Overview of the Junk E-mail Filter

Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 contains a Junk E-mail Filter designed to reduce the unwanted e-mail presented in your inbox. The junk e-mail, also known as spam, is routed by the filter instead to a Junk E-mail folder, where it can be more effectively managed. This article discusses the Junk E-mail Filter and how you can adjust its settings to suit your needs.

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How the Junk E-mail Filter works

The Junk E-mail Filter evaluates each incoming message to assess whether it may be spam, based on several factors. These can include the time when the message was sent and the content of the message. By default, the Junk E-mail Filter is turned on and the protection level is set to Low. This level catches only the most obvious spam. You can make the filter more aggressive by changing the level of protection. Also, the Junk E-mail Filter can be updated periodically to protect against the latest techniques that spammers use to spam your Inbox.

 Note   The Outlook Junk E-mail Filter does not stop junk e-mail from being delivered, but rather diverts suspected spam to your Junk E-mail folder instead of your inbox. Some third-party solutions are available which can be more aggressive on this front.

 Tip   You can control many of your Junk E-mail Filter settings with the Junk E-mail Options dialog box. From your Inbox, in the Actions menu, point to Junk E-mail and then click Junk E-mail Options.

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Junk E-mail folder

Any message that is caught by the Junk E-mail Filter is moved to a special Junk E-mail folder. It is a good idea to review the messages in the Junk E-mail folder periodically to make sure that they are not legitimate messages that you want to see. If they are legitimate, you can move them back to the Inbox by marking them as not junk. You can also drag them to any folder.

Junk E-mail folder

You can delete the rejected messages by emptying the Junk E-mail Folder at any time.

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Junk E-mail Filter Lists

Even though the Junk E-mail Filter filters your incoming messages automatically, the Junk E-mail Filter Lists enable you more control over what is or is not considered spam. These lists enable you to allow messages from sources that you trust, or block messages that arrive from specific e-mail addresses and domains that you don't know or trust.

There are five Junk E-mail Filter lists


Safe Senders List

Safe Senders

If the filter mistakenly marks an e-mail message as a junk e-mail message, you can add the sender of that message to the Safe Senders List. You can also manually build your Safe Senders list in the Junk E-mail Options dialog box. E-mail addresses and domain names in the Safe Senders List are never treated as junk e-mail, regardless of the content of the message.

  • All of the e-mail addresses in your Contacts are included in this list if the Also trust e-mail from my Contacts check box in Junk E-mail Options is selected (the default setting). With this setting, messages from people in your Contacts folder will never be treated as junk e-mail messages.
  • E-mail addresses of people who are not listed in your Contacts but with whom you correspond are included in this list if you select the Automatically add people I e-mail to the Safe Senders List check box. (This check box is not selected by default.)
    • A recipient's e-mail address is saved in the list by default only when you create and send a message manually in Outlook, instead of the message being generated automatically by a program.
    • Personal distribution lists cannot be added by using this check box.
    • If you accidentally reply to a spammer's e-mail message (for example, by sending a request to unsubscribe from the spammer's mailing list) while this check box is selected, that spammer's e-mail address will be added to the Safe Senders List. If you later notice the spammer's messages in your Inbox, you must add the spammer's e-mail address to the Blocked Senders List and remove the corresponding entry from the Safe Senders List. If the same address appears in both the Blocked Senders List and the Safe Senders List, the Safe Senders List takes precedence, and the address will not be considered unsafe.
  • If you use an Exchange account (used more often in business settings than for home or personal e-mail), all names and e-mail addresses in the Global Address List (Global Address List: The address book that contains all user, group, and distribution list e-mail addresses in your organization. The administrator creates and maintains this address book. It may also contain public folder e-mail addresses.) are automatically considered safe.
  • You can also configure Outlook so that it accepts messages only from people in your Safe Senders List. This configuration is in a click-box in the Options tab in Junk E-mail Options.

Safe Recipients List

Safe Recipient

If you belong to a mailing list or a distribution list, you can add the list sender to the Safe Recipients List. Messages sent to these e-mail addresses or domain names are never treated as junk, regardless of the content of the message.

