Why am I unable to open an e-mail attachment?
Below is a listing of all of the different reasons why you may be unable to open an e-mail attachment.
Note: This document is for people who have received an attachment in an e-mail but cannot open it. If the attachment is missing or not available, see our I can't receive any e-mail attachments help page.
Unrecognized file format
One of the most common reasons why you may not be able to open an e-mail attachment is because your computer does not have the necessary program installed to recognize the file format. For example, if someone is sending you a .PSD image file and you do not have Adobe Photoshop or another program that supports that file format it cannot be opened.
In this situation, we recommend you have the sender save the file as a different format that your computer supports and re-send the attachment as that file format. If you believe you are going to be working with this type of file format often, you should install a program or a viewer on the computer that supports the file format. Below is a listing of some of the more common file formats send over e-mail, their file extension, and the programs used to open those files.
|Document||.doc or .docx||Microsoft Word documents and can be opened with Microsoft Word, OpenOffice Writer, or Google Docs.|
|Adobe PDF file that is opened with Adobe Acrobat or PDF reader.|
|Spreadsheet||.xls or .xlsx||Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that can be opened with Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice Calc, or Google Sheets.|
|Basic Image||.gif, .jpg, .jpeg, .png||These basic image formats are widely used and can be opened and viewed by every image editor or viewer.|
|Compressed file||.zip, .rar, .z||A compressed file that must be uncompressed before the files contained in the file can be viewed.|
|Bitmap||.bmp||Windows Bitmap image that is primarily opened in Microsoft Paint and can be opened with many but not all image editors.|
|Movie||.avi, .mov, .wmv, .mp4, .mpeg||Movie files that require a compatible media player program to play.|
|Audio||.mp3||MP3 audio file.|
|Executable||.exe, .com||An executable file that starts the installation of a program. Be cautious of any executable being sent through e-mail as this is the primary method of distributing viruses through e-mail.|
|HTML||.html, .htm||HTML file. For example, a web page may be sent as an attachment in e-mail.|
Bad file association or problem with program
If the file format is something your computer should be able to open, but it's not opening correctly, its file format may be associated with the wrong program. Or, the program it's associated with may be experiencing errors, or have been removed. For information about how to view and change file associations, see our article, How to associate a file with a program in Windows.
For example, let's say you want to view a PDF document. Many modern web browsers offer their own PDF viewer, but this PDF is an attachment sent in an e-mail from a trusted sender. However, you don't have a PDF viewer such as Acrobat installed.
Instead of trying to open the attachment directly from your e-mail client, save the attachment to your computer (e.g., save it to your Desktop). Then, right-click the file and under Open With, choose a different program to open the file. If this works and you would like the program to always open this type of file, right-click the file and under Open with, choose another app. Check the box Always use this app to open and select the program you want to use and click Ok.
When needing to send multiple files over e-mail, it is not uncommon to compress all of the files into a single compressed file and attach that compressed file to the e-mail. If the file is a .zip, .rar, or another compressed file format, you must save the file to the computer, and then uncompress the files before they can be opened.
Antivirus program preventing
If you have an antivirus protection program installed on your computer, make sure it is not causing problems with your attachments by temporarily disabling your antivirus.
Sender has an Apple computer and you have a PC
If the e-mail sender is using a Mac computer, but their attached files have not been saved in a Windows-compatible format, you may be unable to open the attachment. Make sure that the sender of the e-mail knows that you are using Windows if they are sending you an attachment.
If you are using Microsoft Outlook and unable to open attachments, make sure an Add-in is not causing the problem. You can disable all Add-ins in Outlook by following the steps below.
- Open Microsoft Outlook.
- Click File, Options, and then Add-ins
- Under Manage click COM Add-ins.
- Click on GO button next to Manage, then uncheck all of the add-ins.
- Once everything has been disabled, click Ok.
- Close Microsoft Outlook, then re-open Outlook to see if the issue has been resolved.
If none of the above suggestions helped determine or fix the problem, it is also possible that the attachment you received is corrupt. Reply to the e-mail asking the sender to verify the attachment works on their computer and to create a new e-mail and attachment.
- How to download, open, and save e-mail attachments.
- How to delete or move e-mail messages.
- How to send an attachment or photo through e-mail.
- How do I print a picture or attachment sent in an e-mail?
- How can I forward an e-mail with an attachment?
- Where is my e-mail attachment saved after it is opened?
- How do I remove an e-mail attachment before sending or forwarding it?
- See our attachment definition for further information and related links.
- E-mail help and support.