What is IMAP, POP3, and SMTP and How do they Work

What is IMAP, POP3, and SMTP and How do they Work?

You have probably heard a lot about POP3, IMAP, and SMTP. Email protocols distribution has been facilitated by TCP/IP technologies since 1981. Every day, about 300 billion emails are exchanged using this core technology by well-known services like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo. 

You have likely used all three of these in some capacity previously because you are reading this on the internet. Now let’s start with the essentials before we go out to understand what SMTP, IMAP, and POP3 are. 

What is a Protocol?

A protocol is a collection of accepted guidelines that facilitates communication between technological devices. Regardless of the make and model, two devices that support the same protocol can interact with each other efficiently.   

“Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol” is what TCP/IP stands for. The goal of TCP/IP server protocols is to enable computer-to-computer communication across long-distance networks

What is SMTP, IMAP & Pop3?

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol is referred to as SMTP. It is the accepted protocol for SMTP email message delivery.  

After you press send on your email after you’ve finished composing it, your email client and internet servers employ SMTP functions. It delivers your message to the recipient’s inbox and transports it across the internet.  

Working of SMTP

The SMTP client sends commands, and the SMTP server responds to them. The talk is divided into three stages:  

  1. SMTP handshake – The SMTP client connects to the SMTP server at this point.
  1. Email transfer – Starts the email transfer process.
  1. Termination – The client and server say their final goodbyes. 

Advantage of Using SMTP

1- Security features 

SMTP includes security features like encryption and authentication to ensure that email communications are sent over the Internet securely. 

2- Scalable 

SMTP is a very scalable technology that supports several email messages in parallel. It is therefore appropriate for use in large companies where email communication is essential. 

3- Simple and easy to use 

SMTP is a straightforward protocol that is simple to grasp and apply. It offers a simple message structure that allows users to rapidly and conveniently send and receive email messages. 

4- Wide support 

SMTP is supported by practically all email servers and clients, making it a worldwide standard for email transfer. 

5- Reliable message delivery 

SMTP guarantees that email messages reach their intended recipient on time. To ensure that messages are transmitted without corruption or loss, error-checking procedures are used. 

What is IMAP?

Internet Message Access Protocol is referred to as IMAP. It’s a commonly used protocol for email reception. The IMAP protocol’s most noteworthy advantage is that it lets you receive email on several computers (or devices). This is a result of the email being on the mail server even after delivery. In conclusion, you may access your email on a tablet, smartphone, home desktop, and work PC.  

Furthermore, the complete message is not downloaded until you open it. This contributes to a speedier initial connection and startup. However, it will not work effectively if your internet connection is sluggish. You will also be unable to read your emails.  

Working of IMAP

  1. The recipient’s email client establishes a connection with the server where the message is stored.
  1. The receiver may read the message headers on the server.
  1. If the receiver chooses a message to read, IMAP downloads it for the recipient.

Advantages of IMAP

1- Offline access 

Even when a person is not online, they can still read their email messages via IMAP. This is so that when the user connects to the internet, updates are synchronized with the server from a copy of the email messages that are stored on their device. 

2- Synchronization 

The user’s email messages are synchronized across all devices using IMAP. As a result, modifications made to an email message on one device will instantly appear on all other devices. 

3- Access to emails from multiple devices 

IMAP enables users to view their email messages across various devices, as you were just able to read. Rather than on the user’s device, the email messages are kept on a server. 

4- Efficient use of storage space 

Users could manage their email messages more effectively with IMAP. This is so that when a user reads an email message, the entire message is downloaded to their device, instead of just the header. 


What is POP3?

Like IMAP, POP3 is an extra email protocol. POP3, the abbreviation for Post Office Protocol, indicates its version, and the three represent it. The third version is the most recent and widely used. 

Other than downloading, this simple protocol doesn’t accomplish anything. POP3 downloads emails from the server to a single computer (or device) and then erases them from the server when your machine has completed the download. You won’t be able to read your emails from other locations, which makes this situation less than ideal.  

The ability to view emails when offline is the nicest feature of this protocol. Additionally, less storage on the email server is being used.  

However, since your PC only saves the messages locally rather than on the server, you should make a backup of it. If you don’t do this, all your emails will be lost if your computer dies.  

Advantages of Pop3

1- Simple to setup 

POP3 is a popular option for many email users since it is simple to set up and use. The user’s email address and password are the only parameters that need to be typed into the email client. 

2- Offline access 

POP3 enables users to view their email messages even when they are not connected, as you have just read. This is so that the user may read and respond to the emails at any moment after downloading them on their device. 

