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SpamKiller 2.90

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  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • Easy setup
  • thousands of pre-built email filters
  • automatically sends complaints to spammer ISPs and error messages to spammers
  • free filter updates
  • lets you review or rescue killed mail.

Cons

  • Doesn't work with AOL or MSN
  • can't detect MIME-encoded spam
  • some false positives
  • missed some spam in our tests.

Originally developed by Novasoft, this five-year-old shareware spam slayer was recently purchased by McAfee.com, which cleaned up a few bugs. The result? For $39.95, you get a veteran spam buster that boasts thousands of built-in and customisable filters for ridding your PC of unwanted email. If you receive only a few pieces of spam a day, you can just delete the offending messages by hand. Otherwise, download SpamKiller as soon as possible.

SpamKiller's premise is simple: before you check your email, SpamKiller fetches messages from the mail server, then filters them based on your restrictions and its built-in rules. Suspected spam ends up in your Killed Mail folder, where you can review it before deleting it; good mail goes to your SpamKiller in-box. Once you've cleansed your mail of spam, just launch your email client and download only the remaining mail.

Installing SpamKiller is simple -- just click your way through a wizard, then reboot. The program picks up your existing POP and SMTP server settings. The only snag: in our tests, SpamKiller found settings for an ISP we hadn't used in nearly two years. SpamKiller's technical support was unable to come up with a reason for this. We had to set up our account manually, which is easy enough to do. Just click the Accounts button, then click Add and follow along with the wizard.

SpamKiller's strength lies in its thousands of pre-existing filters. It sifts email by the sender's name, the message header, the subject, the message text and the country of origin. It also flags mail that it's not sure about. For example, if you've copied yourself on a message, SpamKiller sends it to your inbox with a question mark attached because the From address equals the To address, a common tactic used by spammers.

Curiously, SpamKiller filtered test mail containing the words human growth hormone, but it let through messages that had the acronym HGH. Fortunately, it's easy to create your own filters, specifying the field you want to filter (Message Text), as well as the conditions (contains HGH ) and actions (Kill). As spammers find new ways to get past filters, McAfee creates new filters, which you can download to SpamKiller by clicking the Update button.

SpamKiller gets it right most of the time. In our tests, SpamKiller identified and killed 20 messages; 3 were legitimate ones from mailing lists, but we quickly added them back to our inbox by clicking the Rescue button. It accepted 43 messages, 6 of which were pure spam -- including one with a virus attachment. SpamKiller does not detect viruses, nor can it filter the text of MIME-encoded mail, messages sent via AOL or those from MSN. A McAfee spokesperson says that the company plans to support these services in a future release, possibly before the end of the year.

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SpamKiller lets you enact revenge against lowly spammers by looking up the domain and email addresses of a sender's ISP, then sending complaints to the ISP's abuse department. You can also set SpamKiller to automatically reply with an error message, fooling the spammer into thinking your address isn't valid. It doesn't get any better than that.

Unfortunately, SpamKiller's process still requires two steps: you must filter mail in SpamKiller, then download it to your email client, which amounts to more work than is necessary for low-spam inboxes. But if your inbox contains more spam than legitimate messages, give this program a whirl.

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