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.
Ghacks Technology News

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  1. JMGG said on January 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

    You said that Outlook isn’t your main email client, so which is your main one?

    1. BalaC said on January 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

      I think its thunderbird

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on January 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

      It is Mozilla Thunderbird.

  2. Salaam said on September 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Awesome! This actually solved my problem… what a stupid bug.

  3. Claud said on December 19, 2012 at 2:08 am

    If this is the same bug that I’ve encountered, there may be another fix: (1) hover over open Outlook item in Taskbar, cursor up to hover over Outlook window item, and right-click; (2) this should give you Restore / Move / Size / Minimize / Maximize — choose Move or Size; (3) use your cursor keys, going arbitrarily N/S/E/W, to try to move or size the Outlook window back into view. Basically, the app behaves as though it were open in a 0x0 window, or at a location that’s offscreen, and this will frequently work to resize and/or move the window. Don’t forget to close while resized/moved, so that Outlook remembers the size/position for next time.

    1. Lynda said on February 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      THANK YOU Claude!!! I could get the main window to launch but could not get any other message window to show on the desktop. You are my hero!!!!

    2. Chad said on November 20, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      Solved my issue! 6 years later and this is still problem…

    3. Ivan X said on January 21, 2021 at 4:50 pm

      Fantastic. Thank you. Size did the trick.

  4. Andrew said on October 26, 2013 at 7:06 am

    This solved my Outlook problem, too. Thank you. :)

  5. Charles said on December 7, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Thank you so much, this started happening to me today and was causing big problems. You are a life saver, I hope I can help you in some way some day.

  6. garth said on November 7, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    You are a god – thank you!

  7. Faisal said on February 9, 2015 at 10:09 am

    thanks a lot…. work like charm.. :-)

  8. Simon said on March 24, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Yah…thanks Claude. I’ve been having the same problem and tried all the suggestions…your solution was the answer. It had resized itself to a 0/0 box. Cheers

  9. Olu said on April 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Excellent post. This had me baffled even trying to accurately describe the problem. This fixed it for me.
    Thank you

  10. Coenig said on July 23, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Thanks a lot for the article. Don’t know why it happenend, don’t know how it got fixed, but it was really annoying and now it works :-)

  11. Fali said on January 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks a lot. I was facing this issue from past 3 week. I tried everything but no resolution. The issue was happening intermittently and mainly when I was changing the display of screen ( as i use 2 monitors). The only option i had was to do system restore. But thanks to you.

    1. MIki said on January 10, 2019 at 11:54 am

      I’ve been tried to sole this problem for 12hours. Your comment about changing the display of screen helped me a lot!! Thanks!!

  12. Christina said on January 20, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you…don’t know why this happened but your instructions helped me fix it. Running Windows 10 and office pro 2007

  13. Oz said on July 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Great tip! Thanks!

  14. Tracy said on September 1, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Worked for me, too – thank you!!!

  15. shawn said on September 9, 2016 at 10:25 am

    It’s Worked for me, too
    thank you very much!

  16. Jari said on October 31, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I had a similar issue with Outlook 2013 on Windows 10 and this helped me to fix it. Thank you very much!

  17. Michel H said on November 30, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Thank you so much. Solved!
    Considering you published this in 2012, incredible not been debugged by Microsoft.
    Thank you again. M

  18. Ziad Bitar said on January 9, 2017 at 2:00 am

    This problem was faced by only one user logging to TS 2008 r2 using outlook 2010.The issue was resolved.


  19. Anonymous said on February 15, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Great tip. Thank you!!!! If it helps, I had to use the Control Key and the arrow keys at the same time to bring my window back into view. Worked like a charm.

  20. Rochelle said on March 6, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Thank you, this worked !!!!

  21. anom1234 said on May 20, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    Man, you are a fucking god. Thanks a lot, what an annoying bug!!

  22. JC said on October 12, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Awesome, this post solved the issue. Many thanks!

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