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Example: "Make sure to select IMAP instead of POP3 when setting up a new email account."

IMAP Image

Stands for "Internet Message Access Protocol" and is pronounced "eye-map." IMAP is a method of accessing email messages on a mail server without having to download them to your local device. It has mostly replaced the previous protocol "POP3," which required you to download messages before reading them.

The advantage of using an IMAP is it allows you to check your mail from multiple devices and always see the same messages. This is because the messages stay on the server until you choose to download them. (POP3 would remove messages from the server — either immediately or after a specific amount of time.) Most webmail systems are IMAP based, which allows you to access to both sent and received messages no matter what computer / device you use to check your mail.

Important: Email clients, such as Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail, allow you to specify what kind of protocol your mail server uses. If you use your ISP's mail service, you should check with them to find out if their mail server requires IMAP or POP3 mail. If you configure your account with the wrong protocol, you will not be able to send or receive mail.

First Published: 2004
Last Updated: May 14, 2024

Definition from the PC Glossary