If you open an attachment from within your email program and then save it, the file may seem to have disappeared. Similarly, files you download from the web can be hard to find if you don’t know where the default download location is. This guide is here to help new computer users retrieve those missing files.
Photo by Steve Jurvetson.
Default Locations for Web Downloads
When downloading files from your browser, they’ll typically be saved in a “Downloads” folder on your computer (or, in some cases, your Desktop, depending on your setup).
- On Windows XP, it’s under \Documents and Settings\[username] \My Documents\Downloads
- Vista and Windows 7, the path is \Users\[username] \Downloads
- For Mac, the full path is /Users/[username] /Downloads
- On Linux it’s home\[username] \Downloads
Here’s how to change the default download location (just don’t save everything to your desktop haphazardly like in the image at the top of this article!):
Chrome: Go to the wrench icon on the browser tool bar and select “Options” (or “Preferences” on Mac). Click the “Under the Hood” tab and find the “Downloads” section where you can click the “Change” button to select where your files will be saved for each download, or you can choose to be prompted for a location on a case-by-case basis by checking “Ask where to save each file before downloading.”
Firefox: Go to Tools then “Options…” (or on Mac, Firefox, then “Preferences”) and under the General tab you’ll find the option to change where the downloads are saved. As with Chrome, you can select to always be asked where to save files.
Internet Explorer: In IE9, click the gear icon in the toolbar then “View downloads.” At the bottom of the downloads window is an “Options” button. Click that and you can change the default download location.
Safari: Click on Safari then “Preferences…” and under the General tab, click the drop down menu beside “Save downloaded files to:” to choose a different folder.
Files Opened from Email Programs
Depending on your email client and operating system, opening and saving attachments directly from the email could place them in a temporary folder that’s hard to find. Outlook is notorious for this, though Office 2010 seems to have cleaned up much of this problem (e.g., opening a Word file attached in an email and then clicking Save will actually prompt you for the folder where you want to store it).
If you can’t find a file attachment, however, one thing you can do is search for the file. Windows Vista and 7 have pretty good search features. Enter part of the file name in the search input box at the top of Window Explorer.
Another thing you can do to find the temporary folder is go back to Outlook, for example, and open up another attachment. When you go to the File > Save as… menu, you’ll be shown the temporary folder location Outlook is currently using for the attachments and will likely find your missing file there (note: Outlook changes these randomly generated folders. In my example, opening a zipped file from within an email put it in Melanie > AppData > Local > Microsoft > Windows > Temporary Internet Files > Content.Outlook > 9PDH6FAT. Tomorrow that folder may be different).
- If you use Picasa and open a picture from Outlook, you could also right-click on the picture and choose “Locate on disk” which will bring you to the temporary folder.
To avoid this problem in the future, instead of opening attachments directly from the email, right-click on the attachment and choose to “Save As” the file so you can select where you want the file saved (e.g., your Documents or Pictures folder). Then open the file from Windows Explorer instead.