POP vs. IMAP | Bluehost Support
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IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)

IMAP allows you to read emails as they appear on the hosting server. Any changes you make (delete, reply, forward, move) are seen by anyone who logs into webmail or IMAP. This is the perfect solution for those with mobile devices, such as phones or tablets, because it can be used for multiple users who need to access the same email account. This is also perfect for people who always wish to have their messages, including sent messages and message folders, saved on the server. Depending on program configuration, these messages may be temporarily saved on the computer for offline viewing. All messages and folders can be viewed from any computer connecting via IMAP, including webmail. This option is recommended for users who connect to email accounts from many computers.

POP3 (Post Office Protocol)

POP3 allows you to download copies of your email messages to your personal computer. Any changes you make will NOT be seen by anyone who accesses the email account because you are only making changes to local copies. Messages sent, moved, or deleted from an email application using POP3 settings can only be viewed on that individual computer's folders. They cannot be viewed on other computers connecting to that E=mail account, including webmail. This option is recommended for users who like to keep a backup of all their messages. The copies of the email messages on the server are typically unchanged. Still, it is straightforward to unintentionally configure your POP3 program to delete those server copies whenever you download the emails or at a future time. This is a perfect solution for a user with minimal time to be online but who needs to spend lots of time reading emails. This is also a perfect solution for anyone who needs to archive permanent copies of their emails (e.g., before you terminate that email name or its hosting provider).


Webmail is popular due to its ease of use and the fact that it can be accessed with just a web browser. Plus, it also has the same advantages as IMAP. However, webmail depends on a web browser (e.g., Firefox, IE, Opera, Chrome, Edge, Safari, etc.), which takes time to load, access the webmail page, log in, wait for the GUI to load, browse through a likely limited view of your inbox, and view one email message at a time.

Mail Programs (such as Outlook, Mail, Thunderbird)

An email program is required to connect via POP or IMAP. A mail program will launch from your desktop and give you rapid access to all your emails (even faster but less secure if you let it remember your passwords). Also, mail programs have advanced tools and features that webmail may not have. There are many to choose from, such as the program included with your Operating System: Microsoft Windows includes either Outlook or Windows Mail, and Apple includes Mail. There are third-party programs such as Mozilla's Thunderbird and Qualcomm's Eudora.


  • IMAP is perfect for multiple users who need to access the same email account or one who needs to access emails from multiple locations.
  • POP3 is perfect for quickly downloading emails and reading them offline or on the go (you still have to be online to reply to emails). It's also a great way to save copies of your emails on your personal computer.
  • Webmail is perfect for everyone but does depend on a browser, which can sometimes be slower and more cumbersome than a mail program (e.g., Mail, Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.).

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You may also refer to our Knowledge Base articles to help answer common questions and guide you through various setup, configuration, and troubleshooting steps.