How To Change From POP3 To IMAP


Although POP3 is an old email access mechanism, many people are still using it.

POP3 has been superseded by the newer and better IMAP4 protocol, and you should consider moving to IMAP, especially if you will be accessing email using multiple email clients.

[outline style=”yellow”]IMAP4  leaves your email on the email server where it is available to use from any location, and any client.[/outline]

Switching from POP3 to IMAP4

One of the biggest obstacles most people face when considering changing from POP3 access to IMAP4 is what happens to their old email messages and contacts.

You can change from using POP3 to using IMAP4, and still retain your old Email and contacts, by following this simple procedure:

  • Configure a new account but with IMAP4 Access. Important Note: the account uses the same mailbox name, email address and password.
  • Disable the POP3 account on your client.
  • Set the new IMAP4 mailbox as the default mailbox.
  • Move Messages from the old inbox, sent items,deleted items etc to new folders on the IMAP4 account. Note: optional
  • Remove the old POP3 account.Note: optional

Example Move

The current account for [email protected] uses POP3 to access email as shown below.


We now configure a new account for [email protected] to access the same mailbox using IMAP4.


You now have two accounts configured for the same user accesing the same mailbox.

Disable the  POP3 Mailbox/Account

To prevent new messages being received into the old POP3 mailbox you need to disable the account from the synchronisation process.

For example: On Outlook express go to Tools>accounts>select account>properties>general and un-tick the box include the account when receiving mail and synchronizing.


For Outlook (2003) go to Tools>options>Mail setup>send/receive Then click edit. Select account and un-tick option include the selected account in this group.


Other clients should have a similar option, you may just need to search a little to find it.

If you can’t disable synchronisation then you can simply change the account properties e.g. password so that it is invalid, and so synchronisation will fail.

The only problem with this method is that you will get error messages when it tries to synchronise which is why it is better if you can disable it.

I do both as an safeguard just in case I forget, and re-enable the account at later date.

Set The New Default IMAP Email Account

To switch to using the new account you need to set it as the default email account.

For example,on Outlook express go to Tools>accounts>mail>select account and click set as default


Accessing Old POP3 Email Messages

If you want to retain access to your old email messages you have two options:

  1. Leave them in the existing Store and retain access to the store.
  2. Copy the messages to the new IMAP4 Mailbox.

Leave Email in Existing Store

All of yourPOP3 messages are stored on your local PC.

So providing you aren’t changing computer or email client then you can simply continue to access these messages, as they are already stored on your PC.

However you cannot delete the old account.

Copy Old Email to the New IMAP4 Mailbox

The advantage so this method if that if you move email clients or change computers in the future you wont need to worry about copying old messages.

Highlight any Messages in the inbox folder and press CTRL+A to highlight all of them and press CTRL+C.

Click the inbox of the new IMAP4 account to highlight it and press CTR+V to copy them to the inbox of the IMAP4 account.

Repeat for the sent items and any other folders.

Tip! -You can also use this opportunity to archive the old email by creating an archive folder in the IMAP4 account and moving the old email into the archive.

Once the messages are in the IMAP4 folders they will be copied back to the server, and are then available to other clients.

Remove The Old POP3 Account

If you have copied the old messages then you can remove the old pop3 account.

However I would wait a few weeks before you do this just to make sure everything is working OK.

On outlook express Tools>accounts>mail>select account and click Remove


Changing from POP3 To IMAP4 Video

Here is a video that takes you through the main aspects:

Email Contacts

Email contacts aren’t stored in your mailbox, and they should still be available provided you use the same email client.

If you move email clients then you will need to export and import the contacts using a .csv file.

Common Questions and Answers

  • Can I use the same method to copy email from a Gmail account to a Yahoo account ?Yes this method works for all mailbox types.
  • What Email client can I use? – Any email client that supports both POP3 and IMAP4.
  • What Happens to archived messages in Outlook? – If you are using outlook as your email client you probably have messages archived. You will need to copy these messages over as well if you want to keep them, and are not able to access the old message store. (see above)
  • Do I still use SMTP to send email? – Yes IMAP4 is only used for reading email.
  • What Happens to my Mailbox size limits? – They stay the same.


The client copy method used above is the easiest way of moving from a POP3 mailbox to IMAP4.

It is can is also used to copy any email account to any other email account.

Related Articles and Resources: