Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

When viewing photos emailed as attachments your image viewer may also show you lots of other images as well. It's all about where things are on disk.

My daughter recently sent me picture from college and I viewed them using Windows Picture and Fax Viewer. There were many other extraneous pictures, fonts and geometrical shapes. Is this normal? If so, why? How do i view only what I want?

This isn't really about Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, as it applies to any program you might use to view your images. It's really just about managing where pictures are placed on your computer's hard disk. The "problem", if you want to call it that, is that there's often a lot of other stuff in the common, default location for pictures.

When you view a picture that's been emailed to you as an attachment, your email program needs to extract it from the email message and place it on your hard disk separately so that it can be viewed. The issue, of course, is just where on your hard disk your email program places it.

Many email programs will extract attachments and place them into your "My Documents" folder. Some will extract them to the Windows "temporary" folder. Others may place them into your "Temporary Internet Files" - particularly if your email is web-based instead of a PC-based email program.

Unfortunately all of those locations may also be used by other programs.

"My Documents" is a popular location that many, many programs use as their default storage location for images, word processing documents, and much more. The Windows "Temporary" folder is full of many files that are considered to be temporary in nature. And "Temporary Internet Files" is your browser's cache of images and pages that you've visited recently; it'll have lots of images in it.

"I recommend that you get organized, and create folders of your own to save images in."

When you fire up an image browser, like Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, or any of the popular alternatives like Picasa, ACDSee, irfanview and others, they don't know which pictures you're interested in, they just show all the pictures in a folder. If you receive an email with one photo and your email program saves it to one of these locations, your image viewer then shows you not only the one photo you care about, but possibly all the images in that same folder.

So what to do?

I recommend that you get organized, and create folders of your own to save images in.

Start by creating a folder where you want your photos to be placed. For example, create a folder within "My Documents" called "Emailed Photos". That's where we'll place all the photos you want to save.

If you use an email program such as Thunderbird, Outlook, Outlook Express, and the like, there may be an option you can configure that tells the program where attachments should be placed when they're opened. Set it to be that new folder you just created, and now whenever you open an attachment it'll be placed there automatically. When an image viewer fires up to show you your photo you should see only those pictures that you received in email.

Unfortunately not all email programs work that way, particularly web-based email services. Instead of clicking or double clicking on an attachment a more reliable alternative is to right-click and select "Save As..." or "Save Target As...". This will allow you to explicitly specify where on your disk you want the photo or other attachment to be placed. Naturally you could then specify your "Emailed Photos" folder or any other folder you like. Once you've placed your photos in an appropriate folder, you can then fire up your favorite image-viewing application and tell it to go browse that folder.

My strong recommendation is that when saving photos you always take this approach. Don't allow them to get placed in default locations to get mixed in with other stuff that doesn't relate, but rather create a folder or folders to actually organize your photos and explicitly save them there when you get them. Besides seeing only the photos you expect, it'll make browsing them later much easier; you won't even have to open your email to do it.

And then be sure you've backed those folders up. There's nothing worse than losing all your photos because your hard disk crashed. By having your photos in one folder or set of folders, even backing up is somewhat easier, since you can simply copy or burn those folders to CDs or elsewhere.

Article C3144 - September 11, 2007 « »

Share this article with your friends:

Share this article on Facebook Tweet this article Email a link to this article
Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

David Heym
September 14, 2007 8:03 PM

I use Web mail: Hotmail or Comcast. When I click on the attachment in Comcast I have the choice of opening it up in a temporary file or downloading it. Generally I choose the temporary file because I often don't want to keep the image, just look at it now. Of course when I want to keep it I put into My Pictures or similar file. You didn't mention this option of just looking at it now.

September 19, 2007 1:17 AM

I think you hit the nail on the head with this one Leo. However, I read the question as: there were extra picture attachments to the email that make no sense i.e. the fonts and geometrical shapes. If this is the case, then it might be the senders signature coming through as an attachment, especially if they have sent the email as a plain text file.

Michael Wilson
September 27, 2007 10:12 AM

If you're using Thunderbird, you can install the Slideshow extension. This will add a "View as Slideshow" button on all emails that have attached pictures. Clicking this button will bring up a nice window with only the pictures attached to the specific email. Also includes zooming and save functions. For now, you will need the MR Tech Local Install extension too to override Thunderbird's version compatibility checking.

Red Davis
August 20, 2008 6:54 PM

I can handle the attached pics but how do I keep those that are embedded -- when I save the email as an '.eml' they all go away and are replaced by dammnable red x's. Any help here would be appreciated. Red

December 8, 2009 10:23 AM

Leo, I thought your reply to this question would answer my question as the writer worded it so well. What I think she meant was that there were pictures attached that were not part of the original Email and were not on her computer either. I had and Email sent to me that also contained pornographic pictures that were not (knowingly) sent by the writer or were on my computer. Where would they have come from?

I answered it the way I did because 99% of the time the "extra" images were not actually attached to the email, even though it appears that they were. Most of the time email programs extrat the image to the temporary folder when you want to view them, at which point other pictures that were already in the temporary folder may also appear. It's easy to think that they were part of the email when they were not. It's actually difficult to "accidently" attach additionaal photos, and I've not yet heard of malware that does something like this.

January 27, 2010 11:18 PM

Leo, I agree with the previous poster that the question was perfectly posed, but I'm afraid I stil don't understand your response. Feel free to talk to me like I'm in the 5th grade, if that's what it takes. Tonight I sent an image from my cell phone to my yahoo email address. Then I opened the email and viewed the image. At the bottom of the page I was viewing, there was a delete icon, a print icon, etc. There was also a right and left arrow at the bottom. Each time I clicked on one of the arrows, I saw different images than the one I sent. These images included photos as well as geometric shapes. Where did those images come from? Why are they visible?

Lee Guptill
September 16, 2010 8:10 AM

I created a folder in My Documents to transfer my e-mail pictures, but I can't figure out how to configure in my e-mail program in Outlook Express. Any ideas?

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to to ask your question.