What Is a POP3 Email Account?


Post Office Protocol has been a standard of communications between email programs and servers that host emails for decades. The Internet Engineering Task Force has recognized POP3 as the current standard for this protocol since 1996. If you use Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail as your email provider, you have access to your email accounts via POP3.


  • The third version of Post Office Protocol is a technology that allows computers and programs to interact with the server that stores your email accounts. POP3 allows programs such as Outlook or Thunderbird to download your email messages to your local computer, cellphone or other mobile device. POP3 offers an alternative to checking your email via Web browser. Many browser-based email providers, such as Gmail, also provide POP3 access to your email accounts.


  • You can keep up to date with multiple email accounts from multiple email providers, using a client that relies on POP3 to check your email. Thus, you save time you would have spent navigating to multiple websites to check your email. Programs such as Thunderbird include configurations that will automatically check and update you of new email messages received via POP3. Additionally, POP3 email clients download messages directly to your computer so you can have two copies, if you also leave your emails on the server, and can take your email with you via removable media such as a USB drive.


  • In order to access a POP3 email account to check your email from a program such as Outlook or even to access additional email accounts from within your Gmail account, you must input your email server's POP3 address, your user name and password so the email program can access the originating server. Frequently, a server's POP3 address is "pop.domain.com" or "mail.domain.com," where "domain.com" represents a real email site. Your user name is often your whole email address or simply the beginning of your email address before the "@" sign, and your password is the same as you would use to log into your email via browser.


  • Although POP3 provides a standard way for your email program to download messages from the server, it does not also provide functionality for sending messages. Therefore, you must also either input your mail server's Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) address or use IMAP instead. IMAP is a technology that allows two-way communication between your computer and the remote server that hosts your email account.

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