Every mail host has a spam filter, but how they work and the options depend on each company. We’ve given specifics for Office Watch received at Outlook.com, Exchange Server and Gmail. The same principles apply to any other place you get your email like mail hosted at an Internet Service Provider (ISP).
More than one Junk Email filter
Email passes through many hands before it reaches your Inbox. At the very least, Internet email will go through two servers and probably four between the sender and your Inbox.
Messages can be stopped at any point in that process, most commonly by an overzealous junk email filter run by the mail host.
A ‘possible spam’ message might be moved to a Junk Email/Spam folder at your online mailbox, or it could be deleted with no notice. That means messages you want to see are stopped by your mail host, possibly with you having no clue that it’s happened.
Outlook’s Junk Email filter is mostly useless
It’s almost useless to whitelist or mark as ‘Safe Sender’ in Outlook for Windows/Mac.
The Outlook for Windows/Mac software junk email system is only the very last spam filter for your mail. Most messages are stopped before they reach your online Inbox, let alone Outlook software.
Back in late 2016, Microsoft stopped revising the Outlook spam filter, rendering it gradually useless.
As we said at the time:
“Most email checking is already done by your mail host. Any mail hosting service will have some level of spam filtering in place. Certainly Gmail, Outlook.com/Hotmail, Yahoo mail etc all have effective spam filtering already in place. Most, if not all, ISP’s have spam filtering too.”
Maybe spam, maybe not
Junk email filters sometimes see messages that it’s not sure about. The message may, or may not, be spam.
How possible spam is handled depends on the mail host.
- Some have a Junk Email/Spam folder for messages they aren’t sure about.
- Other mail hosts don’t have that middle option, messages are either OK (your Inbox) or spam (deleted with no notice or recovery).
A questionable message may be put into a Junk Email or Spam folder. For you to check and other ignore or more to your Inbox.
That folder is NOT necessarily the Junk Email folder in Outlook software. Most likely there is a separate Junk Email folder online that you don’t see in Outlook software.
Looking for a missing message
If you’re looking for a missing email, make sure you check online (ie mail in your browser) as well as Outlook software.
Unless you have an Exchange Server connection (eg Office 365 mail hosting, Outlook.com, Hotmail etc.) the Junk Email/Spam folder in Outlook will not have all your possible spam messages.
Check with your mail host about how their spam filters work and the options for recovering wrongly marked messages.
It’s possible the mail host has completely deleted the email or their system refuses to accept delivery at all. Presumed spam messages are often deleted and not put in your Junk Email/Spam folder. In other words, there are messages sent to you that never reach you mailbox at all … even though you might want to see it!