Hey, I needed that!

There are times when you need to get a file out of your Hotmail account but the server has flagged the file as dangerous and won’t let you at it.  This can happen if the file is infected with an incurable virus or if a noob friend sent you an uncompressed EXE (we’ll get into ways to pay your friend for the trouble in some other post).

While Hotmail has locked the file away (likely for your protection, see disclaimer later in this post) you can still get the file.  An important note: you can really hose your computer if you bypass security, any security, so be sure you are ready to pay the consequences.  By following the instructions below you are agreeing to take full responsibility for your actions.

Okay, now that part one of the paranoia is out of the way, here’s what you do: 

  1. Enable advanced headers (click Options->Mail->Mail Display Settings->Message Headers=Advanced)
  2. Open the e-mail message with the attachment, in the header there will be a link to “View E-mail Message Source”, click the link and a new window will open.
  3. The message source will be divided into sections or “parts”.  Look for the part with your attachment, it will be a square block of text that just looks like garbage (I’ve pasted an example below).  Select just the block of text and copy it.
  4. Open up notepad or some text editor (in Windows you can go to Start->Run, type in “notepad” and hit enter).  Paste the text block into your text editor.
  5. Save the text file but change the extension to match the transfer encoding (in most cases it will be base64, so the extension should be “b64”).  Make sure you change the drop-down for “Save as type” from “Text Documents” to “All files”.  In the example below you would save it as “potogold.b64”
  6. The saved file can now be decoded by WinZip or your favorite zip handling program.

Some important notes:

  • Dealing with dangerous files is… well… dangerous.  These instructions are provided for advanced users who are certain they are not going to do damage to their computers by circumventing the protections Hotmail has put in place to help protect users.  Please, if you are at all nervous about messing up your computer, let an expert do this (either that or a teenager).
  • There are a variety of encodings other than base64, if a different encoding is used .b64 is not the extension you want to add to your saved file.
  • I didn’t go into a ton of depth on the instructions or screen shots for a specific reason: I don’t want to encourage people to use this method without thinking hard about what they are doing.  I tried to be clear, but not easy.
  • These instructions are written assuming a Windows user.  Please don’t accuse me of hating the Mac or trying to crush LINUX.  I have a special place in my heart for the Mac and am not nearly intelligent enough to use the command line.  That said I couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to do this on another platform.
  • There is no substitute for having up to date antivirus (AV) software installed on your desktop.  AV software is like car insurance.  You need insurance to drive and you need AV software to be on the web.  Get used to it.

Now, the necessary disclaimers: files downloaded using this method will not have been scanned by any anti-virus software, I cannot be held responsible for any damage or loss of time that occurs as a result of downloading an infected file.  Additionally this help is provided by me, Reeves, and not Microsoft or Hotmail… there is no warranty expressed or implied.  I feel bad for anyone with a busted machine… but you’re on your own.

Example Encoded Attachment

Content-Type: application/x-zip-compressed;
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64
Content-Disposition: attachment;



Did I mention that if you do this and things go bad that neither I nor Microsoft can be held responsible? Yes? Good.

One reply on “Hey, I needed that!”

Uh, why don’t you fix Hotmail to allow users to do this more easily? Clearly there’s a need if you’re blogging about it.

FWIW, when I needed to do this, I used Entourage. Worked like a charm 🙂

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