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Chapter 4. .Mac Mail > Two Ways to Check Your .Mac Mail

4.1. Two Ways to Check Your .Mac Mail

One of the best parts of having a Mac.com email address is that you have two options for checking your mail: you can either configure your mail client (such as Mail.app, Entourage, Mailsmith, or Eudora) to check and download your mail, or you can opt to check your mail on the Web via Mac.com's Mail service (formerly known as WebMail).

The .Mac email servers use the Internet Mail Access Protocol (IMAP) for managing access to your email. Without getting technical, IMAP keeps your email on the server, which makes it easy to get at from anywhere, including from Windows or other Unix-based systems. All of your mail stays on the server, even after you've moved an email message to the trash. This means that you need to manage your email carefully to ensure that you don't exceed the mail storage limit of 15 MB that comes standard with every .Mac account.

The other option is that you can configure your email application (such as Mail, Entourage, Mailsmith, or Eudora) to download your email from the .Mac mail servers using the Post-Office Protocol, more commonly known as POP. When you use POP, all of the email will download to your computer when you check mail. Basically, you will be using the .Mac servers as a go-between for sending and receiving mail, rather than storing the mail on the server side.

IMAP Versus POP — Which Is Best for Me?

As you can see, it appears that you have only two options for checking your .Mac Mail: IMAP or POP. But how do you know what's best for you?

The advantage to using IMAP is that your mail is always available from one central location: the .Mac mail servers. Your mail is automatically backed up by Apple, and you don't have to worry about the mail taking up huge amounts of space on your hard drive.

POP on the other hand, downloads the mail to your computer and stores it on your hard drive. That means that your mail is always on your system when you need it, but it also means that you'll need to allow for drive space to store your mail, and that you will need to back up your mail on a regular basis. The one advantage POP has over IMAP is that your .Mac mail will download from Apple's servers onto your computer, which helps you keep under that 15 MB email storage limit.

Which solution you choose—IMAP or POP—is really up to you, and you should seriously consider your options. I use a combination of both IMAP and POP. Since I spend most of my day working in email from work, I have my PowerBook configured to use my work email address (chuck@oreilly.com) as my primary email account, and my PowerMac at home configured to use my .Mac email account (chuckdude@mac.com) as a POP account. Of course, this means that I can't get at a message I've already downloaded to my Mac at home, but that's the choice I've made and the price I've paid.

Refer back to Chapter 1 for instructions on how to configure Mac OS X's Mail application to use POP for accessing your .Mac email.

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