MailWasher PRO ReviewVersion 2012.1.20.0
by Coenraad de Beer
(Webmaster & Founder of Cyber
Posted on 25-06-2012
MailWasher PRO Version 2012.1.20.0 was reviewed on an Intel Pentium 4, 2.8GHz with 2GB of RAM, running Windows 7 Professional.
There is really nothing special to the installation of MailWasher Pro. It is fast, easy and effortless. The real setup actually starts when you open the application for the first time. It scans your e-mail clients for the e-mail accounts you have set up, you simply choose the e-mail accounts you want to “wash” from the list provided, click next and choose the e-mail program you normally use to check your e-mails. The trick is not getting MailWasher Pro installed, but understanding how it works. When you run MailWasher Pro for the first time, it also presents a short video on how to use the program. This video explains the basic concepts of MailWasher Pro and should get you started in a couple of minutes.
MailWasher Pro is compatible with Microsoft Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Windows Mail, Outlook Express and Mozilla Thunderbird. It also supports all the mainstream e-mail service providers like Incredimail, Yahoo, GMail, AOL and Windows Live / Hotmail, but is not limited to these service providers only, you should be able to filter spam on any POP or IMAP account.
MailWasher Pro checks for updates every 2 days. This setting is customizable so you can change it to every day or even increase the interval to 3 or more days.
MailWasher Pro is very easy on your system resources. There is absolutely no lag on the system while MailWasher Pro is in idle state or even while checking your mail. There are some performance enhancing settings that can be activated under the general settings. These settings are not necessary on high end machines, but may come in handy on older systems with less powerful processors and little physical memory.
The user interface is quite easy to use and understand, with large, graphical and self explanatory buttons. The more advanced spam tools are hidden by default, so novice users should not be overwhelmed by this program, nor should users with more advanced knowledge of spam filtering techniques, be bored or limited by this program.
It is really important to familiarise yourself with the user interface, because unlike conventional spam filters that operate in the background, MailWasher Pro relies heavily on user input and interaction, so you end up working with the user interface quite a lot.
Users can also customize the user interface to suit their needs. You can customize things like the colour of the different e-mail types (spam, good mail, undetermined mail), what columns should be visible, zoom level and size of certain interface elements, even the brightness and layout, making MailWasher Pro a very accessible application. You can even group the different e-mail types together, making it much easier to scan through a specific group of e-mails, than having to go through each and every e-mail one by one.
MailWasher Pro is very unique in the way it deals with spam. Normal spam filters work on autopilot in the background, during or even after downloading your e-mail. Once the filtering is done, users normally train these spam filters by indicating which e-mails are spam (in case the spam filter missed some) or which ones are not (in case the spam filter flagged a good e-mail as spam).
With MailWasher Pro you do all this before downloading your e-mail. It connects to your e-mail account, downloads 80 lines of the e-mail (you can increase this number which will increase the accuracy of the filtering process, but at the cost of speed) and flags the e-mail either as spam, good or undetermined. The user can then train MailWasher Pro by indicating which e-mails it missed and which good e-mails were incorrectly flagged as spam. After that is done you hit the “Wash Mail” button and all the e-mails marked as spam will be deleted. As soon as the “washing” is complete you can launch your e-mail client and only the good e-mails will now be downloaded.
MailWasher Pro uses several spam filtering techniques like whitelisting, blacklisting, Bayesian filtering, DNSBL lookups from services like SpamCop and Spamhaus, FirstAlert! (an online spam database maintained by Firetrust, the developers of MailWasher Pro), language filtering and customized rules, for example the absence of your e-mail address in the “To” and “CC” header fields.
MailWasher Pro is not very good at identifying spam at first, but after some training it will get a better idea of what you see as spam and what you regard as good mail. It did not make a single false positive during the testing phase, so you could argue that MailWasher Pro is more of a conservative spam filter, which is a good thing, because I'll rather have a conservative spam filter than a paranoid one that flags almost anything as spam.
A couple of extra features are at the disposal of hardcore spam fighters like customised filters, adjustable spam ratings and even reporting of spam via spam reporting services like SpamCop, so you can even use MailWasher Pro to report spam to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another feature is the Bounce feature. I do not believe that this is a very useful feature because, first of all, spammers (except some 419 scammers) never leave a reply-to e-mail address and secondly, even if they do leave one, it is normally fake or the e-mail address of an innocent bystander, turned into a scapegoat for the spammer's activities. So if you bounce the e-mail back to the “assumed” sender, you might end up punishing a fellow spam victim. Even the developers of MailWasher Pro admit in the help documentation that the “From” address is often a fake address, but they mention one application where this feature may come in handy, i.e. when you bounce the e-mail to a company who regularly cleans its mailing list, they should take you of their list and not send you any more mail. This may work in a perfect world, but even this scenario is flawed, because most companies send their newsletters from Do-Not-Reply e-mail addresses, so in most cases, likely 99.9% of the time, it will be useless to bounce a spam e-mail.
Uninstalling MailWasher Pro is as quick and easy as installing it. A log file was left behind under the Program folder, but apart from that, it removed itself completely from the system without any side effects.
MailWasher Pro has a unique way of dealing with spam and certainly has a lot of potential. It will not work in a business environment where e-mail clients are set to download e-mail automatically (there is a Enterprise Server Edition available for businesses though), but it should work for the individual who checks his/her e-mail once or twice a day. It takes some time to identify spam effectively, but then again, no spam filter is perfect from the word go, they all need a little bit of training. With that being said, I still think MailWasher Pro could improve its detection rate and rely a little less on the user to train the program.
If you are looking for a spam filter to deal with your spam on server side, before downloading it to your computer, then MailWasher Pro is the spam filtering solution for you. If you are looking for something more automated and integrated into your e-mail client, I suggest you try SPAMfigther Pro.