How to download, open, and save e-mail attachments

Updated: 12/30/2021 by Computer Hope
E-mail icon

E-mail is an excellent tool for communicating with other users over the Internet. In addition to messages, e-mail allows users to send and receive pictures, videos (small), documents, and other media through attachments. The following sections show you how to download, open, and save e-mail attachments sent to your e-mail inbox on a Windows or Mac computer.

How to download webmail attachments

The directions in this section are for web-based e-mail services, also known as webmail. These services require an online account to access them (e.g., Gmail or Yahoo! mail).

Google Gmail logo.

Google Gmail

  1. Log in to your Gmail account and open the message containing the attachment(s) you want to download.
  2. Any attachments are shown in the bottom-left corner of the message body (A).
  3. To download the attachment(s), move your mouse cursor over each of the attachments and click the download arrow that appears (B).

How to open Gmail attachment window.

  1. A prompt appears to let you know when the download is complete. The location of this prompt and the related instructions depend on the Internet browser you're using. For further information, see: How to open and save webmail attachments.
Microsoft Outlook Logo

Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail)

  1. Log in to your Microsoft Outlook e-mail account and open the message containing the attachment(s) you want to download.
  2. The attachments are above the body of the message (A).
  3. Move your mouse over the right side of the attachment and click the down arrow that appears (B).
  4. From the drop-down menu, select Download (C).

Instructions on how to download an e-mail attachment in Outlook mail.

  1. A prompt appears to let you know when the download is complete. The location of this prompt and the related instructions depend on the Internet browser you're using. For further information, see: How to open and save webmail attachments.
Yahoo! mail logo.

Yahoo! mail

  1. Log in to your Yahoo! account and open the message containing the attachment(s) you want to download.
  2. The attachment(s) are below the body of the message (A).
  3. Move your mouse over the right side of the attachment and click the down arrow that appears (B).

How to download an attachment in Yahoo! mail.

  1. A prompt appears to let you know when the download is complete. The location of this prompt and the related instructions depend on the Internet browser you're using. For further information, see: How to open and save webmail attachments.

How to open and save webmail attachments

Different browsers use different methods for viewing and moving e-mail attachments. Once your attachment is downloaded, select your preferred browser from the list below and follow the directions.

Tip

Once the file is downloaded, it can be opened from your downloads folder; see: Where are the files I downloaded using my web browser?

Once you've opened the downloaded file with the appropriate program, you may save it to the storage device of your choosing.

Note

Some files require specific software. For example, the .xls or .xslx file extensions require a program like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to open and view them. If you don't have the program needed to open an e-mail attachment, ask the e-mail sender to save the file as another file type, if possible.

Google Chrome logo

Google Chrome

After the download has completed, a prompt appears in the upper-right corner of the browser window. Click the download prompt to open the file.

Download is complete prompt.

Firefox logo

Mozilla Firefox

  1. After the download has completed, a prompt appears in the center of the browser window. Click Save File and select where to save the file on your computer.

Prompt asking users if they'd like to save a download.

  1. After the file is saved, click the downloads progress Firefox downloads progress icon icon in the upper-right corner of the browser window, and click the downloaded file to open it.

View recent downloads in Firefox.

Alternatively, press Ctrl+J to open the Downloads section of the Library.

  1. In the Library window, double-click the downloaded file to open it.

List of recent downloads in Firefox.

Internet Explore logo

Internet Explorer

  1. After the download has completed, a prompt appears at the bottom of the browser window in the middle. Choose Run or Save to open the downloaded media.

Prompt asking if the user wants to save or run a download in Internet Explorer.

  1. Press Ctrl+J to view your downloads.

Run button on a download in Internet Explorer.

  1. In the View Downloads window, locate your downloaded file and click the Run button to open it.
Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge

  1. After the download has completed, press Ctrl+J to view your recent downloads.

View recent downloads in Microsoft Edge.

  1. Click the downloaded file to open it.
Opera logo

Opera

  1. After clicking the attachment, you are prompted to choose where the download should be saved. Select a location and click Save.

Selecting where to save a download in Opera.

  1. When the download completes, press Ctrl+J to view your recent downloads.
  2. In the Downloads window, locate your downloaded file and click the Run button to open it.

How to run a recent download in Opera.

How to save offline e-mail program attachments

This section has directions for saving attachments from messages sent through e-mail programs you install in Windows, not those that are web-based.

Thunderbird logo

Mozilla Thunderbird

  1. Open the e-mail message containing the attachment.
  2. Right-click the picture or file and choose Save As or Save Image.
  3. Specify the location you want to save the file. You may also change the file name at this point.
Microsoft Outlook Logo

Microsoft Outlook

In newer versions of Outlook (Outlook 2010 and later), right-click the file and select Save As if the attachment is a separate file. You can then save the file anywhere on your computer. If there are multiple attachments in the e-mail, select the Save All Attachments option.

There is no Right-click to save option in older versions of Outlook (before Outlook 2007). However, there are a few workarounds to save your e-mail images and files. You may have to try more than one option depending on your version of Outlook.

  1. Open the e-mail message, and under the Message tab, select Other Actions, then View in Browser. This method lets you save your attachments the same way you would with web-based e-mail.
  2. You can copy an image to the clipboard and paste it to photo editing software, such as Paint or Adobe Photoshop. Once the image is pasted, you may save it by opening the File menu, then choosing Save or Save As.
  3. Open the e-mail message and save it as an HTML (hypertext markup language) file by clicking File at the top-left corner, select Save As, and choose the Web page format. This method saves all the embedded pictures in one folder, making it useful to download multiple images from the same message.

E-mail on an iPad or iPhone

If you view e-mail on an iPad or iPhone and want to save an attachment, follow the steps below.

For pictures:

  1. Open the e-mail message.
  2. Tap the photo in the e-mail to view the photo as fullscreen.
  3. Tap and hold your finger down on the image.
  4. In the menu, select Save Image.
Note

Images saved using this process should be accessible in the photo album on your device.

For other attachments:

  1. Open the e-mail message.
  2. Tap the attachment to download it.
  3. If the attachment doesn't open on its own, look for it in your downloads app.