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Using IMAP for Gmail on Windows 6.1

written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 9/13/2008

When is a helpful user interface not helpful? When it is dumbed down. Windows 6.1 "upgrades" your email setup by assuming you are only a basic user.

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    Windows Mobile 6.1 Upgrade

    Recently, I upgraded my Sprint HTC Touch phone to Windows Mobile 6.1. It is a great upgrade that turns on my GPS, and makes better and more frequent use of Sprint's fastest EVO network. But, there is one new feature that just bugs the heck out of me.

    As Power Users go, I'm somewhere way past Joe User, but somewhere short of Guy Hacking Code In Hex Editor. What that means for purposes of this article, is that I know about the IMAP email protocol and I want to use it. The problem? Well, in an effort to be helpful, Microsoft has included automatic settings for Gmail accounts. This is a nice touch. I'm glad to see Microsoft accepting the realities of the user's needs and playing ball with Gmail email accounts. There is just one problem. The auto setup uses the POP email protocol, and you can't change it.

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    IMAP vs. POP

    Remember Guy Hacking Code In Hex Editor? He's got more differences between the two protocols. Frankly, I doubt you are interested in those. The difference that most people do care about is that the POP protocol works in a Connect -> Receive/Send -> Disconnect mode. This is fine for a lot of users. But, what if you could cause changes to happen on the fly? That's the IMAP email protocol.

    With IMAP, you still choose how often your device connects to Google and downloads your mail. This is configurable for either protocol. The difference is, that as you do things to your email, like delete them, it automatically updates your server account as well. Why does it matter?

    If you have your email set to download every 2 hours and it gets your new Gmail at 10:00am and then you read your email at 10:30am and delete a bunch of messages you don't need anymore, but don't hit "Send/Recieve" then your server email is not updated until 12:00pm when the 2 hour timer goes off. That means that if you sit back down at your computer and login to your Gmail account, all of those messages that you deleted are still there. With IMAP, every time you delete, it is deleted on the server. It is not like push email. Your messages will still only get downloaded based on a timer, not when you get email. But, what it does do is respond to your actions immediately.

    Ironically, Windows Mobile 6.1 email sets up Yahoo email as IMAP automatically. If you want to do that from your regular PC, you have to pay extra. It's always free at Gmail, but you have to manually turn it on, and that is why Microsoft went with the basic version that will work for everyone instead.

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    I Want My IMAP

    Where there is a will, there is a way.

    If you go through the setup and play by the rules, you will be stuck with POP and you won't be able to change it. Anytime you enter an email address that has in it, Windows Mobile 6.1 jumps in and starts the auto setup including auto setting your mail server to the pop email server. Game over.

    But wait, there is still hope. The key is to fool Windows Mobile into thinking you are setting up an account it doesn't know how to setup automatically. To do that, when it asks for the user email address at the beginning of the setup. you enter something that does not end with So, or even It doesn't matter, as long as it does not end in Don't worry, it turns out that this entry is never used by the program other than to detect auto setup.

    Go through the rest of the setup. The servers are for your IMAP server and for your outgoing mail server. You will also have to check to use secure connections for both. The rest of the info is your account details. Voila, IMAP for Gmail.

    The only downside is that your garbage email address will show up on your Email Picker screen. A small price to pay for greatness in mobile email.