Unlike its predecessors (Outlook Express for Windows XP and Vista Mail), Windows Live Mail comes with "
adaptive" spam filters built right in: this means that your junk filter learns, and gets better with time, at recognizing what you consider junk emails. It also periodically receives spam list updates through your PC's Windows Updates maintenance software package. And you can manually block email addresses through your Blocked Senders list, as well as entire domains and languages through your "
International Blocked List". Conversely, you can add both senders and domains to your "
safe list", so that their emails are never blocked! Your safe senders list and block list work alongside the junk filters, not instead of them: by supporting both, Windows Live Mail takes you just a step closer to a spam-free inbox.
Caution: if you realize that your own email account is sending spam to others, the problem isn't related to spam filters: quickly change your email account password (first, with the webmail provider; then, inside Windows Live Mail).
FYI: Windows Live Mail moves to its "Junk E-mail" folder all messages perceived as spam, using its own filters. But your email provider typically filters incoming mail for spam as well: this means that you might have spam in other folders. If you've setup an email account as
POP3, login to the webmail interface to check that service's Spam folder (which could be called any number of ways). If you added your email account as
IMAPor Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, you may have another spam folder in the folder tree (left pane), in addition to Windows Live Mail's own "Junk E-mail" folder!
By default, Windows Live Mail will show you how to a warning dialog whenever it has placed suspected spam messages into the Junk E-mail folder: "
Windows Live Mail has downloaded a message that appears to be junk email. This message was automatically moved to the Junk email folder" ...To remind you to check it for possible "false positives". Click Close or hit escape (Esc) to dismiss this popup; clicking "Open Junk Email folder" will automatically go to that folder to let you review your messages; the "Junk Email Options" opens the same Settings dialog we'll cover later on in this tutorial. To stop that warning, check the "
Please do not show me this dialog again" checkbox, and click Close: but don't forget to regularly go check your spam folder for legitimate messages!
Tip: notice the underlined letters ("accelerator keys") in the screenshot above. They are disabled by default in the latest versions of Windows, so here's the breakdown: hit "O" to go to the Junk folder, hit "J" to configure your spam settings, or hit "C" to close the dialog (and Alt+P checks the checkbox!)
Clicking on the "Junk" button (not its down arrow) in the Ribbon while one or more messages are selected will do several things: it will move them to the current email account's "junk mail" or "spam" folder (it can have various names - for
IMAP accounts, the path can be customized). Click on the dropdown arrow, and you'll have several choices. Note that these options will be disabled (grayed out) if more than one email is selected.
There are a couple of other ways to manually report a message as spam: right-click on the email, and select the "Junk email" submenu, then click "Mark as junk" or "Mark as not junk", as applicable. You can also use the Ctrl+Alt+J keyboard shortcut to manually report an email as spam (it also works when multiple messages are selected). Don't just move the message(s) to the inbox or spam folder: use these commands, so that Windows Live Mail can learn to recognize patterns in what you consider junk mail.
Tip: the "Junk" button says "junk", and uses a red "stop / forbidden" icon in your inbox and all other folders, but one. Once you are inside the junk mail folder, it becomes a green checkmark that reads "Not Junk", and will do just the opposite: clicking on it will mark all selected messages as "not spam", and move all of them back to your inbox!
Here are two ways to customize your junk mail filter settings: click on the dropdown arrow of the "Junk / Not junk" button, and choose "Safety options" from the menu. Or click on the "
Windows Live Mail" button (top left corner), select "Options", and choose "Safety options" - the assigned keyboard shortcut for this action is Alt+F, O, S:
The general "Options" tab, selected by default, controls the aggressiveness of your junk filter: by default, Windows Live Mail has it set to "
Low - move the most obvious junk email to the Junk Email folder". This is a safe setting, since legitimate mail will very rarely be accidentally filtered as spam - on the one hand, it may not be high enough if lots of spam still reaches your inbox. Here are the other three levels, with their pros and cons:
The lowest setting is "
No automatic filtering. Mail from blocked senders is still moved to the Junk Email folder" - in essence, all messages go through, except those from email addresses or domains ("
@something.com") you have manually blocked (i.e., addresses currently in your block list). This setting is generally not feasible to prevent spam; but it is the recommended filter level if you are in sales, or using Windows Live Mail for business purposes, as it guarantees that no emails from prospects will go to the Junk folder!
Tip: check out our "Windows Live Mail blocked list" tutorial to learn how to add and remove safe senders, or block entire domains from ever reaching your inbox. Messages from blocked senders are not deleted: they are simply moved to Windows Live Mail's Junk E-mail folder, still readily accessible.
