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Which protocol should be used when two users (separate computers) want to check one email account - POP3 or IMAP?

The problem is when one user deletes an email because they check it but the other person hasn't. It gets deleted from the second users email before they get a chance to check it. Is there any solution to solve this problem?

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What is/are the email clients? –  Synetech Sep 25 '12 at 1:02
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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

You want to use IMAP! POP3 is not designed for this scenario!

While you can tell POP3 to keep a copy of your messages on the server, it is also downloading them to your local coputer. Note the word "copy". Using this option with a mailbox shared with one person, you'll wind up with three copies of every messaage: one on the server, and one local copy on each of your systems!

Furthermore, it's impossible to share Sent messages in POP3. All sent mail is local.

IMAP, on the other hand, will do exactly what you need. While some data for each message is downloaded locally, the server keeps the original of all messages. Every message either of you access is the same.

In addition, all sent mail is kept on the server.

IMAP will give you a truly shared mail box.

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but, "The problem is when one user deletes an email because they check it but the other person hasn't. It gets deleted from the second users email before they get a chance to check it" –  JoshP Sep 25 '12 at 5:22
    
If you download the e-mails from the server and delete them from the server, which is a scenario that both IMAP4 and POP3 supports, which protocol is used for communicating with the server is totally inconsequential. The answer, like @Josh points out, if you want to use a single mailbox is to configure the mail client to leave the mail on the server, whether by accessing the mailbox in an online fashion or downloading and leaving copies for the other user. –  Michael Kjörling Sep 25 '12 at 7:19
    
Slightly off topic but "Furthermore, it's impossible to share Sent messages in POP3. All sent mail is local." unless you use Google Mail as this keeps a copy of sent items sent through POP as well. –  Richard Sep 25 '12 at 7:34
    
True, but the person asking the question didn't specify a specific email service. Therefore, I couldn't ASSUME that they'd be using Gmail. –  geo Sep 27 '12 at 1:28
    
Michael Kjörling wrote: "If you download the e-mails from the server and delete them from the server, which is a scenario that both IMAP4 and POP3 supports, which protocol is used for communicating with the server is totally inconsequential." That's not exactly true. The fact of the matter is that IMAP supports FAR more advanced capabilities than POP3! For example, IMAP supports namespaces, folder subscription, etc., which, assuming the correct setup, would be helpful in just such a scenario as the original asker suggested. –  geo Sep 27 '12 at 1:29
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Use POP, and have both email clients "leave a copy of messages on the server" for some reasonable amount of time for both parties to have checked it. Choose the options you want in your email client account settings.

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@moab, danke schön –  JoshP Sep 25 '12 at 1:48
    
Josh: Sie sind herzlich willkommen –  Moab Sep 25 '12 at 19:43
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If you need to use a single mailbox, then configuring the mail clients to leave messages on the server, as suggested by @Josh, is probably best. That will work equally well whether you use POP3 or IMAP4, since the key is to configure the client to leave the message on the server. IMAP4 works just as well as POP3 in an "offline" setting, even though it's designed more as an online access protocol than is POP3.

However, even though it is going slightly outside the scope of the question as asked, unless you have some very specific usage scenario that requires using a single mailbox, I would actually suggest that you create two mailboxes and then set up an alias on the mail server to deliver one address to both mailboxes. Then, what one user does to the e-mail on the server has no consequence for the other user. I don't think there are any full-fledged mail servers that do not support such a concept, whether it's called aliases, distribution lists, forwarding accounts, or something else.

You'll have to train the users to CC or BCC the common address on any replies, and look for replies before replying themselves, but it completely eliminates the risk of one user deleting e-mails for the other.

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