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Other than stopping spam on your end, there's little you can do to prevent it. The best bet is to learn to use the spam filters in your email program.

I get a lot of advertising emails every day – about 25 of them. My spam program catches most of them, but I still have to delete them all at some time. Is there anything that I can do to stop this annoying thing from happening every day?

In this excerpt from Answercast #43, I look at ways to manage spam using the functions in your email program's spam filters.

Stopping spam

Well, no, not really.

I mean – it's not possible to stop spam completely! There's just no way to prevent someone from sending you email.

The best you can do is to come up with a way with dealing with it on the received end – in other words, when you get it.

Managing unwanted emails

In most cases (apparently in your case), your email program or your email service will do its best to identify spam and throw that into a separate folder. Now, at that point, in most cases, you really don't need to do much of anything else.

I'm not sure why you feel the need to go in and delete the spam. Most online services (like Hotmail and Gmail) will keep the spam there for a little while. But after 30 days (I think it is), the spam is automatically deleted for you so you actually don't need to do anything at all.

Training your spam filters

You probably want the spam to hang around for a little while because you may very well find yourself needing to check it for what are called "false positives."

In other words, somebody you know sending you an email that you want, that gets mistakenly marked as spam by the system.

The approach of course is to take a look in your spam folder to see if that's where the email landed. If it did, make sure to mark it as not spam.

Many email programs, such as Thunderbird, Outlook and so forth, will also automatically mark things as spam and move them into folders for you. Sometimes, you can configure them to delete them immediately. But I would recommend against this specifically because it prevents you from recovering false positives, as I just talked about.

Looks like it's working

In reality, all you really need to do is have the program do what it's doing – move the email messages to a spam folder. If it does not automatically clear out the spam for you after a certain amount of time (like the online service does), then fine, once a month, once every other month – heck, once a year – go in and delete all your spam.

It doesn't have to be something you need to look at every day. It doesn't even have to be something that you think about every day.

  • Most email spam filtering functionality works quite well, quite transparently in the background;

  • And shouldn't require any kind of daily maintenance on your part.

Article C5690 - August 13, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
August 14, 2012 1:14 PM

Yeah, I basically do what Leo says. I use Thunderbird and have a filter on my Inbox to catch emails that the spam filter doesn't catch. It basically says that if you're not in my address book, mark the email as spam and put it in the spam folder. I have also set up Thunderbird to delete any messages marked as spam if the message is more than one week old. That one week gives me a chance to check for false positives.

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