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

"Windows Live Hotmail has blocked some attachments in this message because they appear to be unsafe." means Hotmail is protecting you from malware.

I've received an email on my Hotmail account with an attachment. Hotmail refuses to let me access the attachment at all, claiming "Windows Live Hotmail has blocked some attachments in this message because they appear to be unsafe."

It's safe, I know it is. How can I get Hotmail to do what I want and let me download the attachment?

You don't.

Seriously, it's that simple. If Hotmail blocks an attachment, it's blocked. I know of no way to get at it through the web interface.

I'll review why, which files are affected, and some ways of avoiding the problem.

And one potential work-around that might gain you access to the attachment anyway.

Here's the message we're talking about:

Windows Live Hotmail has blocked some attachments in this message because they appear to be unsafe.

Do not confuse this with similar messages that include links to "Show Content" - those are different. This message results when Windows Live Hotmail detects an attachment that has a specific file extension - the ".letters" at the end of the filename.

"Hotmail is protecting you by preventing your accidentally downloading and running any file type that could carry malware."

One list of blocked extensions includes:

  • .ade (Microsoft Access Project Extension)
  • .adp (Microsoft Access Project)
  • .bas (Visual Basic Class Module)
  • .bat (Batch File)
  • .chm (Compiled HTML Help File)
  • .cmd (Windows NT Command Script)
  • .com (MS-DOS Application)
  • .cpl (Control Panel Extension)
  • .crt (Security Certificate)
  • .exe (Application Executable)
  • .hlp (Windows Help File)
  • .hta (HTML Applications)
  • .htm (HTML File)
  • .html (HTML File)
  • .inf (Setup Information File)
  • .ins (Internet Communication Settings)
  • .isp (Internet Communication Settings)
  • .its (Internet Document Set)
  • .js (JScript File)
  • .jse (JScript Encoded Script File)
  • .lnk (Shortcut)
  • .mda (Microsoft Access Add-in)
  • .mdb (Microsoft Access Application)
  • .mde (Microsoft Access MDE Database)
  • .mdt (Microsoft Access Add-in Data)
  • .mdz (Access Wizard Template)
  • .msc (Microsoft Common Console Document)
  • .msi (Windows Installer Package)
  • .msp (Windows Installer Patch)
  • .mst (Visual Test Source File)
  • .pcd (Photo CD Image)
  • .pif (Shortcut to MS-DOS Program)
  • .reg (Registration Entries)
  • .scr (Screen Saver)
  • .sct (Windows Script Component)
  • .shb (Appfix Package)
  • .shs (Shell Scrap Object)
  • .url (Uniform Resource Locator)
  • .vb (VBScript File)
  • .vbe (VBScript Encoded Script File)
  • .vbs (VBScript Script File)
  • .vsd (Visio Drawing)
  • .vss (Visio Stencil)
  • .vst (Visio Template)
  • .vsw (Visio Workspace File)
  • .ws (Windows Script File)
  • .wsc (Windows Script Component)
  • .wsf (Windows Script File)
  • .wsh (Windows Scripting Host Settings File)

(I won't claim this list is accurate or complete. As we know, things are always changing. By the time you read this additions and deletions could have occurred.)

As you can see in my example above, I emailed myself "du.exe" which is a ".exe" type, which is on the blocked list.

Why are all those file types blocked?

Because they're "executable". They are, fundamentally, computer programs or can be treated as computer programs.

And as computer programs, they can carry malware.

Hotmail is protecting you by preventing your accidentally downloading and running any file type that could carry malware.

And as far as I have been able to determine, there is no way to actually tell Hotmail you know what you're doing and to let you download the attachment anyway.

The Workaround

The workaround that you'll hear from almost every support person, and the easiest workaround that you'll hear from me is to have the person sending you the file resend it, with either of two changes:

  • Have the person rename the file before attaching it. In my example I'd rename "du.exe" to "du.foo" before attaching it. Make sure to use an extension that is not on the blocked list. Then you should be able to download the attachment, and rename it back to it's original name prior to using it. Again, in my example after downloading "du.foo" I'd rename it "du.exe" and have the intended file.

  • Have the person zip the file before attaching it. Not only will this typically make the file being emailed somewhat smaller, you'll note that ".zip" is not on the blocked list. You can then download the zipped file, and unzip it with a program like WinZip, 7-Zip or Windows Explorer itself.

The down side to both of those workarounds is that the file must be resent.

A Workaround That Works

An alternative that I've verified works is to configure a POP3 email program such as Thunderbird to download your Hotmail messages. The messages - and their attachments - will be downloaded and you can access the attachments according to the security settings of that email program.

This is more work; you'll need to potentially download and configure an email program to do it.

But it works.

Article C4314 - May 14, 2010 « »

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?

26 Comments
Jerry
May 18, 2010 8:30 AM

My Yahoo email, automatically provided by ATT, sometimes refuses to allow me to open attachments. I got around this by opening a gmail account and forwarding the email with attachments to that. Gmail allows me to open the attachment.

