True to its name, Network Associates McAfee SpamKiller 4.0 does a professional job whacking spam. The standalone program now works with nearly any POP mail client, including Outlook, Outlook Express, MSN, and Hotmail. But it's not a perfect solution. Unlike iHateSpam, for example, it doesn't integrate within your e-mail software, so you must download your mail twice (once in SpamKiller, then in your mail client). Also, we had some problems getting it to work correctly with MSN mail. And SpamKiller is expensive: the former $30 shareware package was purchased last spring by McAfee and now costs $40 for the downloadable version and $50 for the CD, making it the priciest antispam software around. Still, if you hate spam (and who doesn't?), SpamKiller is our choice.
Downloading SpamKiller's 4MB setup file took less than a minute using a DSL connection. The program's setup is a matter of following a simple installation wizard then rebooting, at which point the software automatically searches your hard drive, identifying your e-mail client, and importing your address book and server settings. Unfortunately, the program also installs the McAfee Security Center, a screen that shows the status of all McAfee Security apps (even if you have only one), which then routinely pops up requests for updates. With no way to turn this off, McAfee Security Center can quickly grow tiresome.
Installation is a breeze. Simply follow the installation wizard by clicking Next, and you're done.
SpamKiller's interface is straightforward. Click the Check All button, and SpamKiller reviews all of your accounts, putting suspected spam in its Killed Mail folder and the rest into Live Mail. You then scan the folders to make sure the program didn't miss any spam or flag legitimate messages, then launch your normal e-mail client. SpamKiller prevents the spam in the Killed folder from downloading to your in-box. In our tests, the program stopped 100 percent of the spam coming into our EarthLink account, but it inexplicably missed other spam that landed in our MSN Inbox.
SpamKiller comes chock-full of features, the best of which is its huge list of more than 5,000 spam filters. SpamKiller scans the sender line, then the subject line, body text, header, and country of origin on each message, looking for telltale signs of spam, such as XXX or 100% guarantee. McAfee updates these filters nearly every day via the software's automatic update feature, or you can create your own filters. If you prefer, SpamKiller will check your mail at regular intervals and flag suspected spam without sending it to the Killed folder.
SpamKiller comes with thousands of built-in, spam-identifying filters, which you can search for and modify as you wish.
As in previous versions, SpamKiller makes it easy to forward complaints to the abuse department of the spammer's ISP or send phony error messages back to spammers so that they'll remove you from their lists--a satisfying way to exact a little revenge.
Free, live technical support for SpamKiller is available 24/7 via online chat; however, we were less than impressed with the response we got in our tests. We had to wait more than 20 minutes to hook up with a technical-support representative, who could neither fix our problem nor provide us with a transcript of the session. You also have the option of e-mailing McAfee (although you'll find the e-mail address under Customer Service on the McAfee site rather than in Technical Support). We sent e-mail and received a response in four hours. Want phone support? You'll have to pay--either $3 per minute or $39 per incident. For a product that's relatively pricey, we expect more and better service and support.
If you want free live support for SpamKiller, you'll need to chat. It took us more than 20 minutes to reach a techie, and we were less than impressed with her answers.