Why am I getting the same emails on two different devices?

email sync

QUESTION: I have this issue with both my Android phone (Galaxy S5) and Android tablet (Galaxy Tab 2). When my email syncs I keep getting old emails being retrieved as if they were new emails. Many of these are weeks old and ones that I believe I’ve deleted (at least from my device) multiple times. What’s up with this? – Jim P. from Indianapolis, Indiana

ANSWER: I would have to look at both devices to know for sure but I suspect that the problem lies in how your email account is configured on one or both of your devices.

The type of behavior you are describing occurs when an email account is configured as a POP account. This is a bit of an outdated way to set up an email account where each device checking email knows nothing about the other. So when you get 10 new emails on one device and delete 8 of them, all 10 emails show up again on the other device.

You can work around this by looking for an email setting on each device that tells the device to delete an email off the server when you delete it off your device. This isn’t foolproof but it would be better than what you have now.

A better way to configure your email

The more modern way of configuring an email account, however, is to use IMAP. Without getting into the nitty gritty details, IMAP ensures that when you delete an email off of one device, it is automatically deleted off the server where your email is housed. Same goes for other actions as well. For instance, with IMAP, if you read an email one on device it will show up as read on any other device. Or if you apply a label or move an email into a folder, the same action will be reflected on all other devices.

If you believe what I just described is your issue, your best bet is to delete your email account from each device and set it up again, this time making sure it is set up using IMAP. If all of this sounds greek to you, contact me again and I’ll be happy to help you.

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  1. asudduth

    When you use “SMTP” (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) above, do you mean IMAP? Typically even POP configurations use SMTP to send email.

    • Patric Welch

      Wow, that’s really embarrassing on my part. Surely, I know the difference between SMTP and IMAP but my brain must have just flipped the wrong switch and I once I typed SMTP I just stuck with it. Thank you for pointing this out. I updated the post to mention IMAP everywhere I incorrectly said SMTP.