Spam slayer: Ten tips and tricks

How satisfied are you with your e-mail software? Does it block spam and do everything it should? Does important e-mail get lost in the weeds? Are hundreds of megabytes of spam saved and hidden on your PC?

Spam can make your e-mail software feel more like a garbage can than a mailbox. Because no e-mail software is perfect, here are some tips to help turn your e-mail client into an easier-to-use, more reliable messaging client--without requiring a software upgrade.

Free of distractions

Spam and other e-mail messages not directly addressed to you can crowd your in-box to the point that important e-mail gets lost. You can create a rule in Outlook Express 6 that puts any e-mail messages not addressed directly to you in a separate bulk e-mail folder.

To create the rule, go to Tools, Message Rules, and Mail. Next, click on the New Rule tab and create a new rule. You'll want to check the box labeled "Where the To line contains people". In the box below, click on the blue underlined words "contains people". You'll want to add your e-mail address and click Add. Now click on Options and choose "Message does not contain the people below", and select OK and OK. Now put a checkmark in "Move it to the specified folder" and click the blue underlined word "specified". Lastly create a new folder named Bulk e-mail, highlight it and hit OK and OK. If you use Netscape's e-mail software, go to Tools, Message Filters, and New. Select "Match all of the following" and use the Subject drop-down menu and select "To." Add your own e-mail address and then in the box at the bottom of the window select Red. That way all e-mail addressed directly to you will be highlighted red in your in-box and hard to miss.

Attachments blocked?

Last year, Microsoft distributed a security update for Outlook Express 5 and 6 that changed the program's settings. Users who installed the update found that file attachments to e-mail messages were automatically blocked. The change was to prevent attachments that harbored viruses from being downloaded and launched within your in-box. This is a great feature for Net novices, but for advanced users it can be frustrating. To disable the feature, follow these steps, but be sure to scan attachments for viruses before opening them.

In Outlook Express, click Tools, Options, and the Security tab. Next, uncheck the box that says "Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus."

Delete mystery spam

Outlook and Netscape share a habit of backing up deleted e-mail in Outlook's Deleted and Netscape's Trash folders. Microsoft's product saves up to 2GB of old Outlook e-mail even after you've deleted the messages from your Deleted folder. I found 300MB of mostly spam messages I thought had been deleted from my Netscape Trash folder. It's not easy to recover these messages if you needed them, and why waste hard drive space saving spam, anyway?

Deleting trashed messages cluttering up your hard disk in Netscape is a challenge. Go to Start, Search, Files and Folders, and select "All Files and Folders." Be sure to select "Search hidden files and folders" by expanding the "More advanced options" menu option. Search for the word "trash." Search results will deliver a number of folders containing files named "trash." The one to delete is likely the largest in file size and will follow the convention:

"C:\Documents and Settings\YOURUSERNAME\ApplicationData\Mozilla\Profiles\default\5z3f9dp.slt\Mail\pop. YOURISP.com". In older versions of Windows the file path will look like this:

"C:\Program Files\Netscape\Users\YOURUSERNAME\Mail".

It's okay to delete this file as the Netscape program automatically regenerates the folder.

In Outlook, hidden e-mail is a lot easier to delete. First, go to Tools and Empty the "Deleted Items" Folder. To prevent Outlook from storing deleted messages in the future, go to Tools, Options, select the Other tab, and check the box "Empty The Deleted Items Folder Upon Exiting."

Avoid chat room spam

Spammers are notorious for trolling AOL chat rooms hunting fresh spam meat. To minimize spam, create a decoy screen name just for chatting.

Put Hotmail on a spam holiday

If you're on vacation and away from your Hotmail account, you probably dread the spam that awaits your return. To prevent spam overload and trick spammers into thinking your e-mail address is no longer active, you can close your Hotmail account for up to 90 days. But if you abandon your account for more than 90 days, you can kiss your Hotmail user name goodbye. Closing your account means you cannot send or receive messages, and stored e-mail and addresses are deleted.

Spammers will think your e-mail address is dead and the spam onslaught will subside. On the flip side, your friends will think your e-mail address is dead as well, so don't forget to inform them. To re-activate your account, just sign back on to Hotmail within 90 days.

Never read spam twice

It's bad enough you get tricked into reading spam once. But if your Outlook or Outlook Express clients don't immediately display messages as read when you read them, you may end up rereading spam. Here's how to mark a message as read (or unbold e-mail messages) in your in-box the instant you click on it.

First go to Tools, Options, and select the Other tab. Now click on the Preview Pane option in Outlook Express (Outlook 2003 calls it the Reading Pane) and check the box next to "Mark messages as read in preview window." Select 0 as the number of seconds you want to wait before marking the message as read.

In Outlook Express, go to Tools, Options, and select the Read tab. To the right of "Mark messages read after displaying for" change the time to 0 seconds.

Shut up about spam

A notification feature intended to alert you when you've got e-mail can drive you nuts. If you use a Windows XP and XP Pro computer with multiple user profiles, every time you log onto your desktop a message relates how many unread e-mail messages you have.

To prevent this notification nag, you need to find out which programs generate them. XP typically culls new message information from your Outlook Express e-mail client and your Messenger client that is tied to an MSN or Hotmail account.

To prevent Messenger from informing you of new e-mail messages, go to the Messenger program's Tools menu and then select Options. Next, select the Preferences tab and uncheck "Run this program when Windows starts." In Outlook Express, go to Tools, Options, and click on the General tab. Deselect both "Automatically log on to Windows Messenger" and "Send and receive messages at startup."

Nag messages, part II

You can also prevent new e-mail alerts from popping up out of your system tray for Hotmail, MSN, and Outlook.

To prevent Messenger telling you about every new e-mail message, open Messenger, click on the Tools menu, and select Options. Next, select the Preferences tab and uncheck "Display alerts when e-mail arrives."

In Outlook Express, go to Tools, Options, and click on the General tab. Next, go to the "Check for new messages" box and max out the times Outlook checks for new messages to 480-minute intervals. The trade-off is that you will have to manually hit Send/Receive in Outlook to check for messages.

In Outlook 2003, go to the Tools menu bar, select Options, and click E-mail Options. Now, click on Advanced E-mail Options, and customize the "When new items arrive in my In-box" section.

A nice new ring to spam

If you like new message alerts but are sick of the sounds of the alerts, you can change or silence the programs that generate them. Go to Start/Settings/Control Panel and select Sounds and Audio Devices. Here you can modify Windows sounds. Simply click on the Sounds tab and scroll down in the Program Events field and find your e-mail or messaging client and change or remove the sound.

Make filters mobile

If you've painstakingly created spam and e-mail filter rules for your Netscape e-mail client and want to set up Netscape on a new PC, here's how to take your filter rules with you.

Go to Start, Search, Files and Folders, and select All Files and Folders. You'll want to make sure you selected "Search hidden files and folders" by expanding the "More advanced options" menu option. Search for the word "msgfilterrules." Search results may deliver a number of folders with the msgfilterrules file in it. The one you are looking for when using Windows XP and XP Pro will be associated with your ISP and will follow the convention:

C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\ApplicationData\Mozilla\Profiles\default\6y2pe1cq.slt\Mail\pop.YOURISP.com

For Netscape Junk mail control rules (Spam/Junk mail controls), you need to look for training.dat file in your "slt" folder located here:

C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\ApplicationData\Mozilla\Profiles\default\5z3f9dp.slt\

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