Should I be using POP3 or IMAP email?

What's the difference between POP3 and IMAP?

WDYLLC's email environment offers two standard methods to retrieve incoming mail. They work very differently and which protocol you choose to use will impact how you can use email.


The Post Office Protocol version 3 ("POP3") is the older protocol. POP3 is used to manage a single mailbox (not mail account, but mailbox within that account, the Inbox), and stores mail locally on your computer. This means:

  • POP3, by default, will automatically manage how much disk space you use at WDYLLC (reducing the effort you need to put into email cleanup hygiene).
  • POP3 does this by moves email to your computer and removing it from the WDYLLC servers, so you're taking responsibility for managing those files (both up and downsides).
  • POP3 may not play well if you are accessing email from more than one device. If you are touching different devices (tablets, phones, laptops, desktops, web browsers on other people's devices) when accessing your mail, POP3 may create confusion as to where your mail actually is.

The Internet Message Access Protocol ("IMAP") is the newer protocol. IMAP is used to manage a many mailboxes within your email account), and stores mail remotely on a WDYLLC computer. This means:

  • IMAP doesn't manage how much disk space you use at WDYLLC (increaseing the effort you need to put into email cleanup hygiene).
  • IMAP leaves email on the WDYLLC server, so you can only get to it when you're connected to the Internet and can reach us, but we're reasonably good at not not losing things in our custody.
  • IMAP cooperates well when dealing with mail on more than one device, and can reduce the confusion around which device you need to be on to see things. This is especially important if you use our webmail interface.

Why do you keep harping on disk space?

WDYLLC hosting services are all based on how much disk storage you're using. We're kind of like a storage locker you might rent to free up attic, basement, or garage space in that respect: we give a fixed volume of storage, which is spelled out in your user agreement.


One of the problems we see pretty regularly is that a user's disk space gets so full that we can't save an incoming message in the space you've contracted. When that happens, the message could get delayed, misfiled, or even lost as undeliverable if the situation persists for long enough. So we want to avoid that.


Which one should I pick?

First of all, you don't have to pick just one. There are advanced configurations which could use both in certain kinds of use cases... but you may need some advanced (and billable) technical help to set that up, because they're pretty complex to do.


POP3 is a strong solution when:

  • You only use one device to access your email;
  • You don't have the interest, habits, or motivation to "clean up" your mail account on a regular and recurring basis;
  • You don't frequently check your email;

In contrast, IMAP is a strong solution when:

  • You move between devices frequently, or use email on more than one device;
  • You need to use webmail frequently or exclusively
  • You need "real time" email access (have a client running at all times)

There's no "one size fits all" solution (that's why we offer more than one way to do things!). There are complex use cases that can use both. Generally, we recommend POP3 (requires less user action, so that problems are less likely to occur on the server side)... but we recognize the complexity of your messaging needs, and try to provide the tools that will allow you to do what you want, when you want, and how you want.