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Gmail IMAP settings: What they mean and how to set them up

How To
By
November 18, 2021
Gmail on Android smartphone

When you take a peek into Gmail’s settings, everything is pretty much straightforward. But then you notice the Gmail IMAP settings and you’re mystified as to what they mean, and what they’re used for.

This article will explain what the Gmail IMAP settings are and how to configure them.

Read more: How to configure Gmail SMTP settings

QUICK ANSWER

Gmail IMAP is when you want to download your Gmail emails to an email client on your computer, such as Outlook. IMAP will not only download the messages but also sync your changes back to the Gmail servers, so everything stays the same.

A guide to Gmail IMAP settings

Not everybody likes to use the online version of Gmail. Some still prefer the old-fashioned way of using email clients such as Microsoft Outlook, iOS Mail or MacOS Mail. Some may even like using the outdated and now obsolete Mozilla Thunderbird. There are also some who are forced to use them because their employer demands it.

If you find yourself in the email client camp, either willingly or unwillingly, then IMAP is there to make your life easier.

It’s actually very easy to set up, as you’ll see below.

How to set up Gmail IMAP

Go to Gmail’s Forwarding and POP/IMAP page, scroll down till you reach the IMAP settings section, and select Enable IMAP.

gmail imap 1
Mark O'Neill / Android Authority

When you’ve selected Enable IMAP, new options appear. But don’t change any of them. Just select Save Changes.

gmail imap 2
Mark O'Neill / Android Authority

To access your email through your email client, use these configurations.

Incoming Mail (IMAP) Server imap.gmail.com
Requires SSL: Yes
Port: 993
Outgoing Mail (SMTP) Server smtp.gmail.com
Requires SSL: Yes
Requires TLS: Yes (if available)
Requires Authentication: Yes
Port for SSL: 465
Port for TLS/START TLS: 587
Full Name or Display Name Your name
Account Name, User name, or Email address Your full email address
Password Your password

It’s possible that not all the information will be required. Thunderbird, for example, doesn’t ask for your name.

The screenshot below shows what the email client configuration screen should look like, once you fill in the correct Gmail IMAP options.

thunderbird imap

It should also be noted that if you have two-factor authentication enabled on your email account, giving the email client your password will not work. In that case, you need to generate an application-specific password in the Security section of your Google account.

gmail passwords
Mark O'Neill / Android Authority

Read more: How to transfer emails from one Gmail account to another

FAQ

What is the difference between IMAP and POP?

The difference is where your emails are stored. With IMAP, messages are downloaded to your local email client. But they are also synchronised with the email server (in this case, Gmail). So if you send a message with say Outlook, that message will get uploaded to Gmail’s servers to sit in your “sent” folder.

On the other hand, POP only downloads your emails to your local email client – it does not send new messages back to the email server.

What is the difference between IMAP and SMTP?

IMAP retrieves messages from your email server and downloads them to you. SMTP meanwhile is for sending emails from the sender (you) to another email server.