How to Enable Gmail via IMAP in Your Email Program

Use your favorite mail client to access your Gmail

Businesswoman Holding Cup Of Tea
BLOOM image/Getty Images

Setting up your Gmail account with IMAP allows you to access your email from a variety of email applications, such as those used on your iOS device, Android device, or personal computer. You are no longer tied to your web browser for email access but can now change email programs on the fly, selecting applications that best fit your workflow and style.

What is IMAP for Gmail?

IMAP is an internet protocol that allows email clients to communicate with your email service, such as Gmail. IMAP is a replacement for the older POP3 email protocol and offers many advantages including the ability to keep the status of emails in sync, access multiple mailboxes on a single server, and allow for server-side searching of your content.

Screenshot showing how to enable IMAP within Gmail
Enable IMAP within Gmail Settings. Michael Archambault

How to Enable IMAP for Gmail

To access a Gmail account in your email program or mobile device via the IMAP protocol, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Settings (the gear icon) from the Gmail navigation bar.

  2. To view all available settings, select the Settings option in the drop-down.

  3. Select the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab.

  4. Under the IMAP Access section, ensure that the Enable IMAP option is selected.

  5. Leave all other settings on their default selections, and choose Save Changes.

How to Set up Gmail with IMAP

Now, it is time to set up a new IMAP account in your email client of choice. If your email client is listed below, click on it to learn how to quickly set up Gmail on your device. Otherwise, follow the generic settings instructions in the next section.

Screenshot of setting up Gmail in macOS Mail
The macOS Mail app has an option for quick Google Gmail setup. Michael Archambault 

How to Manually Set up Gmail with IMAP

If your email program is not listed above, begin by opening your application of choice. Navigate to where you would add an additional account. If your application gives you the option of selecting Gmail, you can follow the automatic set up process.

Perform a Google search with the name of your email client, plus the phrase Gmail IMAP for instructions on how to get set up properly. Example: Mozilla Thunderbird Gmail IMAP

Otherwise, if your email client does not present Gmail as a default option, you may be prompted to manually enter the server's information; for Gmail, that information is as follows:

IMAP Server (Receiving Mail)

  • IMAP Server: imap.gmail.com
  • Port: 993
  • Require SSL: Yes
  • Username: Your Gmail email address
  • Password: Your Gmail email password

SMTP Server (Sending Mail)

  • SMTP Server: smtp.gmail.com
  • Port: 465
  • Require SSL/STARTTLS: Yes
  • Require SMTP authentication: Yes
  • Username: Your Gmail email address
  • Password: Your Gmail email password

If you are using Google's two-factor authentication, you will need to generate an app-specific password for any IMAP password fields.

If your email program does not support IMAP or if you prefer to only download newly arriving messages to your computer, Gmail also offers POP access for email clients.

Screenshot of Airmail setup process for IMAP
Example of manual setup within a mail client for Gmail.  

Troubleshooting Gmail IMAP Setup

If you are having issues setting up Gmail with your mail client, consider these possible issues that might be preventing your success:

  • The username/password was typed incorrectly.
  • The server information was typed incorrectly.
  • You have two-factor authentification enabled on your Google account and must generate an app-specific password.
  • IMAP was not enabled within Gmail's settings.
  • Your email client is insecure and doesn't support Google's latest security standards (see below).

Insecure Email Clients and Gmail

Gmail, by default, requires that all email clients looking to connect to its servers meet specific security standards. If your email client is outdated, Gmail may not allow it to connect without first altering your account settings.

If you are using a Gmail business account, you will be unable to alter any security settings. Contact your network administrator or IT department for more information.

It is highly recommended that you upgrade to a more secure email client rather than allow insecure clients to connect; however, you can enable access from less secure applications by following this link.