Gmail tip: Don't forget to check your spam filter

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Most of these are spam, but at least one definitely isn't.

Before I incur the wrath of non-Gmail users, let me just note that this tip also applies to Hotmail,, Yahoo, and so on. But because I'm a Gmail user myself, and that's where my story begins, that's where I'm putting my focus.

When was the last time you checked your spam filter? I ask because until recently, I hadn't looked at mine for months. That's because I use Gmail, and the service is so good at keeping junk out of my inbox, I pretty much forgot spam existed.

But a few days ago, I went searching for an email that never arrived, and wondered if perhaps it had gotten caught in Google's filter.

It hadn't. However, I was surprised to discover a handful of other messages in the spam inbox that definitely weren't spam. Nothing crucial, but items I was a little bummed to have missed.

For example, amidst the "enlargement" come-ons and obvious phishing attempts, I found some marketing emails I actually wanted, from companies I'd agreed to let contact me. And a couple messages from readers of another blog I write.

What was particularly strange is that Gmail had filtered some messages from a particular source, but not others. For example, I get regular deal notices from Newegg, but a few wound up in the filter.

I'm not sure why Gmail suddenly decided those messages were spam, though I know the technology behind filtering can be imprecise at best. And it's easy enough to undo what's been done: Just click the box next to each message that's not spam, then click Not Spam.

The moral of the story, of course, is to check your spam filter on a regular basis—once a week at minimum, I'd say. Even if it routinely catches nothing but bona-fide junk, you never know when something important might get intercepted before it reaches your inbox. It's definitely worth a few minutes of your time to make sure that doesn't happen.

Go ahead and check your Gmail spam filter, then let me know: Did you find any false positives? If so, how many?

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PCWorld ForumsSign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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