Changing POP email to IMAP on Apple devices…

Yesterday I did something I’ve been wanting to do for along time – change my email from a POP account to an IMAP account. Why…?

…I use three devices to read and send my email (laptop, tablet, smartphone). With my POP account all three devices receive ALL the messages (even when I’ve deleted them on another device) and all the messages I send live in separate “Sent” folders on different devices. And it was just becoming too time consuming (and frustrating!) to manage that across all devices and difficult to keep track of where everything was.

Now that I’ve changed to an IMAP set-up, whenever I read a message on one device it marks it as read on all the others. If I receive and delete a message on my phone, it will also be deleted from my laptop. All messages that I send, from any device, show up in my “Sent” folder on all devices. That’s because with IMAP all the messages live on a central server and are synced from there across all the devices I tell it to. But I prefer to think of it as magic.

It’s brilliant, it’s revolutionised the way I use email, I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get round to changing over, especially since it’s so easy to do. And so I wanted to share how easy it is to do with anyone else who might want to know how to do it too. Some of the below will be very obvious to some of you but I’m imagining having to explain this to my wife, not a geek like me…

I use Apple Mail as my email client, so the instructions here are specific to that.

FIRST THING you’ll need to do is to find out the IMAP server address from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Just phone them up and ask or google “IMAP <your ISP name>” – even BT have an answer for that. At Unlimited we use (and always have since 1997) the brilliant Phone Coop for all our web hosting needs. They’re small, reliable, friendly, a co-operative, committed to behaving ethically and with a sense of social responsibility and there’s always someone on the end of the phone. We recommend them!

You’ll also need to know your <username> and <password> for the email address you’re setting up.

NOW – back everything up. DO NOT skip this step. Time Machine on the Mac operating system is brilliant for this and a 1TB drive costs as little as £69 when I posted this. In case anything goes wrong, you can just restore everything to how it was before.

Open Mail. Go to File->Preferences->Accounts-> and create a new account  by clicking on the <plus sign> button in the bottom left of the window. Follow theinstructions, entering all the information requested. Make sure you specify, when asked, that the “Type of account”  is IMAP. The only information that is different from your existing POP account settings is the “Incoming Mail Server” which is the IMAP server you found out from your ISP.

Make sure in Preferences>Account>Mailbox Behaviours you UNCHECK “Store deleted messgaes on the server” or all of your deleted messages keep re-appearing. VERY irritating.

Close the Preferences window and now you should see a new account

Underneath your new Mailbox in the sidebar will be a couple of sub-folders e.g. “Sent” “Drafts” “Trash” – Select/highlight them one at a time then choose Mailbox->Use this mailbox for->Sent (for Sent) etc.

If you want to keep access to all your existing “Sent” items (I did) then create a new folder in the “On My Mac” section of Mail (Mailbox->New Mailbox) calling it something like “Sent Archive”. Select all the messaged from your (now old) POP account’s Sent folder and drag them all into the “Sent Archive” folder.

Now drag any/messages from your POP account Inbox into your new IMAP inbox.

Final thing to do then is in Preferences->Accounts select your existing POP account and in “Advanced” UNCHECK the “Enable this account” option. This allows you to keep the account but it won’t show in the main MAIL window. If you delete the account, it will delete EVERYTHING associated with it.

Now you should be set to go and all imapped up. You’ll just have to disable the POP account on your smartphone/tablet (in my case iPhone and iPad) and then sync them both having specified in iTunes on your main, desktop machine which account you want to sync.

Hope that all makes sense and is helpful to some of you.

Right, I’m off to make some art.

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