Using IMAP email with Microsoft Outlook

IMAP Email

Most email users are familiar with POP3 e-mail. When using POP3, when you open Microsoft Outlook or select Send & Receive, your e-mail messages are downloaded to your computer and then usually deleted from the mail server. E-mails sent from your computer are saved locally in your Sent items. POP3 email is extremely simple and easy to manage. The main disadvantage however, is the difficulty in accessing the same email account from multiple computers or email enabled devices.

With IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) e-mail is stored on the server and your email software (eg Microsoft Outlook or similar) or other mobile device logs onto the server and accesses it there. As e-mail is stored on the server, it can be accessed by multiple devices and can be processed without downloading it to the computer or device that you are working on.

Setting up your email account in Outlook is the same as for POP except that you select the account type IMAP when configuring.

See article on configuring your email account using Microsoft Outlook

Managing your IMAP account is slightly more complicated than simple POP as you are working on a remote server. Outlook (or any other email software) can be configured so that some functions it would normally carry out locally, are instead processed on the remote server. Some folder settings may also need to be updated to point at the remote location rather than locally.

Additionally, as your IMAP account on the server has a defined capacity (depends on package), storing email permanently on the server will eventually use up the available capacity. Email stored on the server must therefore be archived or downloaded to free up capacity periodically.

Downloading messages.

When you open Outlook, it will connect to the remote server and download and display the message headers only (from, date & subject). Messages are only downloaded to your computer when you open a message or mark it for download and subsequently process this. This facility allows you to choose which message you wish to download and store rather than doing so automatically. 

You can override this setting in Outlook so that it downloads the entire message & attachments rather than just the headers.

  •  Select Tools >>  Send/Receive >> Send/Receive settings and click on Define Send/Receive groups.
  •  Click on the group with your IMAP account
  •  Under Accounts, click on the IMAP account
  •  Select the check box for each folder you want to include for downloading, then select "Download Complete item including attachments"
  • Ok & finish

Downloaded Messages

Downloaded messages are stored in a Microsoft Outlook .pst file, not in your local inbox. To open this file, select "File", select "Open" and choose Outlook Data File. Select the data file from the data file list & select OK.

When you delete a message in Outlook, the message is only marked locally as deleted. To permanently delete and remove from the server, you should Purge the message folder. This can be done manually by selecting Edit, then Purge and select the desired purge option.

To purge messages automatically

  • Select Edit, Purge, Purge options
  • Under purge Options, Tick the box - Purge items when switching folders

By default when you send or reply to an email using Outlook, the sent message is stored locally on your computer. If you need to access your sent items from another device, they can be stored on the remote server instead. To save messages to the Sent items on the server, you must change the save location in Outlook.

  • Select Tools, then "account Settings", double click on the email account to open its account settings.
  • Click on "More Settings" button
  • Select "Folders" tab
  • Select option - Choose an existing folder or create a new folder to save sent items You will see the IMAP account in the box, navigate to the folder "Sent", select & click on OK.
  • Click Next & Finish

Archiving your email.

Your IMAP account on the remote server has a certain capacity and will eventually fill up. Your IMAP folders should be archived regularly so you have a permanent copy stored locally. Archiving will remove the archived messages from the server, freeing up capacity again.

To archive your email:

  • Click on the IMAP Inbox on your folder list.
  • Select "File" on menu and select "Archive"
  • Select "archive this folder and all subfolders"
    •  Choose a date that suits you, e.g. everything over 3 month old
    •  Select OK to archive

 Archiving will save to an archive folder which will appear in your folder list.and will mark the archived messages for deletion from the remote server. 

Check the archive folder to ensure all files are successfully downloaded before using the PURGE command to wipe them from the remote server. This should be repeated whenever your remote folder is approaching its capacity limit.

The exact procedure may vary depending on your email software and version. If you are using the older name for incoming or outgoing mail server - this is OK, both will work.

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