Real SMB IT: Don’t Edit E-Mail Attachments in Outlook!

November 12, 2009

I personally know two people have been upset (OK livid) having each lost a lot of work by making this mistake!

You know you have probably done it too!

Like many businesses, lets assume that you are using MS Office and Outlook at your office. Lets also assume somebody E-Mails you a Microsoft Office document, you open the e-mail and then double click on that attachment. Up pops that document and you start editing away.

I know you are careful; you religiously make sure that you hit the Save button periodically! but still, after a couple of hours and a coffee or two later;

* With the document still open, you close MS Outlook, you notice that Outlook makes some weird message asking if you want to save your changes, and heck – since you haven’t changed anything in the  e-mail itself, you just click no.

* Or, perhaps MS Outlook or MS Office crashes on your computer. Boom! – a big time blow up forcing you to restart MS Office, or possibly even restart the whole computer.

You guessed it (or have been there!) All your work could be gone. Hours of work could have vanished.

Save that attachment outside of Outlook first!

When ever you receive a document or spreadsheet as an attachment in MS Outlook, you first open that attachment, but! before starting to make changes, select the File menu, and click the Save As thingy and save it to a folder on your local PC, or your shared network storage first!


When you edit a Microsoft document that is located in a directory (folder) on a physical disk, the software opens the document and creates a temporary copy of the document in that same folder. That is normal and the mechanism used by MS Office to recover your data after any possible crash of MS Office.

But! If you edit that document while it is still an e-mail attachment???….

First, even though you are editing a Microsoft Office document, it is still truly a simple e-mail message that you are editing. No matter how many times you hit Save, that saving of the document does not save those edits to that e-mail! You still must save that entire changed e-mail. And second, editing that e-mail as an attachment doesn’t save that temporary working copy of the document in a easily accessible working directory.

When you edit that document while it is still an attachment, there is still a temporary working copy, but it is not sitting neatly in your My Documents, or other easy to find location.

Depending on your version of Windows, and the version of Outlook etc, the edits you are making to that document get saved in temporary places controlled by the operating system. Those areas are hard to find and pretty ugly. For example, if you use Outlook 2003 those temporary files will be hidden in;
C:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\OLKxxx

In this example, username is the user name that is used by the person who is currently logged on to the computer, and xxx is a randomly generated sequence of letters and numbers.

And Outlook 2007?

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\xxxxxxxx

The SMB Takeaway

You get the idea, those crashes happen, don’t edit attachments within the original e-mail. Save them first

One Response to “Real SMB IT: Don’t Edit E-Mail Attachments in Outlook!”

  1. google Says:

    Hey there this is google here.. lvoe the site by the way.. keep up the good work

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