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I've had this problem for years, all the way back to Lion at least.

I consistently have various emails coming into Apple Mail, that get moved to the junk folder. These emails are not marked as Junk, i.e. Mail does not think they are junk mail, does not highlight them in brown, etc. They cannot be marked as "Not Junk" because Mail already thinks they aren't junk, despite moving them to the junk folder. I can mark them as junk if I want and they highlight in brown as they should, but of course they're not junk so... don't want to do that. I have to manually move them to my inbox every time.

This happens with many accounts coming into Mail, including multiple GMail accounts, multiple accounts using my own personal domain, and my Apple-issued me.com account. So it's not a GMail or 3rd party server thing.

I'm using IMAP for all accounts. Junk filtering is enabled, "trust junk headers in messages" is disabled. This has driven me nuts for years and I'm finally sick enough of it to post a question here. It requires me to carefully scour my junk folder constantly - rendering the whole point of junk filtering moot.

How can I get valid mail to stop going to junk without setting custom rules for every single sender?

  • You can't and for iCloud you can't change its filter - you should be able to control your own domain – Mark Oct 20 '15 at 16:33
  • I'm not sure you understood my question/issue. It's not that the filter is registering false positives. It's not an issue with the spam detection algorithm. The problem is that messages that are not junk - and are clearly indicated as not junk - are still showing up in the junk folder. They can be marked as junk (another clear indication that they are not junk messages) and so of course stay in the junk folder, but marking them explicitly as not junk does not move them back to my inbox. Why do not-junk messages, appear in the junk folder? – Jonathan van Clute Oct 20 '15 at 21:06
  • Because something thinks they are junk - and if it is the mail server e.g. iCloud then and Mail.app does not think it is junk it will be in the junk folder and Mail won't make it brown or allow it to be marked non junk, you have to use the web interface to the mail to see it. (I have the same issue as you do on iCloud) – Mark Oct 20 '15 at 21:10
  • Interesting... I never use the web interface for mail, so I've never noticed if the messages are in the correct place there. I'll check that out, though it still sounds like there is no actual solution. Bummer. – Jonathan van Clute Oct 21 '15 at 0:45
  • OK this is so weird. The messages do indeed appear as junk at icloud.com and are colored brown, but they don't show as junk in mail.app even though they are in the junk folder. Is there no way to teach the mail.app what is or isn't junk? I thought that was one of its big claims to fame, that it would learn or could be taught? – Jonathan van Clute Oct 21 '15 at 0:57
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It turns out that the solution was to log into icloud.com, find all the emails that keep being marked as junk (since they will actually appear as junk in icloud) and mark them as not junk. Now mail.app correctly treats them as not junk and is no longer sending them (marked as not junk) to the junk folder.

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I would strongly suggest looking into the app SpamSieve, which functions in tandem with Apple Mail by assigning more stringent rules for sorting and which has a more advanced learning algorithm than that which is built in to Apple Mail. I've found SpamSieve to be pretty much flawless and am really glad it exists. It's kind of expensive, though; so you might try "trusting junk headers" or adding rules for those messages consistently incorrectly sorted first. The final option would of course be to try a different email client.

  • Thanks, although I'd really prefer not to have to add a whole other solution for this. Incidentally I used to have the "trust headers" option enabled, and actually disabled it recently thinking it might be the culprit. It was not. The problem here is not false positives (though there are plenty of those) - it's that Mail is moving messages into Junk, that are not marked as junk! That's what I'd like to get to the bottom of - is this a bug? Some expected behavior that I don't understand? A feature?? – Jonathan van Clute Jul 18 '15 at 22:00

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