How to Restore POP3 Mail to the Mail Server

Last reviewed on January 29, 2012

A common mistake many users who keep copies of their email in their POP3 mailbox make when setting up a new email account is forgetting to change the setting to leave mail on the server, so Outlook downloads and deletes it from the server.

If this happens to you, you can restore the deleted mail to the server only if you have IMAP access to your mailbox.

Using IMAP to restore mail to the server

When you email account supports IMAP, you can restore mail to the server in a few simple steps:

  1. Create a second email account in your profile using the IMAP account type.
  2. You'll now have two accounts in your profile for the same email account, with the IMAP account adding a second *.pst to the profile.
  3. Make sure you set the POP3 account to leave mail on the server in the account's More Settings. Advanced dialog.
  4. Drag the messages from the POP3 Inbox to the IMAP folder's Inbox.
  5. Tip: You may want to start with about 100 messages at a time and wait a minute or so for the messages to sync up. If it works well, select a larger block of messages to move in the second batch.

  6. The messages will be synced with the mailbox on the server.
  7. When finished, remove the IMAP account from the profile. (unless you want to use it instead of POP3.)

Gmail: configure the account for IMAP in your GMAIL settings then setup the email account in Outlook. Gear icon, Mail settings, Forwarding and POP/IMAP link)
Yahoo: use imap-ssl.mail.yahoo.com for the IMAP server name. In Outlook 2007 and 2010 you need to create the account manually.

Hotmail: although Hotmail does not support IMAP, you can use the Outlook Hotmail Connector to upload mail to the server.

Note that both Gmail and Hotmail make it difficult for Outlook to delete mail from the server. If Outlook deleted downloaded email from either account, check your settings in the account online and configure it to archive mail downloaded using POP3.

If your mail server doesn't support IMAP

If your email account does not support IMAP, you can't easily restore mail to the server unless it can POP email from other servers. In this case, you could upload the mail to another server then POP it back to your original email account. If this is not possible and you need online access to the mail you downloaded, consider using Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo to store it online for you.

If your account can collect mail from POP accounts (like Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail do), you can upload the mail using IMAP then your account can collect it using POP3. Before using this method, verify your POP3 account can collect mail from the IMAP server - GMail and Hotmail require SSL for POP3 services and many accounts do not use SSL when "popping" accounts.

  1. Create an account that supports both POP3 and IMAP.
  2. Use the instructions above to put the mail online.
  3. Go to your mail account's web access and configure the account to collect POP mail from the new account.
  4. Once the messages are back online in your mailbox, delete the POP account from the online configuration and the IMAP account from Outlook.

Restoring Exchange Server mail to the server

If this happens with an Exchange server account, set the Exchange account as the default delivery location and drag any mail that does not resync with the Exchange mailbox back to the mailbox.

Written by

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

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