Email attachments are a great way to send files from one computer to another. You can attach different kinds of files to an email – pictures, video clips, music files or a document you have created. We explain how to do this, and how to avoid possible problems.
An email attachment is a file sent along with an email. When you receive an email with a paperclip or file icon next to it, you know that you have an attachment.
Word of warning
Attachments are the number one way of transmitting viruses. Whether you use an email program or webmail, they normally have built-in security measures to block access to any attachments that look unsafe.
It is a good idea to install your own anti-virus software - and make sure it is set up to scan emails that you receive. These safeguards are not foolproof, however, so remember to be cautious about opening any attachment that you are unsure of.
If you feel that the attachment is safe, you just have to double-click to open it. The correct program should automatically open.
Unknown file extensions
Sometimes you double-click on the file but it still does not open. This could be because of an unknown file extension.
A file extension is the last part of a file name, after the dot. For example:
- .doc is a Word file
- .jpg, .gif or .tif are image files
- .wav and .mp3 are sound files
- .txt is a text file
Sometimes your computer will come across a file extension that it does not recognise. In that case, you can go to filext.com and it will tell you which program you need to open the file.
It is a good idea to save an attachment to your hard disk if you want to keep it. You need to click a button saying ‘Save Attachment’, ‘Download Attachment’ or something similar.
You can then delete it from your inbox as attachments take up a lot of space. This is especially important if you use webmail, with its limited storage space.
How to send an attachment
There are generally two ways of sending an attachment using an email program:
- Clicking on the ‘File’ or ‘Message’ menu and then ‘Attach’ or ‘Attach File’
- Clicking on a paper clip icon
- Create a new email message (as normal).
- Click one of the two file attachment options above.
- Browse your files until you find the file you want.
- Click the ‘Attach’, ‘Insert’ or ‘Open’ button, depending on your email program.
- To send another file from a different location, browse again until you find it and repeat step 4.
You can attach multiple files but do bear in mind that there is a limit to the size of attachments you can send. It is set by your email provider and the email provider of the person receiving it.
If you want to send a big file, you can use a program like WinZip to compress it and maybe make it small enough to send. Anything over about 2MB might be a problem, and really big files can get stuck in your outbox. A way round this is to sign up to a website that will let you upload and store files online.