I had a request to explain some terms you often see in connection with email, POP and IMAP.  I’ve also tossed SMTP as a bonus definition.

POP3 – Post Office Protocol 3. This kind of server stores your incoming messages on the server until you use an e-mail client like Outlook or Thunderbird to download them to your computer.  Generally those messages are then deleted from the server. You can then only access those messages on the computer where you’ve downloaded them.

IMAP – Internet Message Access Protocol. This type of server lets you access your e-mail without downloading it to a computer. You can read, edit or delete the messages right on the server. The messages will remain on the server until you choose to delete them. You can access your e-mail from other computers or mobile devices. More and more people are moving to IMAP for the convenience of being able to access their e-mail at any time from any device.

SMTP – Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. This server is only for outgoing e-mail. You can use it with a POP3 or IMAP server. So if you see an error referring to SMTP – it’s talking about outgoing e-mail.

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