage space on the mail server.

IMAP service:

  • IMAP is designed for the situation where you need to work with your email from multiple computers, such as your workstation at work, your desktop computer at home, or a laptop computer while traveling.
  • Messages are displayed on your local computer but are kept and stored on the mail server -you can work with all your mail, old and new, from any computer connected to the internet.
  • You can create subfolders on the mail server to organize the mail you want to keep. However, these subfolders, as well as its contents work against your total email quota of 1GB.
Choose IMAP if:

  • you need access to your email, new and old, at multiple locations, e.g., office, lab, home.
  • you use POP, and specify to leave your mail on the server.
  • you use the option to synchronize the emails on your email client and the server.
Choose POP if:

  • you work with your email in a single location or on a single computer.
  • Webmail works fine for you when you need to check new email remotely.
  • you regularly backup your email messages and archive it.
Tagged with:

Leave a Reply