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Can I keep the same email address if I change it from POP3 to imap?

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  • Last reply by Zenos

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In the support article "Switch from POP to IMAP account", is the advice: "If you have created a new email account that uses IMAP, you cannot delete your old POP account without deleting your email address. Before deleting the POP account, you will probably want to inform people who send messages to your old account that they should switch to your new email address....." But I want to make the change keeping my existing email address. Can I do that?

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Yes, so long as your email provider supports IMAP.

It's possible, though not terribly useful, to set one email account up twice in Thunderbird, one using POP and the other IMAP. The only sensible reason to run both concurrently would be your position, where you might want to move material from the POP version to the IMAP version in anticipation of removing the POP version from Thunderbird. I would take issue with the advice you quote in that removing the account from Thunderbird doesn't, in the broadest sense, disable or kill the actual email account.

I think the advice above is well-meant, but slightly misleading. The difficulty is that we use the words "email account" to mean several different things.

You want to use email, so you need an email address to which people can send messages. The messages are sent to a mail server which is associated in some way with your email address. We may refer to the people who run the email server as your "email provider" and in general, they will provide the address, the account, and the server to accept messages sent to you.

Just to complicate things, your email provider may allow you to attach multiple email addresses ("identities") to one account. He may allow you to set up additional email addresses, typically for use by your family, These may or may not be referred to as "email accounts" too. Sometimes "secondary email addresses" are mentioned. (And behind all this, you will also have an account with your email provider for billing purposes, and this is usually, but not always, inextricably linked to your main email account's address too.)

Whoever runs your email server will allow you to connect to it in various ways. You can almost always access an email account's mailbox via a webpage in your browser; we call this "webmail" and it is the default presentation with many ISPs and services such as Googlemail, Hotmail/Live Mail/, Yahoo, AOL, gmx and so on.

They may also offer either or both POP and IMAP, which you can use to get your email using an email client, such as Thunderbird.

An "account" in a email client such as Thunderbird isn't exactly equivalent to an email account. You could indeed set up two accounts in Thunderbird, one using POP and another using IMAP which both connect to the same server and the therefore use the same mailbox and the same email address. So the two "accounts" in Thunderbird actually refer to the same "email account".

Head spinning yet? There's more.

Some ISPs don't run their own email service; they pay someone else to do it. So in this situation, it's hard to pin down who is the actual "email provider". I think it's a bit like buying something in a shop; the manufacturer will guarantee it, but in most cases if you have a problem, you go back to the shop. If your email address/account is supplied to you by, say, AT&T, it's likely that it's actually contracted out to, say, yahoo. But your first port of call would be AT&T rather than yahoo. AT&T have become the "resellers" of the email service operated by yahoo.

All this was about your email address and how to receive email messages. The other side is sending email and that's another story for another lecture.

So, check your provider (whoever that is!) does offer an IMAP connection. If so, go to File|New|Existing Mail Account in Thunderbird, and enter your details again. If a choice is offered, take IMAP. (If both POP and IMAP are offered, Thunderbird usually defaults to IMAP.)

When you have two version of the same account in Thunderbird, one using POP, the other IMAP, you can drag and drop material from one to the other. When you're good to go, go to Tools|Account Settings| where the Account Actions button right at the bottom will allow you to set your IMAP-connected account as the default and then remove the POP-connected account.