Thursday, April 16, 2009

Outlook attachment error, can't create file

If you're one of those users who is notorious for opening all attachments without downloading and saving them first, you may have run into this problem before. Eventually you may get an error when trying to do so, which says:

Can't create file: yourfile.ext. Right-click the folder you want to create the file in, and then click properties on the shortcut menu to check your permissions for the folder

This can be very annoying, especially since you will most likely experience it with only a select few of your files. However, the good news is that it's not a big deal and is easily fixable.

The problem is that every time you open an attachment without saving it first, Outlook will first download it into a temporary folder and then open it from there. Unless you keep up on cleaning this temp folder, the files eventually build up. Each time you open a file with a name that already exists in this temp folder, Outlook with append a number to the name (e.g. "file.txt" opened a 2nd time would be saved in the temp folder as "file (2).txt"). This is where the problem comes in. Outlook is limited to 100 versions of the same file, so once your file name reaches "file (99).txt" (starts numbering at 0), the next one will fail to open and you'll get the error above. The fix is to go to the temp folder and clear the other copies of the same file, or if you want to be really good, empty the folder completely.

In order to clean out the temp folder, you'll first have to know where it is stored. This is really the only tricky part because it can vary from machine to machine. However, the location is stored in the system registry so you can retrieve it from there. Here's how to do this for Outlook 2003

1. Go to Start->Run, type "regedit", then press Enter. This will bring up the registry editor tool. Be careful not to make any changes to the registry as they can have adverse affects on your computer.
2. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER->Software->Microsoft->Office->11.0->Outlook->Security registry key
3. Look for the OutlookSecureTempFolder value. This is the folder location you'll need. It's easiest to double-click on it, then copy the path of the folder
4. Close Registry Editor
5. Go to Start->Run, then paste the folder path in the box and press Enter
6. The folder should pop up in Windows Explorer. This is where you'll want to delete the files from
7. Now that the files are deleted you can close that folder and try opening your attachment again

The easiest way to avoid this would be to first save your attachment to a location you're aware of, and then open it from there. Since 90+% of you will probably never do that, this will at least allow you to continue opening attachments

I haven't run into this problem with Outlook 2007, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. If you're having the issue with Outlook 2007, just replace the key in step #2 with HKEY_CURRENT_USER->Software->Microsoft->Office->12.0->Outlook->Security. That is where Outlook 2007 specifies its value for the temp folder

The original post that helped me figure this out can be found here.

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