Rios Computer Associates

IMAP: Pros and Cons

Internet Message Access Protocol, or IMAP, is one of two commonly-used email protocols. While POP3, the other protocol, connects to the email server regularly to download new messages, IMAP downloads messages only when you open them.

I've heard lots of wonderful things about IMAP, but in real life, I have found it has its own share of drawbacks. I had several folks I know using it, and they found these problems:

1. Since most of your email is online, you can't work on your email if you're not connected to the Internet.

2. You essentially have two sets of folders, one local, one online, which can get confusing, since they have the same or similar names.

3. Many IMAP providers have size limits on how big your files can get; this is a nuisance you don't have to deal with when you keep your email on your own computer.

4. Since most of your email is on line, retrieving things is much slower than if it were all on your own computer.

5. You are depending on the email provider for the security and privacy of your email; there is usually no simple way to back up your email.

If someone is willing to deal with the negatives of an on line email account, they don’t need to change providers, or pay extra—they can just get a Google account, which has virtually all the benefits of an IMAP account, and many other clever features as well.

And you don't need to install or configure a client program on every computer that you use, such as Outlook Express or Thunderbird, which you usually do with IMAP; while most IMAP providers have a webmail interface, it is often very clumsy compared to the regular email client. Google Mail (Gmail) only needs a browser, such as Internet Explorer or Firefox.

If someone wants to access their email when they don't have their computer with them, there is a much better solution, to my mind: "remote access" to your computer. This involves leaving your computer on when you are not there, and accessing it through a service like GoToMyPC or That way, you can access not only your email, but everything on your computer!

These services allow you to password protect your system, so you are at no greater risk of having someone access your computer than any other time it is turned on. And if energy use is a concern (and it should be!), you can set your computer to “Wake On LAN”—that is, to turn itself on automatically when you try to access it.

I use this solution all the time, and it's like having your entire computer, all your programs and all your files, with you wherever you are. It's lovely!


8 Steps to a Healthy Computer

Computer hygiene is important, but the paid-for protection programs are often worse than the ones you can get for free.  We have solved a lot of our clients' computer problems by removing Norton/Symantec programs.

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Macs & Viruses

Have you been told that buying a Mac will avoid problems with viruses? That can be a good temporary solution—until a lot of folks start buying Macs.

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Choosing Secure Passwords

A word about passwords: lots of people tell you to create screwy-looking passwords with uPPer and LowER case and all kinds of strange symbols in them. It turns out that this is bad advice...

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Chain Letters

Almost all messages that you get telling you to 'Forward this to all your friends' are hoaxes. Here are some ways to determine whether you should pass it on or hit 'Delete'.

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Choosing a Laptop

The best approach that I have found in deciding what sort of computer to purchase is to identify the things that are most likely to matter to someone and narrow the search from there.

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Avoiding Malware Sites

The bad guys seem to have an unlimited number of ways to trick people and avoid detection. Do you know how to protect yourself from malicious websites?

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Web Hosting & Authoring

There are lots of places that will host you for just a few bucks a month. The critical question is not cost, but reliability and support.

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Choosing a Credit Card

Regardless of which computer you get, most extended warranties aren't worth the money. But how you pay for the computer matters a lot...

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Affordable Office Suites

Microsoft has dominated the office software market with Microsoft Office, but their software package can be expensive for personal use. Did you know that there are cheaper or free alternatives?

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Videocams & Farsightedness

Comfortable reading is all but impossible when you're farsighted, and computerized magnifers are expensive. Luckily, there is a way to get a cheap makeshift magnifier that works better than the real thing!

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Working with PDF Files

Going backwards from PDF to text is usually somewhat messy, but not impossible. Here are some methods to convert your PDF documents into more accesible formats...

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The most important program I have, except maybe email, is my Personal Information Manager: InfoSelect.

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Reinstalling Microsoft Office

If your computer on which you have Microsoft Office installed dies, you don't need to buy a new copy; the license for Microsoft Office is transferable. You just need the original CD and the Product Key to install it just as you did originally.

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IMAP: Pros and Cons

IMAP is one of two commonly-used email protocols. I've heard lots of wonderful things about IMAP, but in real life, I have found it has its own share of drawbacks...

Click here to read more.

Recovering Data From Failed Hard Drives

In more than 90% of cases of hard drive failure the data is retrievable, but the method used depends on the type of failure. A hard drive can 'die' for several reasons...

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Rios Computer Associates • 930 N Arlington Mill Drive • Arlington • VA • 22205 • 703-755-0607 •