What is POP? Or POP3? And what about IMAP and SMTP?

The computer world is full of confusing acronyms, and email is one source of many.

It’s useful to understand a few common acronyms, at least at a high level, to make using and configuring email programs a little less confusing.

POP3 and IMAP are half of the email puzzle; SMTP is the other. POP3 and IMAP are protocols (or “languages”) used to get your email, while SMTP is the protocol used to send it.

But why POP? Or POP3? And what are you supposed to enter if you’re asked to configure your email account in your email client?

Read moreWhat is POP? Or POP3? And what about IMAP and SMTP?

Footnotes & references

1: Yes, there are options to “leave on server”, but those are, in a sense, hacks added to overcome protocol shortcomings. The primary intent is to keep one master copy of your email in your email program on a single device.

2: Most do.

What is IMAP? And How Can it Help Me Manage My Email?

IMAP stands for “Internet Message Access Protocol”. It’s a fancy name for a protocol used by email programs like Outlook, Thunderbird, and others to access your email.

IMAP is an alternative to POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3), works in some fundamentally different ways, and makes a few fundamentally different assumptions.

I’ll examine IMAP, how it compares to POP3, and when you might want to consider using it.

Read moreWhat is IMAP? And How Can it Help Me Manage My Email?

How do I deal with one email account on two machines?

I run a desktop and a laptop. They both have the same email address as my husband and I share this. When the PC is switched on, the emails come into that one, but when the laptop is on, they come into that one if the PC is switched off. Is there any easy way to transfer emails from the laptop to the PC without having to set up a new email address or sending each individual email to myself?

I get variations of this question a lot.

There are a lot of misunderstandings of exactly what email is, where it lives, and what it means to have an email address. Clearing up some of that should help you understand what’s happening here, and also help you decide how you want to handle it.

Read moreHow do I deal with one email account on two machines?

Footnotes & references

3: I use “PC” here to reference any device on which you read email that runs an email program. That could be a desktop or laptop computer, but it may also include a variety of portable and mobile devices as well. The key is that the device has an email program used to access your email.

4: OK, OK. Technically, when you view a web page, it is “downloaded” to your machine so you can view it. Viewing email on the web is viewing web pages. The distinction here is that it’s not download as email. It’s “downloaded” only as something that’s being displayed in your browser’s window.

Can I access the mail on my desktop from a networked machine?


Hi, Leo. Is it possible somehow to access the contents in the email folders in my desktop computer from my network laptop, which is setup with the same email account? The desktop is out of action for the moment but I’d like to check some emails. The operating systems are Windows XP and I’m running Outlook Express.

The default answer is no, particularly for what are likely the default settings in the scenario that you’ve outlined. But there are ways that if things are set up differently, the scenario can in fact be made to work, kind of.

Read moreCan I access the mail on my desktop from a networked machine?

What Are Outlook.com’s IMAP, POP3, and SMTP Settings?

How do I use Hotmail or Outlook.com with my desktop email program? It wants something about POP3 and SMTP. What should I put in?

With the proliferation of devices running their own email programs, settings for POP3, SMTP, and now more frequently IMAP are a popular request for the various email services.

For a long time, Microsoft didn’t provide the ability to connect to a desktop email program, but they added it to Hotmail a few years ago. With the transition to Outlook.com as Hotmail’s replacement, that functionality remains.

Read moreWhat Are Outlook.com’s IMAP, POP3, and SMTP Settings?

Footnotes & references

5: Hotmail and Outlook.com are the same thing these days. Settings that used to work for Hotmail, based on Microsoft’s old Live.com servers, should continue to work. This article outlines the current settings documented by Microsoft.

What are Yahoo’s IMAP, POP3, and SMTP settings?

I heard that Yahoo! is making POP3/IMAP access available to everyone, not just their paying Plus! customers. What are the settings?

I’m actually surprised that making POP3/IMAP access available to everyone took Yahoo! this long. Competition in the free email world is fierce, and this has been an obviously lacking feature.

Until now, that is.

Read moreWhat are Yahoo’s IMAP, POP3, and SMTP settings?

Can I Access One Email Account from Another?

I have two email addresses. Can I have them sent to one and get it the other?

It’s a little unclear as to exactly what you’re looking for here. But I’m going to assume that you have two email addresses and want to configure them so you can use just one.

There are a couple of different approaches and I’ll give you some examples.

Read moreCan I Access One Email Account from Another?