Gabe
May 18, 2010 9:00 AM

I've always used the file extension change. I've found that some networks and programs will block ZIP files if they contain files with those extensions.

Good point. .zip is a well understood file format and it's easy for filters to look at the list of files inside (even when password protected). Another alternative might be to use a different archiving program you know that your recipient has as well (like 7-zip, gzip, or others).
Leo
19-May-2010

Rick
May 18, 2010 10:09 AM

Leo,
GOOD TIP! I have had similar problems myself and have used either the rename or zip method. Using Thunderbird is a better alternative though.

BUT:
Your grammar is not good.

"Hotmail is protecting you by preventing your accidentally downloading and running any file type that could carry malware."

How about:
....preventing you from accidentally downloading....
or:
....preventing an accidental download....

Actually the grammar's correct. It says what I mean as well. Smile
Leo
19-May-2010
Archie
May 18, 2010 12:28 PM

I'm afraid you are wrong, Rick, and Leo is correct in using the word 'your' in this context. The two alternatives you offered are also correct, but the phrase 'Hotmail is protecting you by preventing your accidentally downloading and running any file type that could carry malware' is grammatically correct. See 'Usage and Abusage - A Guide to Good English' by Eric Partridge.

Carl Goodwin
May 18, 2010 4:40 PM

Again, why would anybody trust anything important to Hotmail???

Regardles of "why", I can tell you that people do. Every day. And I hear about data loss because of it. Every day.
Leo
18-May-2010

M.B.Nataraja
May 18, 2010 7:45 PM

When I use my hotmail email address to send mails to a list of addresses, all those I addressed get spam from an e marketing firm in my name.
1. once my entire address book got it. I completely erased the addressbook entries on the server.
2. Now this problem occurs when I send/forward any mail. I have almost stopped using hotmail.
Is it possible that the malware is in the hotmail account on the server? not on my computer?

Nope. Your account has simply been compromised - someone else has access to it. Please see: Someone's sending email that looks like it's from me to my contacts, what can I do?
Leo
19-May-2010

Fred Nerd
May 20, 2010 5:29 AM

Gmail (and possibly others) looks inside zip files, and blocks them. I know of friends who haven't received .exe files on POP3.
Renaming (the correct name is *.exe.remove for official, and *.exe.thisisavirus for people who get the joke) is the way to go

jwL
May 23, 2010 11:56 AM

This comment is related to the thread in which not Hotmail, but something else is blocking ALL attachments.

Tip for AVG Anti-Virus users: I could not download and open any attachments from my Hotmail account. Reading that it had to do with AV software, I disabled the "Resident Shield" component of AVG and problem solved!

alex
May 25, 2010 6:52 PM

1 - yor email to long, or hotmail email box to small
2 - open new email on @google.com the boggest email box what i know

francesshaw
May 27, 2010 6:49 AM

i really need to get these attachment open in my email it my work files am so disaponited we can fix this

Popa Adriana
May 28, 2010 10:28 AM

Hello..I have a problem!I can't read my attachemnts.Since yesterday, when I Sign In I have a message where it said that my page is not secure. After I entere, I can' open or download any document I recive..It appear like working, opening, but nothing hapen. What shoul I do??Who can help me?Thanks very much!!

Carlos Coquet
June 29, 2010 9:06 PM

Better yet, dump HotMail and get an account with a less paternalistic provider of free Web based accounts. There must be a gazillion.
OR get your won PERSONAL eMail account. Registering you own domain is only about $10 per year and you do not then need to have a Web site to receive eMail thru that domain name. You just need to pay peanuts to one of zillions of providers, like Cox, GoDaddy, et al to just host your mail. You probably spend more on coffee or DVD rentals in a day than that would cost you per month.
If you are just "too attached" to your HotMail account to let it go, it might be possible for you to forward the eMail to another eMail account you may have that does not have those restrictions.

Judy
October 15, 2010 12:43 PM

I can not open any attachement in my hotmail inbox rencently, even though the attachements that I can opened before, but now they are can not be open.

Nigel Blackwell
November 6, 2010 9:16 AM

I cannot read or delete my emails.
For three days it appears jammed saying it is downloading data Lttp//gfx3hotmail.com/mail/15.4.0327.1028/fullie.js.... sometimes telling me that there is 1 item to download.
my curser is acting as if its working and the little round circle is working but nothing else.
I have emails comming in , snd need to read them, What can i do as ive tried everything i know even taking the battery out and re booting.(lap top). Help me please.Thank you.

I'd try clearing the browser cache to be honest. This sounds like a confused web browser.
Leo
07-Nov-2010

osman Elkoda
June 3, 2011 12:03 AM

I cannot read or delete my emails.
For three days it appears jammed saying it is downloading data Lttp//gfx3hotmail.com/mail/15.4.0327.1028/fullie.js.... sometimes telling me that there is 1 item to download.
my curser is acting as if its working and the little round circle is working but nothing else.
I have emails comming in , snd need to read them, What can i do as ive tried everything i know even taking the battery out and re booting.(lap top). Help me please.Thank you.

