Gmail Tip: Trick Gmail Into Checking Your POP3 Accounts Often

by Klaus on March 3, 2010

in Guides/How-To

I recently moved away from MobileMe as my primary Inbox, to which I had a few other e-mail accounts forward e-mail to. I was happy with MobileMe as my e-mail provider, except for the fact that some e-mails never arrived, not even in my spam/junk folder. I investigated and found out that the sending SMTP server actually did deliver the e-mail(s) to MobileMe (and they were accepted), and still, they never reached me. So the spamfilter at MobileMe is simply too effective sometimes – even with certain mails that are not even spam.

So I moved to Gmail. Well, to Google Apps, to be precise. Since the interface and the features of Google Apps e-mail is the same as Gmail (more or less), I’ll just call it Gmail from now on.

Setting up Google Apps and Gmail for my domain name was really easy, Google does a great job at telling you what to do etc. Did I mention Google Apps is free? Well, it is. How great is that?


With Gmail, you can check up to five POP3 accounts. After checking your POP3 accounts, Gmail will put the e-mails into your Gmail Inbox and label them accordingly (if you want). By doing that, you can actually stick with just one Inbox for several e-mail addresses. Use IMAP on your Gmail account and you have the same Inbox for multiple e-mail addresses across all your devices / web mail. I love it!

The problem with Gmail’s POP3 Mail Fetcher is the fact that you can’t decide how often their Mail Fetcher will search for new mail on your POP3 accounts. It can even take 24 hours (I tried that a few times) between checks. Mail Fetcher will figure out your e-mail receiving patterns by itself and check accordingly there after. But when I noticed that it could take several hours between checks, I decided to do something about it…

Here’s what Google writes about Mail Fetcher:

Gmail checks individual accounts for new messages at different rates, depending on previous mail fetch attempts. At this time you can’t customize the frequency of automatic mail fetches.

And here’s what it means: If you want us to check your POP3 accounts more often, you gotta receive more e-mail. That’s what I decided to do, so I set up a cronjob (scheduled task) on my web host server, telling it to e-mail my POP3 accounts once every 15 minutes between 8am and 6pm on business days. And it works. Within Gmail, just set up a Filter to put those e-mails into trash or somewhere else, so they don’t clutter your Inbox.

Here’s how Gmail fetched my POP3 e-mails before I applied this little trick:

As you can see, it can easily be up to an hour between checks. I even saw 24 hours and 25 hours between checks.

Here’s how it looks on my other POP3 account which is receiving a “wake-up call” approximately every 15 minutes:

A clear difference.

You could of course also just forward your e-mail to your Gmail address / Google Apps address, but you increase the risk of getting the e-mails flagged as SPAM, since mail forwarding often breaks SPF. I won’t go into technical details here, but in most cases, forwarding e-mail is just fine. But if you want to use Gmail’s POP3 Mail Fetcher feature and have it check more often than “what it think is enough”, just set up a script to e-mail you frequently.

Hope it helps!

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