Problem of the week: 26 April 2004

Tips & Hints

Attachments are one of the most useful features of e-mail. But they are also the main cause of email related computer problems. Most of these can be tracked back to the sender.

Posted 26 April 2003

There are a number of ways you can increase the chances of getting your attachments to their destination. At the very least, you need to be aware of the size and type of your attachment. In fact, you may not need to send an attachment at all.

Do you need to send an attachment?

In some cases an attachment isn’t necessary. Instead of attaching an entire file, just cut and paste the relevant parts into the email. This reduces the number of things that can go wrong.

Wrong extensions

Extensions are the three letters after the full stop on a file. Windows computers use these three letters to determine what program is needed to open the file. If the computer doesn’t recognise the extensions it won’t know what program to open the file, we've covered this problem previously.


The most common way to get a virus is through attachments. You need to treat any attachment with suspicion. This is another subject we’ve looked at in the past.

Wrong format

If in doubt, send using plain text. It doesn’t look pretty, but it works. Many strange attachments, such as DAT files, appear as a result of sending e-mails in HTML, MS Word or Rich Text Format.

Excessive size

Large attachments clog up connections and servers. Most Internet providers and corporate networks limit the size of emails. If your attachments are too big they may be returned or jam up the receivers’ mail.

Rejected by receiver

It isn’t just large emails that may be returned. Many corporate systems have strict guidelines on what may be received. Some companies will refuse certain types of attachments or mail containing certain words.

We've covered general e-mail problems previously and a lot of the advice is the same here. The most important rule with email is "think before you send it."

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