Your email address is like your home address: Never give it out unless absolutely necessary.
Thus, if you're registering online for some freebie, promotion, or Web site that you just know is going to deluge you with ads and other spam, it makes sense to supply a disposable address--something you can access as needed for confirmation messages or the like, but that won't otherwise interfere with your primary inbox.
MailDrop gives you a free throwaway email address. Use it in place of your own address, then head to the site to retrieve any messages you might need.
It works like this: Think up whatever prefix you might like for your address, then add @maildrop.cc. Presto, there's your disposable email. For example, I might use firstname.lastname@example.org.
I use that address where needed, then go to the MailDrop site, type in the prefix, and click Go. Now I'm looking at my inbox, where I can read (and, if desired, delete) messages. Simple as that.
However, this is essentially a public inbox: Anyone else who uses your same prefix will have access to "your" mailbox. One easy fix: Use something unique that no one else will guess (MarsN33dsWom3n, for example). Another: Don't use MailDrop for anything that demands security or privacy. As noted on the site's FAQ page, there's none of either.
That may sound crazy, but, again, for simple things like Web registrations and confirmation emails, where you just need to retrieve the message and then be done with it, a service like this makes a ton of sense. It's free, and it couldn't be much simpler. There's nothing to sign up for and no password to remember.
If MailDrop sounds a little familiar, you might be thinking of Mailinator, a similar service I wrote about a few years back. That one is still around, though MailDrop keeps your messages indefinitely rather than just a few hours. However, it can store only 10 per inbox, and it lacks Mailinator's forwarding option.
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at email@example.com, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.