Use POP3 or IMAP for Your Gmail Outlook Connection

Updated February 18, 2012




I like that Google offers two different ways to create a Gmail Outlook 2010 connection. I’ve got detailed instructions on how to set up Gmail and Outlook either way. Read about the pros and cons of each here, then once you’ve decided, click the link at the bottom of this page to continue the process.

POP3 and IMAP with Respect to a Gmail Outlook 2010 Connection

Here’s a really quick review of what POP3 and IMAP do from the perspective of making a Gmail Outlook 2010 connection.

  • POP3 lets you send and receive Gmail messages with Outlook. Outlook copies messages from your Gmail Inbox into your Outlook Inbox. You can set it up to delete the messages from the Gmail mailbox when Outlook copies them, or to leave a copy in the Gmail mailbox.

    There is no synchronization between your Gmail folders and Outlook when you use this approach. For example, if you delete one of these messages in Outlook, it doesn’t affect what you see in Gmail. Or if you move a message from one folder to another in Gmail, nothing happens to it in Outlook.

    All POP3 does is let you copy messages from your Gmail account (deleting them if you wish) into Outlook, and send messages as if they were being sent directly from your Gmail account. It creates a basic Gmail Outlook 2010 connection.

    Another advantage of using POP3 has to do with flags and categories. Since you are copying your messages into the Outlook Inbox, you can use Outlook’s flags and categories with these messages.

  • IMAP also lets you send and receive Gmail messages with Outlook. However, instead of copying messages from Gmail into the Outlook Inbox, with IMAP, Outlook creates a set of folders that duplicates those in your Gmail account. Outlook and Gmail continually synchronize those messages and folders.

    Create a folder in Gmail, and it appears in Outlook. Delete a message in Outlook and it gets deleted in Gmail. In effect, what you get is an exact replica of your Gmail folders and messages within Outlook. This is very much like the way your regular Outlook mail folders work when Outlook is connected to an Exchange server.

    If you make changes to the Gmail folders in Outlook while your computer is not connected to the Internet, the changes get synchronized the next time Outlook is running and has an Internet connection. Likewise, changes you make in Gmail get synchronized the next time you run Outlook with an Internet connection. This makes for a more flexible Gmail Outlook 2010 connection.

    There is, however, one drawback. Because IMAP doesn’t support Outlook’s flags and categories, you can’t use these with an IMAP connection.




How Do I Choose?

So which is the best Gmail Outlook 2010 connection for you? POP3 or IMAP?

That depends on what your goals are for your Gmail Outlook 2010 connection. The big advantage of using POP3 is that messages end up in your Outlook Inbox like any other messages. Once you have everything set up, you can treat your Gmail messages the same as all your other messages.

But IMAP has big advantages if you ever need access to your email when you do not have access to Outlook. Because IMAP synchronizes folders and messages with Outlook, you can work with your messages either using Outlook, or directly in your Gmail account using any web browser.

Even better, if you have multiple computers using Outlook, you can connect each one of them to the Gmail account using IMAP. This lets you resolve the old problem of being able to work with your mail on any of your computers.

There’s also the added bonus that an up-to-date copy of your Gmail messages is still available on Google’s servers if something bad happens to the computer that has Outlook on it.

On the other hand, with IMAP, your Gmail messages go into their own set of Outlook folders, rather than into the Inbox with everything else. So you have two sets of mail folders to attend to when working in Outlook. You also have to live without applying Outlook’s flags and categories to these messages.

So Which Should You Choose for Your Gmail Outlook 2010 Connection?

The final decision is yours to make, but here are my suggestions:

  • If you are just looking for another email address to use with the minimum fuss and bother, use POP3.

  • If you are a mobile user, or want to have access to your email on multiple computers, or like the idea of having an up-to-date copy of your messages and folders safe on the Google servers, use IMAP.


Now that you know whether you will use POP3 or IMAP, it is time to return to the Gmail Outlook 2010 Manual Configuration instructions.

Find More Info…

3 Comments on "Use POP3 or IMAP for Your Gmail Outlook Connection"

  1. Very, very nice page! 🙂

  2. AM,

    This is a great point, and one that I missed in my writeups about choosing between POP3 and IMAP. I will update the site to reflect this.

    Thank you for your valuable addition to the site!

    –Bill

  3. There is one big advantage to configure Outlook for GMail with POP3 access: using categories and flags. People like me who have to handle multiple messages per day and prioritizing and setting reminders are a must, cannot live without the Outlook features of categories and flags. IMAP do not support that. Very bad and very unfortunate, but that’s the truth.

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