Switching from POP to IMAP in Gmail

April 1, 2011, By Christian Cawley

By default, Gmail uses the POP3 method for managing your email messages, which means if you have an email client on your computer or mobile device you can use it to connect to your Gmail account and download messages.

This is great – mobile email can help you keep in touch at vital times – however it can prove a little inelegant and confusing should you be accessing the same account from multiple devices. You might be using folders on one device, for instance, to make browsing through your inbox easier, and these will not be replicated to the other device if you’re using POP.

In order to sync folders between devices – and by extension your email folder – you need to be using IMAP.

Switching from POP to IMAP in Gmail

Benefits of IMAP

Although we’ve previously covered setting up an email account in your desktop client using IMAP settings, there is a lot more to this method of email collection. Distinguishable from POP (Post Office Protocol) by both its name (Internet Message Access Protocol) and the method with which it handles messages, IMAP can be used by pretty much any email client, just like POP can.

With IMAP you can perform an action with your email messages on one device and this action will be synced to the mail server, and by extension any other devices connected to the same email account.

This allows for advanced email management – you can move emails into new folders on your mobile and they will be moved when you switch on your PC, for instance.

Configuring Gmail to use IMAP is a relatively straightforward task – however note that you will need to update your email account setup in all email clients to reflect the change.

Switch Gmail from POP to IMAP

Begin by signing into your Gmail account in your web browser. Next, go to Settings in the top left corner and select Forwarding and POP/IMAP.

Here you will need to first use the Disable POP option before moving to and selecting Enable IMAP. Finally click Save Changes to update the account settings. You will now need to update your email client with the relevant details. How this is done will depend on the email client you use – for further information use the Configuration instructions on the Forwarding and POP/IMAP screen.

Different email clients will afford you different levels of access to the IMAP settings, allowing you to interact with your messages in slightly different ways.

For instance if you use Microsoft Outlook 2010, access your updated Gmail account settings via File > Account Settings > Change and use the More Settings… > Deleted Items properties box to select a folder to move deleted items to. You can also activate the option to Purge items when switching folders. Similar options are available on the Sent Items tab, giving you some useful options for managing which messages you see and don’t see.

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