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How to Block Spam in Hotmail, Windows Live Mail and Windows Mail

written by: Matthew Becker•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 5/5/2010

It’s inevitable: if you have an e-mail address, then you’re bound to get spam. It’s annoying, it’s irritating and highly inappropriate especially if you have kids of your own with e-mail addresses. The best way to combat it requires some work, but can easily be done.

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    How Do I Even Get Spam?

    A common misconception is that spam accumulates from your internet service provider, or by any other service or product you have on your computer. This is not always the case. If you ever stop to take a look at the e-mail addresses of all the spam messages you receive, a lot of the time they’re incomprehensible, or from e-mail providers that look like they don’t even exist. That’s because they don’t.

    Spammers have access to web crawlers which go from website to website accumulating e-mail addresses to send their solicited messages. Think of the many different places online that may have your e-mail address on file: message forums or social networking sites for example. Chances are, the more frequently your e-mail address is being circulated, the greater chance of you getting more unsolicited messages.

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    Blacklisting Addresses

    If an e-mail address is legitimate, then chances are you can prevent future messages from whoever sending you those e-mails. However, the majority of spam uses web crawlers with automated and false e-mail addresses. Blacklisting them will do no good as the address is not even real and will not guarantee full prevention from receiving future messages from the same spammer.

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    Reporting Spam in Hotmail, Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail

    Hotmail’s sensitivity towards unsolicited messages is relatively high. So high, as a matter of fact, that messages that you want to receive end up being sent to your Spam folder. However, it is pretty efficient at determining which messages are from legitimate e-mail addresses and which ones are not.

    As soon as you log in, and you notice a message that you know is spam, don’t simply delete it. Instead, click the button that says “Report Spam," right next to your delete option. That way, similar messages that you receive in the future will not find its way in your Inbox, but instead will go directly into your Spam folder. Now, to adjust the sensitivity filter, you'll want to click on "Options" on the top-right of the page. From there, choose "More Options." In the new page, under "Junk e-mail" choose "Filters and reporting." By default, the sensitivity detector is set to "Standard." If you want to alter this, among other options regarding the junk mail that you receive, you may do so from this menu.

    In Windows Live Mail, you just choose the message you want to report as spam (choose multiple messages by pressing on the Control key and clicking on each individual message), then click the “Junk" button at the top of the window. The junk e-mail settings depend on the settings you have set for that particular e-mail address. You'll have to log in at the e-mail provider's website to make any changes to those settings.

    In Windows Mail (the successor to Outlook; not to be confused with Live Mail), it’s a bit different. You right-click the message you want to report, scroll down to where it says “Junk E-mail" and then choose whether you want to block messages from that entire domain (for example all of hotmail.com or all of gmail.com), or just that particular sender. To configure the sensitivity of the Junk E-mail filter, click the “Tools" menu, and from there click “Junk E-mail Options..."

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    Further Prevention

    Some spam e-mails will trick you into believing there’s an “opt out" option. Usually, at the end of their e-mail message, they will indicate that the only way to remove yourself from their list is to reply to the e-mail and write that you don’t want to get any more e-mails. This is actually dangerous territory, because all that will do is give indication that your e-mail account is in fact valid, and could severely increase the spam messages you receive.

    100% prevention is very difficult. If you sign up for social networking sites, or message boards, or any other website that needs an e-mail address, see if there’s an option to keep it private. That way, there is less of a chance of web crawlers to find your e-mail address and send you unsolicited messages.

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    Other Options

    If you'd like to add to the protection built-in to Microsoft's products, there are numerous third-party anti-spam products that provide an additional tier of security. For example, check out Bright Hub's reviews of Spam Terrier and Firetrust MailWasher - free spam blockers which will help keep your inbox junk-free.