Why Use POP3 Email instead of IMAP
IMAP and POP3 are the protocols you use to access email via Apps like Outlook, Thunderbird, or Android’s stock email app.
The general consensus is that the more modern IMAP is the way to go and the aging POP3 standard should be abandoned at all costs.
But that’s just not the case. In fact, I am going to point out two very good reasons to go on using POP3, or perhaps even actively switch to it.
IMAP and POP3 basics
(IMAP) lets you view your email folders the same way on any device, as it’s all synchronized from a centralized server. With IMAP your inbox, sent, and customized folders have the same content, whether you’re checking mail on your phone, tablet, or PC.
The Post Office Protocol version 3 (POP3), is designed for downloading email from your email provider’s server to your local device. Nothing is synchronized like IMAP. Most POP setups delete email from their servers by default once you download it to your local device, but if you like you can often configure your email client to leave your messages on the server as well.
It’s all about storage and privacy
The first reason you might want to use POP3 is if your main email account isn’t connected to a major webmail service like Gmail, you might have limits on how much mail you can store on their servers.
In those cases, it’s best to turn to POP3, so you can download your mail and wipe it off the server to stay under the storage quota.
Privacy is another reason to rely on POP3. If you are uncomfortable with keeping personal data like email on a third-party server. Email sitting on a server you don’t control is wide open to access by law enforcement with the right set of warrants.
Keeping your email on your devices, and off of third-party servers, means anyone who wants to look at your email has to come to you and not your email provider.
There are a few weaknesses to that argument, however, since intelligence agencies could still grab your email while it transits the Internet. Your mail provider may also have redundant backup copies of your email that won’t get deleted right away, defeating the whole point of using POP3 for privacy concerns.
The downside of POP3 in a multi-device world is that you’ll have to take some precautions and think hard about how to access email on a mobile device. Once your email has been downloaded to a PC, it is automatically deleted from the server and can’t be downloaded to a mobile device.
Since the only copy of your email is now on your PC, You will need a solid back-up plan to make sure you don’t lose your messages if you computer ever dies.
As for smartphones and tablets, you should still use IMAP there if possible, even if you’re using POP3 on your PC. The last thing you want to do is download email to both your phone and your PC via POP3, since you’ll end up with two separate repositories of email: stuff downloaded to your phone and stuff downloaded to your PC. It’s a nightmare.
One last note about IMAP on your phone and POP3 on your PC: if you reply to email on your phone, your PC won’t download new messages in your sent folder, since POP3 only grabs messages from the server.
Also, remember that if you leave your mail client running on your PC while you’re out, all mail messages could disappear from your phone as your desktop grabs new batches of email—unless you (usually manually) configure your email to continue to store messages on the server for a predetermined length of time after you download them.
Basically if you are concerned about security POP3 is the way to go.
Until Next Time
Categorised in: Computer Security
This post was written by Karen