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How to Block Spam With Email Filters.


Block Spam with your email program.

This would have to be the least preferred method because the email has already fully downloaded to your computer before the filters will take effect.  This means at the very least that you have paid (in bandwith and download volume) to have an email delivered that you didn't want.

However, you can make your email program filter pretty efficiently for you providing you monitor it to keep the results up-to-date.

Monitoring for false positives is something you have to do regardless of which method you use in any case.

How you set up the filters for your specific email program will vary a little as the menu names etc may be different.  I will give instructions on how to set up Outlook 2003 as that is the version I have.

These Instructions come from the Outlook 2003 Help file (hey, it is possible to look stuff up you know)

Creating Rules:
Assume you want the e-mails coming from to go to a specific folder, all you have to do is to create a rule for that:

  1. Select the Inbox folder from Mail folder on the left of your screen.

  2. Go to Tools>Rules and Alerts. A new window will appear.

  3. Select the E-mail Rules tag: Click on the New Rule button.

  4. Select Move new messages from someone. Click on Next.

  5. Select condition(s): from people or distribution list. Then from the rule description area at the bottom of this window click on the link that says people or distribution list and type in the corresponding email the From field. Type in “ brent@spam-killa” in this case. Click on Next.

  6. From the Select action(s) window check the move it to the specified folder. Click on the link that says move it to the specified folder from the rule description area at the bottom of this window. You will get a list of all folders in your Outlook account. Click on Inbox and from the right click on New then type “Mail From Spam-Killa”. A new folder named Mail From Spam-Killa is created.

  7. If you have any exceptions, you will have to include those from the Select exception(s) window. When done click on Next.

  8. Finally give your rule a name: “Emails from Spam-Killa” under Step 1. Under Step 2 you can choose to run the rule currently found in your inbox, and you can choose to turn the rule on or off. Select both options for now. View the changes.

You can use these to act as a White list and move all your know good emails to various folders to sort them out, for example you can have a folder called Family, another called Newsletters etc.  Each of these can be sub-sorted into sub-categories if you want to get extremely tidy.  Actually, I find that this is a really good way to make sure I can find old emails when I want them later, it's a bit anal but it really helps when you get 100s of emails per day.

Essentially, any email which gets in my inbox that doesn't have my email address in the To: or Cc: fields is automaticaly sent to the Spam folder.  Every thing which isn't already sorted by the Rules will be in the Inbox and I create a new Rule for each one to filter it into an existing or new folder.

You can add a new filter by right-clicking on the email itself and choosing 'Create Rule...' from the drop down menu.

Outlook also has a Junk E-mail filter built in.  Quoting from the Help file again:

The new Junk E-mail Filter replaces the rules used in previous versions of Microsoft Outlook to filter e-mail messages. The Junk E-mail Filter feature is on by default, and the protection level is set to Low, which is designed to catch the most obvious junk e-mail messages. Any message that is caught by the Junk E-mail Filter is moved to a special Junk E-mail folder, where you can retrieve or review it at a later time. You can make the filter more aggressive, which may mistakenly catch legitimate messages, or you can even set Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 to permanently delete junk e-mail messages.

There are two parts to the Junk E-mail Filter: the Junk E-mail Lists and the state-of-the-art technology developed by Microsoft Research that is used to evaluate whether an unread message should be treated as a junk e-mail message based on several factors, such as the time it was sent and the content of the message. The filter does not single out any particular sender or type of e-mail message. The filter is based on the content of the message in general and uses advanced analysis of the message structure to determine the probability that it is a junk e-mail message.

I disagree with their statement that this replaces the Rules, you should use it in conjunction with the Rules for filtering.  Some of the filtering rules will be absolutley useless for you, for example - 'time it was sent'  what sort of rule is that?  Typical UScentric attitude.  The internet is global and there is more than one time zone. This should not be used to determine if an email is junk or not, it is also very easy to fake.

I am guessing that Microsoft Research have taken the industry standard Baysian filtering algorithm and added some rules so they can call it 'advanced analysis'.  The method used by Microsoft is one which has been around for a long time and is an integral part of MailWasher, the free POPFile program and several other spam blocking tools.

I use Thunderbird on my home computer so I'll cover that next.

Or you could go to and use the easy to use spam deletion tool. You'll still need to know your email user name and password but you won't have to play with any settings, just decide which ones you want to keep and delete the rest.

Copyright Brent Milne. 2007

brent (at)


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