I'd start by clearing your browser's cache: What's a browser cache, how do I "clear" it, and why would I want to?
Leo
03-Jun-2011

j.evans
July 21, 2011 7:10 AM

i read all of the above. that didn ot fix the problem. i now have 2 hotmail accounts and cannot open email on either one... very perplexing

Deborah c Moore
August 7, 2011 7:43 AM

I haven been able to open windows live ,6 days ago iI turned on my computer and wouldnt let me in said blocked maybe hacked and something about too much junk mail ,I put in evey password Ive ever used and wont let me on.I dont understand who did this and why!!I want my stuff back so much anddont want to lose I lost my husband last yr w/bone cancer and teres all his last memories on tere and grandkids pictures and many,many more .I sent in a pin# many days ago and no anwer and ive given all information to verify its me and still day 7 today no access TY Deborah

This article discusses recovery options for the various ways that Hotmail accounts can be lost or compromised: What are my Lost Hotmail Account and Password Recovery Options?
Leo
07-Aug-2011

RICHARD L BLACKBURN
August 19, 2011 6:28 AM

I HAVE A COMPLAINT WITH MSN, AS THEY HAVE BLOCKED MY OLD EMAIL ADDRESS {remvoed}@HOTMAIL.CO.UK & I HAVE SENT EMAIL AFTER EMAIL TRYING TO SORT THIS OUT &YET THEY STILL HAVENT GOT BACK TO ME, & I NEED TO GET INTO MY OLD EMAIL ADDRESS AS I HAVE GIVEN OUT THIS FOR WORK & FOR FRIENDS & FAMILY TO SEND PHOTO,S & MORE TO , BUT THIS HAS GONE ON TO LONG KNOW & I AM BEING FOGGED OF OR IGNORED BY MSN , I WANT MY OLD EMAIL ADDRESS BACK ASAP, & I WANT TO KNOW WHY NO ONE HAS SORTED THIS OR GOT BACK TO ME FORTHWITH , I WANT ANSWERS ASAP, & MY OLD EMAIL ADDRESS BACK {removed}@HOTMAIL.CO.UK

This article discusses recovery options for the various ways that Hotmail accounts can be lost or compromised: What are my Lost Hotmail Account and Password Recovery Options?

Leo
20-Aug-2011
Bonny
September 12, 2011 10:57 PM

I can't no longer open any of my attachments in my hotmail account... I may have to change over to g-mail or yahoo..

Wayne Harvey
October 28, 2011 3:53 PM

i am blocked from my hotmail ,saying someone else may have hacked my account and sending spam,so it says put in a cell number and it will send me a code,but there is my old cell number and it won't let me change it so how do I get my email account back

This article discusses recovery options for the various ways that Hotmail accounts can be lost or compromised and I believe it applies here: What are my Lost Hotmail Account and Password Recovery Options?
Leo
29-Oct-2011
Connie
October 28, 2011 5:11 PM

@Wayne Harvey
You are probably out of luck unless, by chance, some really nice person now has your old phone number and would help you retrieve your account.

Also, read Leo's article on recovering Hotmail (he's posted two links above...) and you may get some more ideas.

Don
December 9, 2011 12:34 PM

My wife has Windows Live Mail with Windows 7. I sent her an email and she cannot get the hyperlink that was in the email. Why not?

That depends on what you mean by "cannot get" - does the link not show? Does the link show but cannot be clicked? Can the link be clicked, but something other than the website comes up? Check the security settings in Windows Live Mail - they may simply be set too tightly.
Leo
09-Dec-2011
Jim Jones
January 12, 2012 11:29 PM

Once again proving that Microsoft can't write code. Nothing they've written for years is fully functional and bug free. And they keep turning out worse and worse versions. When I can't even mail some bookmarks to myself they really are idiots.

HoneyD
July 16, 2012 5:05 AM

If you have a 64 bit machine, uninstall adobe flashplayer 64bit and install the 32 bit version. Reboot the computer and you can open your attachments again. Watch out for the automatic update on flashplayer cause you will get the 64 bit version again and the same problem back !

Jude
January 2, 2013 10:08 AM

I'm impressed with your know-how. Thanks!

Rob Norris
January 25, 2013 10:38 AM

Here is my workaround solution to a blocked javascript attachment, which doesn't need the message to be resent.

1. In the web browser, for the message in question use the drop down menu option -> 'View Message Source'
2. Save this page in plain text to your hard drive, using a right click menu option. [It may help in using Firefox for this step]
3. Run an email program called Thunderbird, and select File->Open Saved Message. Ensure 'All Files' type is enabled and open the text file you just saved above.
4. Hopefully this should have opened the email message, so for any attachments there should be a save button. Click on that button and save the attachment to disk.
5. Use the attached file as desired. e.g. for the javascript file, open in a text editor to be able to view the contents.

HTH.

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 http://askleo.com/ask to ask your question.