Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

What are all these other pictures when I view emailed photos?


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.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

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

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.

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

7 comments on “What are all these other pictures when I view emailed photos?”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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.


  6. 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?

  7. 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?


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.