Use Gmail to fight spam

Editor’s Note: The following article is excerpted from the Hassle-Free PC blog at PCWorld.com.

Everybody has a favorite method for fighting spam, the bane of inboxes planet-wide. Tools like MailWasher and SpamAssassin get the job done for some on the PC side. (See this round-up of spam fighters for a list of Mac-friendly tools.) But I’m partial to another solution: Gmail.

Google’s universally adored mail service does a great job filtering out junk-but not just for Gmail accounts. See, I have a personal domain (let’s call it hasslefreepc.com) that I use for my primary e-mail account, and it gets positively bombarded with spam.

By taking advantage of a couple native Gmail features, however, I was able to rid my inbox of 99.9 percent of it. Here’s the process in a nutshell:

  1. I created a new Gmail account. (I already had one, but I wanted a second that was exclusively dedicated to my domain’s mail.)
  2. I clicked Gmail’s Settings link, then headed to the Accounts tab.
  3. I clicked Add another e-mail account and configured Gmail to fetch messages from my domain’s servers (and to not leave copies there, otherwise my server would eventually get full and start rejecting messages).
  4. Presto: Gmail automatically scans for spam when it retrieves mail from other servers, so I could have stopped right there. However, I didn’t want browser-based Gmail to be my primary destination for e-mail activities, as I prefer to use Outlook on my desktop and my cell phone for on-the-go messaging.
  5. Therefore, I headed to Gmail’s Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab and enabled IMAP, which allows for two-way communication between Gmail and other mail clients.
  6. Finally, I followed Gmail’s configuration instructions for setting up IMAP with Outlook and other clients (including OS X’s built-in Mail app).

Now, when I receive e-mail via Outlook or my phone, it’s totally transparent: There’s no evidence of Gmail’s involvement-except for the total lack of spam, which gets filtered out along the way (and stored in Gmail’s Spam folder, where you can easily review it for false positives).

In other words, Gmail acts as the spam-filtering intermediary between my domain and my PC or phone. And as an added bonus, it lets me access my mail on the Web, which is very handy at times. Sometimes I wish I could give Gmail a big fat kiss.

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