Charles writes: Ben, how do I sync email between a Mac and my iPad? I delete email from my Mac and they still appear in the inbox on my iPad.

Hi Charles! Well, the answer to that question depends on the type of email account you’re using—and yes, things may get a bit technical here, so bear with me.

While email services like Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook have their own features, user interfaces, and other bells and whistles, they all use (for the most part) the same types of email “protocols” when it comes to delivering messages to external mail clients—you know, like the Mail program on your Mac, or your iPad’s Mail app.

Two of the most common protocols are POP (short for “Post Office Protocol”) and IMAP (“Internet Message Access Protocol”), and there’s an important difference between the two.

IMAP lets you sync messages and mail folders between your email provider and your desktop and mobile clients, while POP merely lets your email client “fetch” new messages from a mail server—no syncing allowed.

For example: with an IMAP email provider, if you read a message on your Mac and then move it into your “archive” folder, the message will also be neatly filed away on your iPad. With a POP provider, though, the messages you read and archive on your Mac will still show up as “new” messages in your iPad’s email inbox.

Now, as long as your email provider supports IMAP—and most big email services do, including Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook—the messages in your desktop client should sync up with your iPad.

Mac Mail IMAP settings

As long as your email provider supports IMAP, you should be able to sync your email between multiple devices.

All you have to do is look up the right IMAP settings for your mobile and/or desktop email client. Just search your provider’s “help” pages, or go here for Gmail, here for, or here for Yahoo Mail.

OK, but what if your email service only supports POP email? (And yes, that’s still the case for some providers, particularly the smaller ones.)

If so, bad news: you won’t be able to sync email between your Mac and iPad (or between, say, your PC and an Android phone).

So if email syncing is important to you (and it sounds like it is), it might be time to consider jumping ship for a new email service.

Hope that helps, Charles. Still have questions? Let me know!

Bonus tip

Most modern email clients should configure your mail accounts automatically, no advanced settings required.

For example, both the Mac Mail client and your iPhone or iPad should be able to connect to a Gmail account—IMAP settings and all—once you enter your Google username and password.