When you are sent an attachment within an e-mail, you will need to open it using a separate program. In most cases, your computer will tell you which programs are available to open the file.
- To view an attached file, click the file icon or save the file to your hard drive, then use the appropriate software program to open it.
- With most e-mail software, you open an attachment by double-clicking the icon for the file. This typically brings up a dialog box allowing you to decide what you want to do with the file.
- Attached files must be decoded. This usually happens automatically.
- If you open an attachment that looks like random characters and symbols, it probably has not been decoded correctly or you may be viewing it with the wrong software program.
- Use Caution: Your computer can contract a virus when you open an attached file. If you do not know or trust the person who sent the e-mail, delete the attachment to avoid infection.
Depending on your e-mail client, some files may open automatically within your e-mail window. Others will require you to save them to your computer before opening. On mobile devices, you may be given a list of several options, including opening, saving, and even sharing the attached file.
See our interactive example of how to open an e-mail attachment using Gmail, in a Google Chrome Browser:
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if an attachment is safe?
Follow these three rules, and you should be okay. First, make sure you have antivirus software installed on your computer. Most antivirus software will scan incoming e-mails and remove any infected attachments before you can open them. Second, only open attachments from senders you know and trust. Third, if anything looks suspicious, even if the e-mail is from someone you trust, don’t open it.
How do I know which software I need to open a file?
In most cases, your computer or mobile device will recommend the appropriate software. However, there are times when it may not know the correct program to use. In those cases, it may provide a list of several programs, or attempt to open the file in the wrong program. If you are not sure what program you need, do an Internet search for the file’s extension (this is the 2-4 letters after the period in the filename). It may be necessary to download additional software to view the attachment.
Why won’t my e-mail client let me open the attachment?
The most likely reason for this is that your e-mail client has marked the message as spam. If you trust the sender, mark the e-mail as “not spam.” You should now be able to view any attached files. If this doesn’t work, check your antivirus software. If it believes the file is dangerous, it will prevent you from opening it.
How do I save all of the attachments at the same time?
Some e-mail clients will give you the option to save all attachments. If yours does not, you can usually select all of the attachments and drag them to a location on your computer.
If someone sends me several attached pictures, can I scroll through them?
In most cases, you will need to open each attached picture individually. If you want to scroll through them, you will need to first save them all to a folder on your computer.