Email to the Desktop


This document contains general information about email to the desktop.

Desktop email clients communicate with the mail server by one of two protocols: IMAP or POP. Communication with the mail server may be set to encrypted (recommended) or not. POP from off campus must be set to encrypted. The encrypted communication is often referred to as "secure".

In general, we recommend secure IMAP.


The "post office protocol" (POP) is a relatively simple protocol and does not have a lot of features. Most email clients are able to use POP. The major disadvantage to this protocol is that it moves all email to the local machine thereby precluding its use from multiple locations.

Be very careful if you experiment with a POP email client. It may move all your mail from the server to the local computer. Many POP email clients have a setting to "keep all email on the server" to prevent this.

If you use gmail, it has a facility to POP your MHC email to your gmail account. See for more information.


The "Interactive Mail Access Protocol" (IMAP) keeps mail on the server. Messages may be saved in separate folders on the server. This allows the use of email from multiple locations and with various email clients. Mail may also be moved to local folders on a particular computer.

For reasons of security and backup, for College employees whose email may contain critical College business, POP not be used. Email folders pertaining to college business should be left on the MHC server.

Examples of IMAP email clients

Commonly used email clients

(The College provides technical support for Thunderbird and Webmail.)

General IMAP setup

Desktop email clients, such as Mozilla's Thunderbird, have basic IMAP setup similarities. The settings for an account should include:

Setup for Thunderbird

Thunderbird may be obtained at:

Here are a the most important settings when you set up Thunderbird. (The wording below was taken from a Windows installation. If you are using Macintosh, the wording may be slightly different but the concepts remain the same.)

For a more detailed description of Thunderbird setup, go to the main MHC webpage and search the MHC website for "thunderbird setup".

Creating or modifying your Thunderbird email setup.

 Tools/Account settings:
  If necessary, "Account actions"/"Add mail account"
    (Make sure you are doing IMAP and not POP!)
  Check the following:
    Server settings
      Server name:
      Username: (your username, such as: sam20j)
      Security settings:  (our recommendations)
         Select "SSL"
	 Do not check "Use secure authentication"
      Advanced:   (this is very important)
        IMAP server directory:  mail
        Uncheck: Show only subscribed folders
	Check:   Server supports ...
	Check:   Use IDLE...
    Outgoing server (SMTP) settings:
      Select and Edit the selection to get the dialog box:
        SMTP server:
	     Off campus, make sure your username is included.
	     On campus, you may use your username.  It will then ask for 
	     authentication the first message you send that session.
	   Check "TLS, if available" or "STARTTLS"
	     This allows you to send email through our outgoing mail 
	     server from off campus.

Detailed IMAP/POP information   from Terry Gray, University of Washington.