How to Decode Email Attachments

If running either a Windows or Mac operating system, your computer comes with its own "zip file" decoding program (like "WinZip" for Windows or "RAR Expander" for a Mac). These will decompress most file attachments, but not all. If you have a file extension your computer cannot handle, you will need to download another program (see Resource 1 or 2).

Image Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Decoding Email Attachments

Step 1

Download, setup and install an "Expander" (see Resource 1 or 2) if your computer does not already have one. Now you can open (or "unzip") your attachment files.

Step 2

Right-click on the attachment icon below your email heading. Scroll down and click on "Open With." Choose your compression program.

Step 3

At the pop-up screen, choose whether you'd like to "Open" or "Save" your downloaded files.

Your "decoding" or "compression" software should automatically choose a program to open your file with, once it is "expanded." If not, you may have a file that your computer is not compatible with (see Warnings 2).

Things You'll Need

  • "WinZip" (Windows) or

  • "RAR Expander" (Mac) or

  • "Stuffit Expander" (Windows or Mac)

Tip

Check the file extension on your attachment, which will tell you more about what program to best open the file. For example, an attachment with a file extension of ".jpg" indicates that it is a picture, which can be opened in several programs, depending on your needs.

Warning

Avoid opening attachments on "junk" or "spam" email.

Macs cannot open ".exe" files. These are Windows specific.

references & resources