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Outlook IMAP Accounts: Download Headers Only or Download Complete Items Including Attachments

When settings up an IMAP account in Microsoft Outlook you will download only the headers by default. Personally I like to have all of my emails easily accessible online and offline even with IMAP accounts so below I describe how to setup your IMAP accounts to download the entire email message including any attachments.

Follow the below steps to setup a custom Outlook send and receive group. In this group you can pick and choose which accounts to includes and which IMAP folders to download. For each IMAP account you can specify numerous different options including if you want to sync a specific folder, if you want to download only the headers, or if you want to download the entire message including any attachments.

  1. Open Define Send/Receive Groups: First you need to open the “Define Send/Receive Groups” within Outlook. Click on Tools in the top navigation menu, then select “Send/Receive” from the drop down, followed by “Send/Receive Settings” from the pop out menu, and from the second pop out menu select “Define Send/Receive Groups”. The menus are shown below in the image.

    Microsoft Outlook: Send/Receive Menus

    This will open the “Send/Receive Groupd” configuration window as shown below in the image.

    MS Outlook: Send/Receive Groups Configuration Window 

  2. Create Custom Send/Receive Group: Now you will want to create a new send and receive group so you can modify it any way you want bu always switch back to the “All Accounts” group with the default settings if you wanted to. Click the New button which will open a small configuration window as shown below.

    Outlook: New Send and Receive Group Name

    Name the send/receive group whatever is meaningful to you and then click the OK button which will create the new group and then automatically open the configuration window for this new group as shown below.  

    Outlook Send and Receive Group Configuration Window

  3. Modify Send/Receive Group:Now you need to modify the send/receive group settings. Each of your accounts will be listed in the left column. When each account is highlighted you will have multiple options to choose for each account which will be different depending on if the account is POP3 or IMAP. The most important option will be if you include the account when sending or receiving or not which will be determined by the top most checkbox for each account. As you can see below this show the basic configuration of a POP3 account.

    Outlook Send/Receive Group POP3 Account Settings

    Notice you have numerous options to choose here including the sending of messages, the receiving of messages, and if you download headers only or if you download the complete messages. By default POP3 accounts download the entire message because POP3 accounts are not for storing messages long term on the server.  So configure each POP3 account you have for this send/receive group.

  4. Send/Receive Group IMAP Settings: Now that you have each POP3 account configured lets move on to the  IMAP accounts. This is where I typically make my changes to include all of the important folders and to make sure I download the entire message instead of the headers only. Below is an example image that shows a couple folders included in the process and the highlighted folder is set to download the entire email message and any attachments in those messages.

    Outlook IMAP Account Send and Receive Settings

    Make sure to go through each folders settings for each IMAP account that you want to include in your send and receive group.  

  5. Finalize Send/Receive Group Settings:After configuring each accounts settings go back to the configuration window that includes each Send/Receive Group. Make sure that you uncheck all of the check boxes for “All Accounts” as shown below in the image.

    Outlook Send and Receive Group Settings: All Accounts

    Also make sure that the new Send/Receive Group has the proper check boxes marked and configured the way you want all of the accounts to send and receive.

That is it. Now that you know where these settings are located you can modify them at will. Hope this helps.

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