How to Restore POP3 Mail to the Mail Server

Last reviewed on May 23, 2014   —  54 comments

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 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.

Please post long or more complicated questions at Outlookforums.

54 responses to “How to Restore POP3 Mail to the Mail Server”

  1. shizzle bizzle

    You're awesome. I love you. I want you to have my babies. =D

    On a serious note, this is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

  2. Daniel

    Hi Mrs Dianne, Thank you for your advice, works!!!! just one detail, "the date" my mails are coming to yahoo server but the date appears as the present date, not as the original there something I could do to recover this also?

    Thank you anyways

  3. Daniel

    Yes, in an open message is correct, the original details remain. Just when they are coming back to server, they appear with today`s date and time. Is a minor issue, but sometimes help that category.

  4. Sagar

    Thank you .. :)
    I almost lost all my mails , very thankful to you and gud to kno we can recover mails from pop3...

  5. CL

    Thank you SO MUCH!

  6. Justin F

    Thank you so much. So simple, yet effective.
    Its very silly that Outlook 'auto' setup, defaults to pop3 server types.

    Thanks again

  7. Frank J. LaTray

    I have been trying to get outlook email . I have a new computer, i'm trying to set up my email which was outlook POP-3 .

  8. Sorin Baicu

    Thank you!!

  9. sangoku123

    You saved my life :) merci beaucoup

  10. Erik T. Irish

    ABSOLUTELY AWESOME! Thank you SO much for this! Made my customer VERY happy! =-)

  11. Tinashe

    thank thank thank thank thank thank you. God bless you Diane

  12. Alex

    Thank you! Lifesaver :)

  13. Charles Rukuni

    My outlook 2007 has been giving me problems. I was getting a message saying the outlook version you have may not be compatible with the outlook.... go to your windows control panel, click on the mail box, then show profiles and then add. I did that and created a new profile and then removed the old profile. The new outlooked opened without a hitch but all my old emails, contacts, calender are gone. is there any way of recovering them. They were not on my server because I was using pop3. I only learnt recently that I should use imap.

  14. Jeegar

    Thank You very Much.You are awesome :-)

  15. Fariborz

    Thank you for your fantastic article. I lost all my yahoo inbox. configuring outlook 2007 what should I put for incoming and outgoing mails? use for both? Thank you in advance

  16. Reving

    Thank you. The IMAP inbox is offline and I can't drag mail from POP3 into it! How do I connect the inbox? Thanks

  17. Juanna

    Hi I found this but couldn't work it! how i lost my emails was i set up Mail App on my MacBook Air and forgot to unmark "remove copy from server" so all my emails were gone from the server...any idea how i can get them back on the server on MacBook Air and with Mail App? my account is not IMAP it is POP3...thank you

  18. Alex

    Hello, my web server does not support IMAP, so I'would like to restore the mails by using the IMAP server. But don't know how to create an Outlook account wich support BOTH POP3 and IMAP. And how should i configure my server for collecting mails from another POP3? Pls help. Alex

  19. Admirer

    I also would like to have your babies right now! THANK YOU

  20. Grace

    Hi i have a problem with my restoring my mail because they were in my company mail and we are using to access mail. I have tried to restore my inbox to no avail. i am also using outlook 2007 and pop3. how do i go about it? Your assistance is really appreciated.

  21. Shaun

    Im having issues because I formatted my phone after the new android update. When I added my hotmail account back onto my phone, it defaulted to IMAP and I didnt notice that deleting the mail from my phone would also delete them from my actual hotmail account since they were no longer just a copy. When I follow your steps above and try to add a duplicate account but this time a POP3 account, my phone tells me I already have that account activated and I can't duplicate it :( How do I get my inbox back, it had flight itinerary, hotel confirmations, etc and nothing is showing up in my trash folder on either my phone or my computer.


    Excellent, I got my all email restored to my hotmail inbox

  23. Steve

    Hello.....Loved your solution.....this seemed to work great for the inBOX, but what about other folders.....have a user that wants to migrate all of her Sent Folder too (some 5000 emails) and this does not seem to be workimg, none of the emails in the sent Folder are coming over,,, Puzzled?

  24. Roger

    i had configured yahoo mails on outlook but mails have disappeared from web yahoo page how can i get the copy back on the server of my old mails. This is very urgent to me

  25. magda

    Hi Diane , you have been of great help to me , i did and imported all my email to a new imps new profile , and when send and receive it make synchronise but mails didn't restore on my go daddy account server ! can you give any further steps to do , thanks magda

  26. Akintobi Akinbode Akinbiyi

    Thanks a lot, this really helped

  27. Tom Jones

    I set up a pop account on outlook for my wife and forgot to turn on the keep on server setting for the webmail server twc roadrunner. I read this and set up the IMAP and did exactly as you said but all I can figure is time warner roadrunner webmail does not allow to put the emails back on their server. Anyone else tried this with roadrunner and had success(or not)?

  28. Fiona Templeton

    I set up an IMAP account in Outlook for my gmail, but there is no option to leave the messages on the server as there is in a Pop3 account, and it sucked all the messages from the server. I thought IMAP kept them synched. I need to be able to access these from other devices. Help!

  29. Fiona Templeton

    Also, I don't seem to be able to set up Pop3 for gmail, to try your suggestions as above.

  30. Fiona Templeton

    I enabled Pop3 but IMAP was still deleting messages off the server. Then I found in gmail settings the option to use "recent mode" which keeps them there. But now I have 2 sets of inboxes etc in Outlook. How do I streamline this?

    All the info says IMAP keeps messages on server but it didn't for me.

    Also, I want to do all this too for a Compuserve account. The "IMAP and POP Configuration Instructions" page in settings is blank. Any advice?

  31. John

    Thank you. Works perfectly for me. Just what I was looking for.

  32. ange

    I added an existing pop3 (hotmail) account to my gmail profile and forgot to "leave the mail on the server". So now my hotmail inbox is empty. Can I use your method to restore my hotmail inbox?

  33. Carlos

    Hi Mrs Diane Poremsky, I am working on Microsoft Outlook 2011 for MAC and I have two MacBooks in which I hold three email accounts, the one I am referring this particular time is a POP account that I wish it could be sync, but it doesn't, so the problem I experience is that sometimes one of the lap tops misses some emails which the other has. I would like to know if there is anything it can be done to correct this issue, your advise would be very much appreciated.

  34. theresa

    I need help. When i began using my new laptop i was using my g mail and yahoo emails. I kept getting this message to sign up for a Microsoft outlook account on my laptop. So I finally did. Now I cannot access my g mail and yahoo mail unless I go through the internet. They used to be automatically there when I turned my laptop on. I had a few draft emails in yahoo that i need to complete and they are not showing up in yahoo when I log on from the internet browser. Can anyone explain to me what happened and how to fix it. I really want to delete this Microsoft email, I don't even use it. Frustrated. =-(

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