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Outlook settings NOT to use: Spam

Some anti-spam settings to avoid in Outlook

by Office for Mere Mortals

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We spend a lot of time writing about Outlook settings and how to use them. It occurred to us that there are settings we don’t talk about because they are NOT good and best avoided. In the past we looked at Navigation Buttons. This time we’ll look at some anti-spam options that go too far.

The highest spam settings have to be best, right? Surely, the most extreme junk email settings must remove more spam. WRONG.

The highest spam settings offered in Outlook are too high for normal use. That’s because spam filters aren’t perfect and wrongly mark as ‘spam’ messages which you want to see. The higher junk e-mail settings are more likely to have these ‘false positives’ – that’s nerd speak for marking a real message as spam.

Outlook - Junk Email options image from Outlook settings NOT to use: Spam at Office-Watch.com

Safe Lists Only

This is an enticing option, placed beyond even the ‘High’ filtering choice. However it’s likely to trap messages you want to see.

The setting will send all incoming emails to the Junk E-mail unless they’ve been pre-approved.

The approval list and definitions is on the Safe Senders tab …

Outlook - Junk Email - Safe Senders image from Outlook settings NOT to use: Spam at Office-Watch.com

You can manually add addresses on this dialog or, more likely, by right-mouse clicking on a message then choosing Junk E-mail | Add Sender to Safe Senders List or Add Sender’s Domain to Safe Senders List.

If you click the options, any addresses your Contacts list/s will be considered Safe Senders. Any email addresses you email from Outlook are also added to Safe Senders.

That sounds great, however things are different in the real world.

We all receive messages from a different, new or unexpected email addresses not known to Outlook before they arrive.

Many people have multiple email accounts for example a primary address plus a webmail account (Hotmail, Gmail etc) that’s used only occasionally. With the extreme ‘Safe Lists only’ messages from occasional addresses will be moved before you see them.

Messages from an organization can come from unexpected addresses – for example reply to a web contact form for support or sales assistance will come from a ‘new’ Sender not in your Contacts or Safe Senders list. This can also be a problem if you send an email to a general enquiry address (eg help@... ) but the reply comes from another address.

Few of us live in such a well ordered world that we can rely on email to only come from the same addresses all the time with 100% accuracy.

Permanently delete spam

The option ‘Permanently delete suspected junk e-mail instead of moving it to the Junk E-mail folder’ should be turned off.

Any spam filtering will get things wrong and occasionally messages end up in the Junk E-mail folder that you want to read.

It’s good and prudent to keep Junk E-mail around for a time so you can recover messages mistakenly put there. Don’t worry about the folder ‘filling up’, Outlook can handle it.

Empty Deleted Items on Exit

A related option that some people choose is “Empty the Deleted Items folder upon exiting” under Tools | Options | Other in Outlook 2007 and before.

Outlook - Empty Deleted Items on exit image from Outlook settings NOT to use: Spam at Office-Watch.com

In Outlook 2010 it’s moved to Options | Advanced | Outlook start and exit

Outlook 2010 - Empty Deleted Items on exit image from Outlook settings NOT to use: Spam at Office-Watch.com

Just like ‘Permanently delete spam’ this option is best avoided. The ‘Deleted Items’ and ‘Junk E-mail’ folders are your backstop in case a message is mistakenly moved from your Inbox.

Don’t worry about the size of your Outlook storage. Outlook can handle many Gigabytes of storage so there’s no need to waste time clearing out messages too soon.

High Protection

The ‘High’ protection option is the one most people choose. It will detect most spam and phishing messages and move them out of your Inbox. It’s not an option to be avoided but instead used with caution.

Occasionally it’ll go too far and move to Junk E-mail folder a real message, but on-balance, it’s the most appropriate setting.

Microsoft is right when it says “Check your Junk E-mail folder often” with the High anti-spam setting.

It’s easy to find a specific message you’re looking for using the search box at the top of the Junk E-mail folder list.

Article posted: Tuesday, 14 June 2011

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