Blocked Senders List

Blocked Senders

You can easily block messages from particular senders by adding their e-mail addresses or domain names to the Blocked Senders List. When you add a name or e-mail address to this list, Outlook moves any incoming message from that source to the Junk E-mail folder. Messages from people or domain names that appear in this list are always treated as junk, regardless of the content of the message.

  • If you have existing lists of safe or blocked names and addresses, you can import them into Outlook.
  • You can add a message sender or recipient to any Junk E-mail Filter list by right-clicking the message in your Inbox or other mail folder, pointing to Junk E-mail, and clicking on the desired option.

International - Blocked Top-Level Domains List

International

To block unwanted e-mail messages that come from another country/region, you can add country/region codes to the Blocked Top-Level Domains List.

This list enables you to block e-mail addresses that end in a specified top-level domain. For example, selecting the CA [Canada], US [United States], and MX [Mexico] check boxes in the list would block messages from e-mail addresses that end in .ca, .us, and .mx. Additional country/region codes appear in the list.

International - Blocked Encodings List

International

To block unwanted e-mail messages that appear in another language, you can add encodings to the Blocked Encodings List.

This list enables you to block all e-mail addresses in a specified language encoding (encoding: A method for representing characters in HTML or plain-text e-mail messages, examples include US-ASCII, Unicode (UTF-8), and Western European (ISO). Outlook automatically selects an optimal encoding for outgoing e-mail messages.), also known as a character set. Today, most junk e-mail is sent in US-ASCII encoding. The remainder is sent in various other international encodings. The Blocked Encodings List lets you filter out unwanted international e-mail that is displayed in languages that you don't understand.

 Notes 

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E-mail account types supported by the Junk E-mail Filter

The Junk E-mail Filter can be used with the following kinds of e-mail accounts:

All e-mail accounts in the same Outlook e-mail profile (Outlook e-mail profile: A profile is what Outlook uses to remember the e-mail accounts and the settings that tell Outlook where your e-mail is stored.) share the same Junk E-mail settings and lists. If you have both an Exchange account and a Windows Live Mail account, for example, each account has its own Junk E-mail folder. However, if you have both an Exchange account and a POP3 account, junk e-mail for both accounts is located in the Junk E-mail folder for the Exchange account.

If you change your profile, you should export a copy of the Junk E-mail Lists before you make the changes, and then import the information into Outlook. This way, you will avoid the need for re-creating the Junk E-mail Filter Lists.

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The Junk E-mail Filter with different versions of Microsoft Exchange

Using Outlook in a Microsoft Exchange environment - much more common in business than with home or personal e-mail - offers another layer of capabilities and tools to combat junk e-mail.

Microsoft Exchange Server 2003

  • If you use Cached Exchange Mode or download to a Personal Folders file (.pst)     The Junk E-mail Filter Lists are stored on the server and are available from any computer. The filter lists are also used by the server to evaluate messages. This means that if a sender appears in your Blocked Senders List, then messages from that sender are moved to the Junk E-mail folder on the server, and they are not evaluated by Outlook.
  • If you work online     The Junk E-mail Filter Lists are stored on the server. They are available from any computer, but only if you have the Junk E-mail feature enabled in Outlook Web Access. The filter lists are also used by the server to evaluate messages. This means that if a sender appears in your Blocked Senders List, then messages from that sender are moved to the Junk E-mail folder on the server, and they are not evaluated by Outlook.

Microsoft Exchange Server 2000 and earlier

  • If you use Cached Exchange Mode or download to a Personal Folders file (.pst)     You can create and use the Junk E-mail Filter Lists, which are stored on the server and available from any computer that you use. Note that if you use both Cached Exchange Mode and the option to download to a Personal Folders file (.pst) as your default delivery location, the Junk E-mail Filter Lists will be available only on the computer that is used to add the names and addresses.
  • If you work online     The Junk E-mail Filter is not available.

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Filtering for phishing messages

Some junk e-mail can be dangerous or even fraudulent. The Junk E-mail Filter also automatically evaluates each incoming message to discover whether it might be suspicious, potentially fraudulent, or part of a phishing attack. For more information, see Enable or disable links and functionality in phishing e-mail messages.

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Applies to:
Outlook 2007