Ask Leo! #534 – Do You IMAP? Blocking Pictures in Email, Backing Up Email, Getting Less Email and, um … more


How does blocking pictures in an email protect my privacy?

In Windows Mail, I received an email from a known vendor (not spam) with all the pictures withheld. At the top (below the header) there was a message which read:

"Some pictures have been blocked to help prevent the sender from identifying your computer. Click here to download pictures."

My question is: How can a sender identify my computer by me receiving pictures? And of course, how great is the risk?

"Identifying your computer" in that informational message is somewhat vague, as it's not exactly what can happen. But the concept is still important.

And in fact, if you've ever seen ads or services that claim "we can tell you if your email has been read" – images are how they do it, and it's also why they can never be 100% reliable.

Continue Reading: How does blocking pictures in an email protect my privacy?

What is IMAP? And how can it help me manage my email?

IMAP stands for "Internet Message Access Protocol". It's a fancy name for a protocol used by email programs like Outlook, Thunderbird, and others to access your email.

IMAP is an alternative to POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3), works in some fundamentally different ways, and makes a few fundamentally different assumptions.

I'll examine IMAP, how it compares to POP3, and when you might want to consider using it.

Continue Reading: What is IMAP? And how can it help me manage my email?

Back Up Your Email Using Thunderbird

Many years ago, shortly after Ask Leo! began, I received a panic-stricken email from an individual whose account had been hacked. He had lost all access to the account and everything in it. His panic stemmed from the fact that, for whatever reason, the only copy of his master's thesis had been in that account.

It was gone, and there was no hope of recovery.

Hopefully, you're not keeping something as important as a master's thesis only in your online email account. That's wrong on several levels. But I'm guessing there are things in your account that you never want to lose, such as photos, correspondence, or other things that you've exchanged in email.

The problem is, of course, that if it's only in your email account, it's not backed up.

Let's fix that. Let's back up your email.

Continue Reading: Back Up Your Email Using Thunderbird


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Glossary Term


IMAP is an acronym for Internet Message Access Procotol.

As its name implies, IMAP is a protocol for accessing email messages. This differs from POP3 which is primarily a protocol for transferring or moving messages.

When IMAP is used by email programs to access messages stored on an email server they are left on that server unless explicitly deleted or moved by the user. Copies of email messages may be downloaded, but fundamentally IMAP provides what can best be termed a window or a view on a collection of email stored on the server.

While copies of email may be downloaded, enabling offline access, the IMAP protocol works best when continuously connected to the email server. Changes on that server – such as new mail arriving, or email being deleted or altered by a web interface or another email program – are quickly reflected in programs accessing that email server via IMAP.

Multiple-simultaneous access – meaning more than one computer or device accessing the same collection of email at the same time – is one of IMAP's strengths, and it's often the technology used by mobile devices and even web interfaces to manage email that might be accessed from multiple locations. The down side is the more or less constant connection that's best used, as well as the fact that email accumulates on the email server unless deleted, which can sometimes cause email accounts to exceed storage quotas.

For more, see What is IMAP? And how can it help me manage my email? on Ask Leo!.

See also: SMTP, the protocol for sending email, and POP3, the protocol for downloading mail.

Glossary Terms are featured selections from The Ask Leo! Glossary.
Have a term you'd like defined? Submit it here.

Featured Comments

Back Up Smartphone Photos Using Dropbox

KAHSR writes:

Thanks for the article Leo. Dropbox installed and just as you descripted and all went smoothly it did take a bit longer to load the 9 photos I had in my album than I thought it would. I like the choice of being able to choose between Wi-Fi and Data as we use a family plan and some months we are pretty close to our Data limit.

I don't keep a lot of photos on my phone, I like to dump them on to my computer fairly regularly which I BU 3 ways one to the Cloud everyday. This of coarse includes a daily Image BU via Macrium Reflect.

It only makes sense to back up your camera photos and videos on our phones as we should be backing up our computers. Once again thank you for your tip on doing this important part of our BU process'.

Do You Back Up?

Mike W writes:

My wife and I have identical Dell XPS 8500 Desktop PCs. We do a manual full image backup once per week every week using Macrium Reflect Standard Edition 64 bit to a WD My Passport Ultra external Hard Drive. Believe me my wife never lets me forget to backup. She is relentless! We also backup weekly to a 64 GB flash drive our most important software; for me it's my music. For my wife it's her photography. So when not if the external HD fails one day (sooner or later) hopefully later rather than sooner our most important software will be saved on the flash drive.

Back Up Smartphone Photos Using Dropbox

Mike writes:

Buried in all the good info Leo provided was two factor authentication. I use two factor for financial and other sensitive sites (if available), but after catching this 'hint' I'm going to set it up wherever available when I do my annual password update this year. Thanx Leo ... after being hit in the head a few times I usually get it!

If You Hated Windows 8 ... Give Windows 10 a Chance

Adrian Barrett writes:

I got so used to Windows XP even the move to Windows 7 was a jump, but at least it turned out to be an easy jump. Come the 'I hate Windows 8' debate it served to put me off and Itruly believed the hype. Until I bought a new laptop and there it was in all it's glory. Yes, I turned off the Start Screen as soon as possible but the solution means it's only 1 click away and actually, as others have noted elsewhere, some of the 'apps' from it are pretty useful. I do. however, not like the way MS blurred the twin worlds of Modern UI and its 'apps' with (my preferred full-fat) desktop and it's normal applications.

And after all that, as Leo says, Windows 8 just works. The lack of Aero, Glass, et al means it's light, fast and smooth, and allows me to get things done. That's all I ever wanted from my windows PC's. I'm looking forward to Windows 10, though there's no evidence it will be a huge advance of the platform save for many refinements of course, but as long as it continues not getting in my way and acting like an operating system to host and run my programs like video and audio editing applications without crashing, Windows will be all I'll need. I can be easily pleased, no style over substance required. Perhaps getting all control panel type items under one roof once and for all would be a big 'yes' in my books, rather than the way all these are split between Control Panel, right-clicks here and there, other screens and now Modern UI app panels as well...!

Do You Back Up?

Roger writes:

I am just a average user, nothing important on my computer (maybe some pix's) and a spread sheet of my personal bills and I do that once a week. I feel that if my computer gets to screwed up it is time for a complete re-install. Usually by this time there is a bunch of junk I don't want or need. I have all the programs that I need on CD's. For me a total backup is not necessary.

Leo writes:

I hope you're right. :-)

Leo's Blog

On Reducing Email: Do You Really Need to Reply?

Me Too!

Or as the geekier folks often write it:

me too!

I really don't know what causes it, but for some reason email seems to bring out the "me too" in many people.

You know what I mean: you'll have a discussion – either a one-on-one correspondence, or more commonly, an exchange on a mailing list – and at its close or at some other juncture, you'll get a completely content-free email (or collection of emails) from some of the participants.

Perhaps we feel the need to let people know we're listening. Perhaps it's the email equivalent of an head nod. The problem is, as I said, it's otherwise completely content free. As a result, unlike an actual head nod, it's difficult to ignore. Someone must download it, read it, determine its value (if any), and dispose of it.

Continue Reading: On Reducing Email: Do You Really Need to Reply?

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