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Thursday, December 20, 2018

How to Force Outlook to Download Images (If You’re Sure It’s a Good Idea)

If you receive an email that contains linked images, Outlook does not download those images automatically by default. You can change this behavior if you want, but there risks to doing so. Let’s take a look.

To be clear here, we’re not talking about messages that contain images as attachments or about message into which the sender has inserted images (since those work pretty much like attachments). We’re talking about images that contain URL links to images that are hosted online.

When you get a message that contains images, Outlook prevents the download of those images and shows you a message at the top of the mail.

The reason for this is that Outlook has to download these images from an external server, which means that the server (and therefore the sender) will know that your email address is “live” and being monitored.

This isn’t a problem for legitimate senders like friends, or businesses for which you need a live email address (like PayPal, Amazon, and so on), because it’s fine for them to know your email works. Even here at How-To Geek, we include a tracking pixel in our newsletter so we can remove people who never open or look at our messages because we actively try to make sure we don’t spam people.

But for real spammers, it’s a different story. If they know your email address is active, then you’ll become a bigger target for spam and phishing emails. After all, an account that is known to have a human looking at it is much more valuable for a scammer than an address that might never have a human look at it.

However, even worse than spammers knowing your email address is monitored by a human is the possibility that the images contain a virus or malware. It’s a well-known attack vector, and it relies on people downloading the image to their computer.

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