Use Google as spam filter

Sat, 2008-02-16 12:50 by admin

Too much spam

Google has many uses, but a particularly clever one is explained here. If you have an ever-growing spam load and waste too much time fighting spam, there is at least one fully automatic spam filter that works fairly well—Google Mail.

If you don't mind what your email address looks like, just open a new Google Mail account at and be happy. It is a web mail interface, but it works very well. For example, it arranges mail discussions in ordered groups of emails, something that most normal email clients cannot do.

If you already have your own email address, using your own domain, you're still not left out. You can simply route your email through Google Mail.

And if you want to keep using your local email client program, no problem either. You can let it collect your filtered email from Google, which supports the POP3 and even the IMAP mail collection protocol.

Getting your email into Gmail

The first step is to route your email from your normal mail account into Google Mail (Gmail). There are two ways to achieve that. Use either of them, but not both at the same time.

1. Let Gmail collect your mail

This is the simple method. The procedure in Gmail is: Settings, Accounts, Add another mail account

As soon as you have entered and saved the required settings for your old mail server, Google will begin to download your mail from the server, slowly, in chunks of 200 mails. It only gets a couple of hundred emails per hour, so just let it run its course, perhaps overnight, if you have thousands of emails waiting in your old account.

A little problem with procedure 1 is that Gmail only collects your email from time to time, so a new email may take a number of minutes, until it appears in Gmail. Gmail has a collect mail now function, but if you later want to collect the mail into your local email client, you have a certain delay. To avoid this delay, use the following method instead.

2. Forward your mail to Gmail

Set your old mail server to forward all incoming mail instantly to Gmail. You can only do this if you have sufficient control over the mail server though.

If you go this way, do not use method 1. as well. It is totally unnecessary and might even cause problems.

Getting your mail from Gmail into your local email client

This second and last step is not necessary if you use the Gmail interface at directly. But if you want to keep using a local email client program, you can set it up to collect your mail from Google Mail.

The procedure in Gmail is: Settings, Forwarding and POP/IMAP, POP Download

Gmail explains how to reconfigure your email client to collect mail safely from Gmail.

Set Gmail to delete mail, once it's been downloaded. It will still stay in your Gmail trash folder for 30 days, which is important when you want to report the occasional spam that slipped through the filter.

Do report all spam, using the [Report Spam] button in Gmail. You are doing yourself and all others a favor.

Additional details

In your local email client program you can keep your old mail server account as your standard mail account, particularly to send email. However, many mail clients (like Outlook Express) automatically use the account through which an email was received for sending replies. This would mean that you're now sending all your replies through Gmail, unless you switch accounts every time, which is too awkward for normal use.

If your email client allows you to automatically send all email, including replies, from a particular default account, then there is no problem. Just use your old account and your old server to send email.

If your email client doesn't allow this, you have two ways out.

  1. Configure the Gmail account in your local email client to send from your old mail server. Leave the receiving side untouched.

    You can keep a second Gmail account around for bidirectional Gmail operation, if you like. Just don't use that to collect your mail from Gmail.

  2. Use Gmail to send all your emails, but reconfigure Gmail, so it uses your normal email address as the sender.

All this said, you should be aware of one new concern, if you use Gmail as your spam filter—Google can now read all your mail. Currently I see no urgent problem in this, but consider that Google could gather and abuse information about you and that government agencies could force Google to divulge such information. And there is always the Server Admin Leak.