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Published 20th April 2009 by

Each and every day I have to clear out well over 200 junk emails from my inboxes. It is theoretically just a case of selecting the junk emails, right clicking on them and marking them as junk - but it doesn't always work!

By doing the "Mark as Junk" you are telling the spam filter to read the mails and remember certain details so that when another comes in similar it can recognise it as spam. This is an adaptive learning program.

Thunderbird Email Scam Filter

Thunderbird Email Scam Filter

The trouble is that after a while it becomes less and less effective at picking up on my spam emails and I have to repeatedly mark as junk on the same emails coming in.

Does this problem sound familiar? Well, there is a solution and it's really simple.

When you installed Thunderbird and marked a few junk emails as spam the algorithm was working from a clean slate. As you add more and more junk emails as spam the data grows and grows. Fast forward half a year or so and your junk email recognition software has the details of all the spam emails sent to you in the past 6 months, but guess what? If you could pull back an old spam email and compare it with one from today you will see that they are completely different in structure and wording. Your junk email filters rules are based on yesterdays junk email not today's.

Junk Email Evolves

As more sophisticated spam filters come on the market the writers must use more sophisticated techniques to get past them. It's a constant battle between the two sides, with one leading for a while, then the other.

The simple solution to the problem is to reset the Thunderbird junk email training data. This wipes out all the data from the past 6 months (or however long it has been since you installed Thunderbird) and lets you start blocking spam from today's junk email senders without the data being polluted with old spam.

Here's how to do it.

  1. Open up Thunderbird if it isn't already open
  2. On the Tools menu select Options
  3. On the Privacy tab select Junk
  4. Click on the button that says "Reset Training Data"
  5. Done!

OK, so you have to retrain Thunderbird for a few days or so, but afterwards, it will be so much more efficient at picking up and blocking spam email and you won't have to keep marking the same emails as spam.

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