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IT Services provides @Stanford mail users with a choice between IMAP and POP email service.

POP service:

  • All @Stanford  email accounts used POP prior to the 2002 release of IMAP; if you haven't started using IMAP with your @Stanford email, then you are using POP.
  • POP was designed for, and works best in, the situation where you use only a single desktop computer.
  • Normally, messages are downloaded to your desktop computer and then deleted from the mail server.
  • If you choose to work with your POP mail on more than one machine, you may have trouble with email messages getting downloaded on one machine that you need to work with on another machine; for example, you may need a message at work that was downloaded to your machine at home.
  • If you choose the POP option "keep mail on server", your POP "inbox" can grow large and unwieldy, and email operations can become inefficient and time-consuming.
  • Your archive of mail, if you have one, is kept on your desktop computer — you generally need little storage space on the mail server.
  • You have to take care of your own backups of the mail downloaded to your computer.

IMAP service:

  • IMAP is designed for the situation where you need to work with your email from multiple computers, such as your workstation at work, your desktop computer at home, or a laptop computer while traveling.
  • Messages are displayed on your local computer but are kept and stored on the mail server — you can work with all your mail, old and new, from any Internet computer.
  • Your archive of mail grows on the mail server — you generally need more storage space than you would need when using POP.
  • You can create subfolders on the mail server to organize the mail you want to keep, thus keeping your "inbox" small.
  • Mail kept on the server is backed up nightly by IT Services (backups are kept for 6 days).

For more comparison help, see Is IMAP right for me?

Tell me the details...

  1. Who is eligible for IMAP?
  2. What are the steps for moving from POP to IMAP?
  3. Can I switch back from IMAP to POP?
  4. Is my IMAP mailbox different from my POP one?
  5. Can I use both POP and IMAP?
  6. What email software can I use with IMAP?
  7. Does Webmail work with IMAP?
  8. How much storage space do I get?

Who is eligible for IMAP?

Any Stanford community member with a full-service SUNet ID (in general, that includes Stanford students, faculty and staff, as well as people sponsored for a full-service SUNet ID) is eligible to use IMAP.

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What are the steps for moving from POP to IMAP?

  1. Choose the IMAP email client software you want to use. See Email Programs at Stanford for a list of recommended programs 
  2. Configure the email client software for Stanford's IMAP on your computer. Be sure to follow our configuration instructions for your email client.
  3. If necessary or desired, move POP mail you have downloaded to your desktop computer onto the IMAP mail server. This procedure varies depending on the client software for both POP and IMAP. (See Your First Day with IMAP.)
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for other desktop or laptop computers on which you want to work with your email. Be sure you do not use a POP client to work with your email after you begin using IMAP — if you do, you run the likely risk of deleting your IMAP mail from the server.

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Can I switch back from IMAP to POP?

Yes, anytime you want. You have a single @Stanford mailbox, and you choose whether to work with that mailbox using POP or IMAP, making the selection in the client software you use. If you do decide to switch back, keep in mind that any mail you have moved into IMAP folders on the server (other than the Inbox) is not accessible from POP. (You could still get to it through the IMAP interface for Webmail, however. More likely though, you would explicitly delete your IMAP folders as part of the switch to POP.)

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Is my IMAP mailbox different from my POP one?

Most places providing email support give you no choice: they provide POP or they provide IMAP. We are using mail server software that lets us provide both for the same mailbox. You have a single @Stanford mailbox, and in the client software you use, you choose whether to work with that mailbox using POP or IMAP. You don't need to tell us which you are using, or have us move your mailbox from one type of server to another. In other words, you don't have either an IMAP mailbox or a POP mailbox - you have one mailbox that supports both the POP and IMAP protocols. (But see the next question for an important warning.)

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Can I use both POP and IMAP?

If you plan on using Webmail, it is recommended that you use IMAP instead of POP with your regular email client, so that your email will always be available to you, regardless of the location you access it from.

You can configure your @Stanford email client to use POP or IMAP. Webmail only uses IMAP. With IMAP, email in your Inbox remains on the server until you delete it, making it available to any other IMAP client on any other computer that you use. If you use a POP-based email client to access your email, the default settings are to download all email to your computer and delete it from the server. Email downloaded to your regular POP email client will not be available in your IMAP (Webmail) inbox later.

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What email software can I use with IMAP?

See Email Programs at Stanford for a list of recommended email clients.

Other programs can also be used with IMAP, but we cannot guarantee that we can help you if you run into problems since we may not be familiar with them.

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Does Webmail work with IMAP?

Yes. Go to webmail.stanford.edu and log in to IMAP Webmail. You can use the regular POP-based Webmail as well, but you will see only your Inbox and not any IMAP subfolders you have created.

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How much storage space do I get?

Your @stanford email account comes with 3 GB of storage space (also known as quota) for non-sponsored SUNet IDs, 1 GB for sponsored SUNet IDs, and 5 GB for faculty. As you save more mail on the servers, this may fill up. When you near your quota, you can either delete messages or move some messages down from the server to your desktop to free up space.

You can also purchase more email storage space. See Sponsorship Manager for rates and to sponsor additional quota.

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Last modified January 24, 2012