IMAP and POP mail protocol comparison

If you are using Rackspace Email and are setting up your email software (for example, Microsoft Outlook or Mac Mail), you must indicate whether you want to receive email by using an IMAP or POP connection. IMAP is generally the preferred method because it gives you complete access to all email and all email folders, from multiple computers or mobile devices. This article describes the differences between the IMAP and POP mail protocols.

For Rackspace Email settings for both IMAP and POP, see Rackspace Email and Hosted Exchange settings.


  • We strongly recommend using an IMAP connection with Rackspace Email.
  • Microsoft Exchange users normally access their mailbox data via the Exchange server rather than using a POP or IMAP connection.


When you check your email with an IMAP connection, you are accessing and managing your email directly from the email server. Following are some features of IMAP:

  • Access: Because emails are stored on the email server, you can access and manage your email and email folders from multiple computers or mobile devices.

  • Storage: If you have limited online storage space, you might need to delete some emails periodically to avoid exceeding your storage capacity.

  • Backup: Email is automatically backed up every evening. If you accidentally delete an email, your email administrator can retrieve it, even up to 14 days later.

  • Internet connection: You must have an Internet connection to access your email.

Note: By default, email clients store your sent, draft, and trash email on your computer, rather than storing it on the email server (as it should with an IMAP connection). You might need to map your email folders within your email client.


When you check your email with a POP connection, new email messages are downloaded to your computer and are then deleted from the email server. Following are some features of POP:

  • Access: Because your email is stored on your computer, you must be at your computer to access your email.

  • Storage: You don’t need to worry about running out of online storage space. Because emails are downloaded to your computer, you can keep as many emails as your computer can store.

  • Backup: You should implement an effective backup system for your computer, in case you need to retrieve lost or deleted emails.

  • Internet connection: You must have an Internet connection to download your email, but you can view your downloaded email offline (that is, without an Internet connection).

© 2015 Rackspace US, Inc.

Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

See license specifics and DISCLAIMER