Friday, September 1, 2006

When anti-spam programs corrupt your profile


By David Gewirtz

Last week, we ran an article entitled "When all else fails, rebuild your profile" (at In it, we attempted to answer Ian Steptoe's answer about why his POP3 email settings seemed to be continually corrupted.

One of the things I love about publishing our magazines is how smart and helpful our readers are. We saw it this summer in Computing Unplugged Magazine when we started talking about broadband-over-powerline and our readers stepped in to help educate us on the issues involved.

And we're seeing it now in OutlookPower. Ronald Goers, an engineer at XEROX, sent us the following, very interesting insight. He's noticed that anti-spam programs sometimes muck with Outlook's profile settings.

Ronald's anti-spam observations

I was reading your article and may have the answer to Ian Steptoe's problem. I have seen certain anti-spam programs set up their own local mail server. When this occurs, they do in fact change your profile, as described by Ian. I would guess that's exactly what happened. Again, it's just a guess, but it seems very likely.

I set up the ChoiceMail free edition on my wife's laptop a few weeks ago. I tried it for a few minutes, and decided it was too complex for what I wanted it to do. I used the program's uninstaller to remove the program, and put SpamBayes on instead.

When I went to pull her mail, I got errors galore! I have five email accounts set up on that machine, for personal, business, and kids' accounts. When I looked into the cause of the errors, I found that all of the profiles pointed to "local machine" instead of the Road Runner POP3 server. Apparently, the program sets itself up as a mail server between Outlook and your normal POP3 connections. It pulls the mail to its own "server" and does the sorting there, before it passes it on to Outlook. I have read of other anti-spam programs using similar methods, but can't think of any names off-hand.

Hope that helps a little. I know it took me a few minutes to get the profiles set back to where they were... but I was able to do it. That's the only difference I can see between my experience and the one reported by Ian. Apparently Ian could not get the profiles reconfigured.

Thanks, Ronald

If you've got insights into how Outlook functions, don't hesitate to let us know. The old adage says two heads is better than one. We've got 233,000 heads, and if even a few of us can share ideas, it'll make everyone's life easier. If you've got a tip or an article to share, don't hesitate to send it to Please make sure your subject line says "OUTLOOK TROUBLESHOOTING".