The setting above basically prevents Windows Live Mail from automatically moving any email to the Junk folder: your spam filter is basically turned off. The opposite of that setting, only useful in very special circumstances (not really feature in the real world, except for kids, internal emailing only, or security-sensitive positions), is the highest level of protection from spam: all emails will be moved to the Junk folder unless you have added them to your "Safe Senders" list. This should give you a very "quiet" inbox :) For that level of protection, select "
Safe List Only: Only mail from people or domains on your Safe Senders List will be delivered to your inbox". All other messages will still be available, but you won't be able to open any of them by accident (view them by going to the Junk folder).
FYI: unfortunately, even with message rules (aka "mail filters"), you can't differentiate emails put into that folder by WLM's junk filters, versus the ones moved because they were sent from a blocked email address or sender: so you'll have to go through the entire folder and sift for yourself!
In most cases, you'll either choose the default junk mail filter (Low), or the one called "High", because both of them are automatic: they don't rely on your having to manually block or white-list senders and domains using the blocked and safe senders lists. If you find that too much spam finds its way to your inbox, choose "
High: Most junk email is caught, but some regular mail may be caught as well. Check your Junk Email folder more often". Expect to find more false positives with that setting, at least in the beginning.
Two other noteworthy settings are also available on that same "Options" tab: the first one, unchecked by default, allows you to automatically delete perceived spam (it's impossible to always get it right, so legitimate emails will, sooner or later, get accidentally deleted!) But the key word in that checkbox is "
permanently": this means that affected messages won't be moved to the Deleted Items folder - they'll be completely removed from Windows Live Mail, without giving you a chance to look at them. Only enable this setting after having thought about its implications! Do so by checking the "
Permanently delete suspected junk email instead of moving it to the Junk Email folder" checkbox.
The second setting, also unchecked by default for privacy reasons, allows you to contribute to making our collective inboxes more free of spam by letting Windows Live Mail report to Microsoft emails you've marked as spam. Exactly what information is sent to Microsoft is unclear, but if you have setup a Hotmail account in Windows Live Mail, you can safely enable that option, since Hotmail already keeps track of what you report as spam in the webmail client. If you use AOL Mail, Gmail, or Yahoo Mail, they also keep track of messages you report as spam in their webmail client.
Also unclear is who "Microsoft's partners" are: most likely, they include third-party spam blacklist providers like Spamhaus, SpamCop, and possibly a consortium of the big webmail providers: it benefits all users to share that kind of information to improve each other's service. To enable sharing which messages you mark as spam (or as safe!), check the "
Report junk email to Microsoft and its partners (recommended)" checkbox.
Junk mail and phishing attempts are treated as spam, but the difference is major: junk mail tries to sell you unwanted products or services, whereas phishing messages try to steal your identity or credentials: phishing messages often pretend to come from banks or financial processors (e.g., PayPal), and ask you to "verify" your account info (username, password...) Once you've fallen into that trap, the hacker can freely steal your money or use your credit cards. Windows Live Mail has special settings designed to handle phishing emails. In that same Options dialog, click on the "Phishing" tab:
By default, the "
Protect my Inbox from messages with potential Phishing links" checkbox is checked: we recommend that you leave that option enabled! You should also check the second checkbox, "
Move phishing email to the Junk email folder (Applies only to POP/IMAP accounts)". Having these messages moved to the Junk folder makes it less likely that you'll accidentally fall for them in a moment of inattention! Here's an actual phishing attempt we received: minus the obviously fake email address and the spelling mistakes, it is frighteningly realistic. If you aren't paying close attention and come across such a message in your inbox (as opposed to the Junk mail folder), you may not realize the forgery:
Note: Windows Live Mail also includes "Security" options, which you may want to look at while you're at it, but we'll discuss them in a later tutorial. Besides, the default security settings are quite fine with their defaults, pictured below:
The most important ones for junk mail handling are the last two:
• Enabled by default, the "Block images and other external content in HTML email" option prevents Windows Live Mail from automatically showing linked images: a linked image can *easily* be used to determine if your email address is active (worth spamming to death!) or not.
• The second setting, also checked by default, controls if you want to "Show images and external content sent from email address in my Safe Senders list": this is a personal choice; if enabled that will allow you see rich content from trusted senders / mailing lists right away, without having to click on the "Show images" link you'd otherwise get (default case shown below):
Once done, click OK to apply your new settings: Windows Live Mail will start using them right away, no restart needed, but changes in spam filter level aren't retroactive. (Emails already in your inbox or junk mail folder won't be moved after the fact!)