The College of Engineering is committed to helping you reduce the number of spam/phishing/virus emails sent to our users. As such, we also have to be careful not to stifle the academic process by being too aggressive in our spam filter techniques. In cooperation with the campus network engineering team, most incoming email is sent through several spam filtering/tagging applications, include commercial blacklists (companies that analyze spam and provide lists of known spammers) and a product called SpamAssassin.

In the case of SpamAssassin, every email is "tagged" with an extra header that indicates whether it thinks the email is spam or not. Once you have that information, your mail client can be configured to move that email to another folder (or just deleted if you desire). We also have the ability to filter those messages to a special folder before your mail client ever sees it.

Your Engineering resources includes a product called Procmail that can do just that. It uses a special file in your home directory called '.procmailrc' where you can tell it what to do. It is capable of doing just about anything you want with email, but for now, we're only interested in filtering out those messages that SpamAssassin has tagged as spam.

Automatic Configuration

The college now offers a way to setup your spam filter automatically. Just login to TEACH ( Then click the "Spam Filter" link under the "Email Tools" section. 


  •  Setup creates a folder in your Z drive (\\\users\username) called procmail and a configuration file in the root of your Z drive, .procmailrc
  • The configuration file should only be edited with a text editor like notepad, or even better, Editpad lite or notepad++. The latter(s) don't create line break characters that can confuse procmail.
  • Spam will wind up in a  mail folder called caughtspam in Z:\mail. If you don’t see this folder in Outlook or other email clients, one may need to have their IMAP folders refreshed.
  • False positives can be added to the file whitelist in Z:/procmail. Add ONLY the email address, and one per line. Use editpad lite or notepad++ for best results, which are on the computers in the Utilities folder.
  • You can do lots of fancy stuff for auto-sorting email with the .procmailrc file. Google it and see. It is particularly useful for those of us who change email clients frequently as the processing is happens before webmail or Outlook see it.
  • If you enable vacation, you must remove the last two lines of .procmailrc in order for vacation to process incoming mail. Otherwise procmail overrides and vacation is not processed. An example:

# remove comments to enable vacation
# :0c
# |/usr/bin/vacation -a first.last username

where first.last is your oregonstate alias (if you are faculty) and username is your ONID username