August 26, 2010

Jargon buster - POP3, IMAP, SMTP


The POP (Post Office Protocol 3) protocol provides a simple, standardized way for users to access mailboxes and download messages to their computers.

When using the POP protocol all your eMail messages will be downloaded from the mail server to your local computer. You can choose to leave copies of your eMails on the server as well. The advantage is that once your messages are downloaded you can cut the internet connection and read your eMail at your leisure without incuring further communication costs. On the other hand you might have transferred a lot of message (including spam or viruses) in which you are not at all interested at this point.  POP3 normally uses port 110.


IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) – Is a standard protocol for accessing e-mail from your local server. IMAP is a client/server protocol in which e-mail is received and held for you by your Internet server. As this requires only a small data transfer this works well even over a slow connection such as a modem. Only if you request to read a specific email message will it be downloaded from the server. You can also create and manipulate folders or mailboxes on the server, delete messages etc. IMAP normally uses port 143.

Major Difference between POP3 and IMAP

IMAP and POP are different protocols that do similar things.
The main differences in the two are that IMAP manages the email that's on the server, whereas POP3 downloads email from the server, leaving the client to manage the email locally.

Since IMAP leaves the email on the server and manages the email on the server (including folders), it’s better suited for mailboxes that will be accessed by multiple users or from multiple locations.


The SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) protocol is used by the Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) to deliver your eMail to the recipient's mail server. The SMTP protocol can only be used to send emails, not to receive them. Depending on your network / ISP settings, you may only be able to use the SMTP protocol under certain conditions. SMTP uses port 25.

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