Switching Email to IMAP? Make Sure Other Devices Aren’t Deleting Your Inbox

If you are switching an email account from POP to IMAP, make an inventory of all the other computers, gadgets and devices that may be accessing your email via POP. All of them — iPhone, Androids, iPads, Mac, PC, every last one. At the least, they will mark all your Inbox items as read when checking for new mail. At worst, they will delete the messages from the server. Which will drive you insane if you’re not aware of what’s happening.

In the worst-case scenario, those POP accounts have a preference set to delete messages from the server after retrieving. It may also be an unchecked checkbox for the option to leave a copy of retrieved messages on the server.

I’m sharing this obscure bit of info because it would have saved me hours and hours of troubleshooting my mom’s email setup. Ideally you’d just switch all the accounts to IMAP, but not being a Windows user I didn’t want to delete her POP account and risk losing all the messages on her PC. I had no idea how to back them up before deleting the account in Outlook. Ended up just setting the POP account to not automatically check for mail. A hack for sure, but better safe than sorry. And I’m glad I didn’t delete those POP accounts, because it turned out she had three devices set to delete messages from the server when checking for mail, which meant her Inbox was scattered across her smartphone, her main PC and her old PC (which she used when her main PC was acting up). I set up her MacBook to leave a copy on the server when I first set it up for her.

For those curious why my Mom has more computers than most computer geeks (which she most assuredly is not), here’s the scoop: my brother and I got tired of troubleshooting her PC because as Mac users, we were in the dark on how to do anything but the basics. And she was constantly having problems with it. But the meager 2GB of RAM shipped with the MacBook we got for her was making it so slow she (understandably) stopped using it. Back to the PC, which ended up getting screwed up so she had a spare which a friend gave to her.

The MacBook now has 4GB of RAM, and runs much better. And all of her devices were changed over to IMAP, with the POP accounts left intact but set to not be included in the auto Send/Receive action. That was the best I could do as a Mac guy. And of course they were all set to leave a copy of messages on the server! I’m still not sure if she’s using the MacBook though…

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