IMAP, POP, SMTP – Port Settings and Guides

If you have ever set up your email on a desktop or mobile device, chances are you were prompted to enter IMAP, SMTP, and/or POP3 settings.

If you found yourself scratching your head to figure out what all that alphabet soup means, you’re not alone. Email is the most widely used technology on the Internet, but most of us have no idea how it works.

If you’re using a popular email service, your email client may be able to set up your account without asking you for any of these settings.

However, if you’re hosting your own email (which you probably are since you’re reading this here), chances are you’ll need to set things up manually. Don’t worry, it’s a fairly simple process once you understand the terms.

IMAP, SMTP, and POP3 are the most common mail protocols used to send and receive email over the Internet:

IMAP

Internet Message Access Protocol. IMAP is used to receive email from a server. IMAP allows you to sync messages between your email server and your email client, and to work with your email on multiple devices.

IMAP Ports

IMAP typically works on port 143 for non-encrypted email, or port 993 for secure connections.

SMTP

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. This protocol is used to send messages. Some email clients may also refer to this as the Outbound Mail Server.

SMTP Ports

SMTP will usually use Port 25 for non-encrypted email, or port 465 for secure connections.

POP3

Sometimes referred to as POP or Post Office Protocol, this is the simplest of the two incoming mail protocols. It allows your email client to download all new messages from your email server, and then deletes those message from the server.

POP3 Ports

POP3 typically uses port 110 for non-encrypted email, or port 995 for secure connections.

Configuring your Email Client

IMAP, SMTP, and POP3 aren’t things you need to think about very often. You will need to know how to configure them when you set up a new email client, but after the initial set up you should not have to deal with them again.

Every email host configures their email servers different, so no matter how much of an expert you are, you’re going to need to visit their site to get it right.

Most hosts provide step-by-step guides for configuring desktop and mobile email clients. When reviewing these instructions, there are a few things you need look for:

The IMAP, SMTP, and POP3 Addresses. Some hosts use a separate address for each protocol, such as imap.yourhost.com and smtp.yourhost.com. Others use the same address regardless of the protocol you enter, such as mail.yourhost.com.

The Ports. We’ve listed the most popular ports for each protocol above, but some hosts may use others. What’s more, many hosts now use different ports for desktop and mobile clients.

Login and Security Requirements. Most mail clients don’t use an encrypted connection, but if yours does (this is a good thing!), make sure to change your ports to either SSL or TSL, depending on your host’s directions.

FAQs

Should I use IMAP or POP?

If you only ever check your email from one device, POP3 may work fine. However, if you regularly check your email from multiple devices, or you like the idea of having a copy of your messages stored in the cloud, you’re going to want to make the switch to IMAP.

IMAP allows you to sync your email across devices and your email server. Whether using your desktop, phone, tablet, or webmail client, you can access all of your emails, sorted identically on every device.

If you read an email on your phone, it will be marked as read on your desktop too. If you create a special folder to store work email, that folder will appear on all of your devices.

Drag a message to that folder on your tablet, and it will be moved on your phone… you get the idea. Managing your email with IMAP works very much like managing files on Dropbox or Google Drive.

Some services are offering enhanced POP features to make that protocol more useful in the mobile age. For instance, Gmail offers a “recent” mode, which keeps all of the messages you have received in the past month on their server, even after you’ve downloaded them to your email client.

While this means you can still view recent messages from your other devices, it is a very limited feature and doesn’t allow you to sync folders or pull up an old message on the go. Make the switch to IMAP. You’ll be happy you did.

Are settings the same for all email clients?

In most cases, yes. However, some email hosts have started using separate email servers for desktop and mobile devices, so it’s always best to check your email provider’s instruction page just to be sure.

That said, if one configuration doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to try the other. Their desktop server settings should work just fine on your phone too.

That said, if one configuration doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to try the other. Their desktop server settings should work just fine on your phone too.

I’m using POP3. How can I switch to IMAP?

If your email client supports multiple email accounts, the switch is simple. Just add a new account using the IMAP settings. Then drag all of your messages from the POP3 account over to your new IMAP account.

If your email is sorted into multiple folders, some clients will allow you to drag the entire folder to the new account. Others will require you to create a new folder and just drag the messages.

Once you’re done moving your messages, all of your mail should then sync to your email server, so it can be viewed from any device. Go ahead and delete that old POP3 account.

If your email client does not support multiple accounts, you will need to back up your mail messages first. Check your email client’s help system to see if they offer a good backup tool, and run it!

Many desktop clients will allow you to create folders that are not associated with a specific email account. By moving your messages to these folders, you shouldn’t lose them when you delete the POP3 account.

Once you’ve moved all of your messages, delete the old account and create a new IMAP account. Then drag your stored messages into the IMAP account.

Further Resources

Collection of links to specific guides:

Outlook

Specific Hosts

Last update: Nov 20th, 2017

Jaramy Conners

About Jaramy Conners

Jaramy has been a technical writer for many years, specializing in privacy, identity theft, blogging, business, and communications writing. But he's also a children's writer. His short story "Steve" won the Hunger Mountain Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing. He lives with his wife in upstate New York.