3- Efficient use of bandwidth 

POP3 is a protocol that is favorable to bandwidth since it only downloads emails in response to user requests. It does not utilize superfluous bandwidth as a result, which is especially helpful for people with spotty internet access. 

4- Lower resource requirements 

Compared to IMAP and other email protocols, POP3 requires less resources. This indicates that it functions well on less capable systems or in settings with constrained resources. 

The Difference Between POP3, IMAP, and SMTP


  1. Messages are sent using SMTP, and they are retrieved via IMAP.
  2. While SMTP transfers data between servers, IMAP facilitates communication between the client and server. The former acts as a go-between for the user and the server, while the latter acts as a messenger between servers. Examine the variations between SMTP and IMAP.
  3. Users can arrange emails on the server using IMAP as well. You can arrange emails on client storage using SMTP.


  1. POP3 is used to retrieve messages, whereas SMTP is used to send them. 
  2. A message is sent to a receiver via SMTP or message transfer agent. The server MTA and the client MTA are two different kinds of MTAs. However, POP3 uses a message access agent, or MAA, to obtain messages from the mailbox. The client MAA and the server MAA are the other two MAAs. 
  3. POP3 is called a POP protocol, whereas SMTP is considered a PUSH protocol. 
  4. Emails are delivered over SMTP from the sender’s device to the recipient’s mail server inbox. The recipient’s PC may get and arrange emails from the mail server’s inbox using POP3. Look at the differences between POP3 and SMTP.
  5. POP3 works between the recipient and their mail server, whereas SMTP works between the sender and the recipient’s mail servers. 


  1. POP3 and IMAP are best used for email reception. What then distinguishes the two procedures from one another?
  2. As was already said, POP3 downloads an email to a single PC before erasing it from the server. IMAP, on the other hand, syncs emails across many devices and saves them on the server. You may access emails on different devices in this way. Examine the distinctions between POP3 and IMAP.
  3. There are spam and virus filters on both POP3 and IMAP3. However, IMAP is more sophisticated when compared to POP3.
  4. IMAP allows you to arrange emails in the mail server inbox; POP3 does not allow you to do so.
  5. On the mail server, users cannot add, remove, or rename emails; however, IMAP allows all these actions. With POP3, you may download every email at once. When using IMAP, the email message header is visible before the download. 
  6. POP3 has two modes: keep mode and delete When you retrieve an email in the delete mode, it is removed from the inbox. Even after you recover the email, it remains in the inbox while it is in the retain mode. The email is stored on the mail server in many copies when using IMAP. If you misplace an email message, you may simply get it back. 

Which Protocol Is Better to Use - IMAP & SMTP & POP3

Choosing between IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol), SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), and POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3) largely depends on your specific email needs. 

IMAP is the best option for people who wish to easily access their emails across several devices. It enables users to synchronize their mailbox across several devices by allowing emails to be kept on a mail server. All devices get updates from changes made on one, giving users a consolidated and current email experience. 

On the other hand, sending emails requires SMTP. It manages the mail that is sent out and guarantees dependable delivery. Because of its ease of use and effectiveness, SMTP is a widely used protocol that facilitates communication between email clients and servers. 

For consumers who would rather download emails to a single device, POP3 is appropriate. It is a suitable option for individuals who have limited server capacity or offline access needs since it collects emails from the server and keeps them locally. It does not, however, have IMAP’s synchronization features. 

The decision ultimately comes down to your priorities for mail server communication. IMAP is the preferred option when accessibility from various devices and cooperation are essential. SMTP is necessary for simple email sending, however POP3 is better for people who value offline access and local storage. 

Get Mail Assist: Your Trusted Partner for Effortless IMAP, POP3, and SMTP Setup

Get Mail Assist, your top pick for expert assistance in establishing IMAP, POP3, and SMTP settings, can help you unlock a flawless email experience. Our experienced team is dedicated to offering unrivaled email customer support and service, ensuring that your communication lines stay open and efficient. 

Why should you use Get Mail Assist? Our professionals specialize in demystifying the complexity of email client settings, providing personalized and responsive email help tailored to your specific requirements. We walk you through the email setup process, making IMAP, POP3, and SMTP settings a snap, whether you’re a newbie or an experienced user. 

Feel the comfort that comes with dependable email customer support. Your emails are easily sent with SMTP, safely retrieved with POP3, and flawlessly synced across devices with IMAP when you use Get Mail Assist. A simplified email management system will greet you after configuration difficulties. 

Select Get Mail Assist right now to improve email correspondence with professional advice and make sure your SMTP, POP3, and IMAP settings are adjusted for a trouble-free and seamless experience. 


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