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What is the difference between POP and IMAP?

Warning: Microsoft 365 no longer supports POP and IMAP settings in Outlook, Apple Mail, Gmail and most email clients. Please use Outlook on the web to access your email or update your email settings to Exchange in your email client instead. If you attempt to set up your email in a client that does not support POP or IMAP settings, you'll get an error message.

POP, or Post Office Protocol, and was designed as a simple way to access a remote email server. The most recent version is POP 3, and is supported by virtually all email clients and servers. POP works by downloading your emails from your provider's mail server, and then marking them for deletion there. This means you can only ever read those email messages in that email client, and on that computer. You won't be able to access any previously downloaded emails from any other device, with any other email client, or through webmail.

Because POP doesn't sync folders, sent emails are only available in the email client where the message was sent. Emails will not show up on the server or other email clients connected to the mailbox.

IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol, and was designed specifically to eliminate the limitations of POP. IMAP allows you to access your emails from any client, on any device, and sign in to webmail at any time, until you delete them. You'll always see the same emails, no matter how you access your provider's server. Since your email is stored on the provider's server and not locally, you may run into email storage limits when using IMAP.

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