Unwanted junk email (spam) is annoying and disruptive, forcing us to wade through huge amounts of useless or offensive messages just to find the ones we need. To help reduce this problem, Windows Live Mail includes a built-in filter that automatically screens email to identify and separate the junk email from legitimate email. Unlike other filters that require you to "train" the filter to identify junk email correctly, Windows Live Mail automatically identifies many types of junk email from the first use, often without the need for feedback from you. It does this by shifting the required "training" to the Microsoft servers and using a version of filtering called Bayesian spam filtering.
Bayesian spam filtering is the process of using Bayesian statistical methods to classify documents into categories. Particular words have particular probabilities of occurring in spam email and in legitimate email. For instance, most email users will frequently encounter the word Viagra in spam email but will seldom see it in other email. Typically, the filter doesn't know these probabilities in advance and must first be trained so that it can build them up. To train the filter, you generally must indicate manually whether a new email is spam. For all words in each email you've identified as junk, the filter adjusts the probabilities that each word will appear in spam or legitimate email in its database. For instance, Bayesian spam filters typically will have learned a very high spam probability for the words Viagra and refinance, but a very low spam probability for words seen only in legitimate email, such as the names of friends and family members.
Fortunately, you do not have to have a degree in mathematics or programming skills to use this feature or to change the filtering to be more effective. Windows Live Mail comes ready with an initial database that you can use to distinguish between spam and legitimate email. You can choose to adjust the sensitivity of the filter to block more email or to block less email, depending on your needs. You can also specifically designate senders as either safe or blocked.
By default, Windows Live Mail moves any email identified as junk to the Junk E-mail folder. This ensures that you don't have to wade through junk email but can review the messages before deleting them as necessary. Checking your Junk E-mail folder periodically for regular email that has been incorrectly filtered is important to optimize junk email filtering. If an email is marked as junk but isn't junk, right-click it, point to Junk E-mail, and then select Mark As Not Junk.
You can set the filter level for junk email as well as safe senders and blocked senders by following these steps:
1. In Windows Live Mail, click the Menus button on the toolbar, and then click Safety Options.
2. In the Safety Options dialog box, shown in Figure 16-7, you can set the filter level for junk email on the Options tab. Choose one of the following filter levels:
No Automatic Filtering
Turns off automatic filtering. Only email addresses on your Blocked Senders list are filtered.
Ensures that only email with the highest probability of being junk is filtered. High
Uses rigid screening to detect the highest number of junk email possible, but may also incorrectly flag regular email as junk. Safe List Only
Filters all email except for recipients specifically designed as Safe Senders.
Figure 16-7. Configuring junk email options
3. You can permanently delete suspected junk email rather than moving it to the Junk E-mail folder by selecting the "Permanently delete suspected junk e-mail instead of moving it to the Junk E-mail folder" checkbox. If you do this, keep in mind that legitimate email could also be deleted automatically.
4. Messages from email addresses designated as safe senders will never be treated as junk email. Use the following options on the Safe Senders tab to manage your Safe Senders list:
Allows you to add a safe sender. Click Add, type the email address or Internet domain to add to the Safe Senders list, and then click OK.
Allows you to edit an existing safe sender entry. Click the entry you want to edit and then click Edit. As necessary, edit the email address or Internet domain and then click OK.
Allows you to remove a safe sender entry. Click the entry you want to remove and then click Remove.
5. Messages from email addresses designated as blocked senders are always treated as junk email. Use the following options on the Blocked Senders tab to manage your Blocked Senders list:
Allows you to add a blocked sender. Click Add, type the email address or Internet domain to add to the Blocked Senders list, and then click OK.
Allows you to edit an existing blocked sender entry. Click the entry you want to edit and then click Edit. As necessary, edit the email address or Internet domain and then click OK.
Allows you to remove a blocked sender entry. Click the entry you want to remove and then click Remove.
6. Click OK to save your settings.
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