What to do if Gmail attachments are not downloaded correctly

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 21, 2017
Email, Gmail

The following guide provides you with instructions on how to restore Gmail email attachments that are not properly downloaded to your devices.

Mike, the Linux guy here on Ghacks, sends his articles to my Gmail account. I retrieve these emails using the Thunderbird email client, and that works pretty well usually.

Recently though I noticed that some of the files attached to his emails, images especially, were not downloaded properly anymore.

The low file size of 47 Kilobytes or less was a dead giveaway, as Mike's fullscreen desktop images had a size of more than 1 Megabyte usually.

When I opened the image attachments, all I got was some content at the very top, and a blank, seemingly corrupt area underneath that. It looked cut off already, and it was clear that the attachment was not downloaded properly to the device.

gmail corrupt file attachment

Emails take the following way if you download them using a third-party program on a device you use:

  1. The sender sends the email with the attachments using a mail service, e.g. Gmail.
  2. The recipients mail service, Gmail or another, picks the email up, and adds it to the recipients account.
  3. Thunderbird, or another third-party program, runs checks for new emails, and downloads it and its attachments to the local device.

Things can go wrong when the email is downloaded on your device. The best way of finding out whether this is indeed the case, is to go to the Gmail website to find out if the file attachments are corrupt there as well, or if they are not.

So, simply open Gmail in your web browser of choice, sign in to your Google account if you are not signed in already, and either browse the list of emails, or use the search to find the particular email you are looking for.

gmail check attachments

Gmail displays all image attachments, and some other formats such as documents, as inline previews.  This enables you to quickly assess whether a file attachment is corrupt or not.

As you can see on the screenshot above, only one of the three image attachments was indeed corrupt, while the two other ones showed up just fine on Google's servers.

You can then use the download button to download the working attachments to your system. They are not linked when you open the email message in the program you are using, but it is better than nothing.

Some email clients may allow you to retrieve emails again, but Thunderbird does not support the feature it seems.

What if the email attachments are corrupt on Gmail as well?

There is only one thing that you can do if file attachments on Gmail are corrupt as well: notify the sender about this, so that the attachments are sent again.

One thing that you can do if this happens regularly is to use Google Drive instead for storing the attachments.

This has the effect that the files are not attached to the email which in turn means that corruption cannot occur anymore. You may add links to these emails that point to the files on Google Drive, so that the recipient can download them right away.

insert files using google drive

This is done in the following way on Gmail:

  1. Select the compose button to compose a new email, or reply to an email you received previously.
  2. Locate the "insert files using Drive" button in the compose window and activate it.
  3. This opens a new window that you may use to upload files to Drive, and to select files on Drive for inclusion in the email.
  4. Drive supports adding the files as Drive links, or as attachments to the email you are composing. The Drive link option is selected by default.
  5. Please note that this changes the visibility of the drive file. Anyone with the link may view the file. It is recommended that you add additional forms of protection, e.g. by using encryption and not including the password in the email, to add better protection to the file.

add google drive file link gmail

The email includes links that point to each file attached to it on Google Drive. A Google account is not required to view the files.

google drive attachment

Now You: Do you encounter corrupt email attachments frequently?

What to do if Gmail attachments are not downloaded correctly
Article Name
What to do if Gmail attachments are not downloaded correctly
The following guide provides you with instructions on how to restore Gmail email attachments that are not properly downloaded to your devices.
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