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Recovering Attachments Opened via Microsoft Outlook

Posted by (Jun 9, 10:36 AM)

This is a quick note documenting what I did to recover a file that had been opened as an attachment in MS Outlook. It is based on this posting: http://www.groovypost.com/howto/microsoft/outlook/find-the-microsoft-outlook-temporary-olk-folder/.

The issue occurs when somebody opens an attachment from an email in Outlook, edits it, saves it, but for whatever reason is not prompted to supply a folder for the saved file. In such a case (and maybe generally too, for all I know), Outlook saves the file in a temporary “secure” folder known as an OLK folder (I believe by “secure” they mean quarantined rather than protected). When this happens, you probably won’t be able to find the file again using any of the normal means: the directory is not indexed, it is not available from the normal File Explorer directory tree, and it won’t show up in Word (or other editing software’s “recent documents” file). It’s actually a fairly stupid setup to be frank.

To “recover” the document (which really just means find it), you need to navigate to the OLK directory. When you do, you’ll (hopefully) see it sitting there exactly the same way it would if it had been saved to your My Documents directory. Finding the OLK folder, however, can be a bit of work. In the case I just recovered, it was at C:\Documents and Settings\$user.name\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.Outlook\0GCFEVJ7 (instead of $user.name, you put in the usual user name of the person in question). I assume that the last folder is randomly named, but who knows for sure. Remember that you won’t find this in the default File Explorer set up because of how they remap: you need to type the path out directly.

It is likely most people will have it somewhere similar. If you can’t find it for some reason, though, you can find it using the regedit.exe utility. This lists the file registry for Windows. You use it in the following way:

  1. Start > Run
  2. Type “regedit.exe” at the prompt
  3. In the window that pops up, navigate to the relevant registry. In our case this was done by going down the following path: My Computer > HKEY_CURRENT USER > Software > Microsoft > Office > 12.0 > Outlook > Security. Your exact path will depend on the version of Windows and the version of Outlook you are using. Once you are at the Security Folder, you’ll see one or more items in the data panel. The folder you want is called OutlookSecureTempFolder; in the “Data” column, you get the directory path.
  4. Type the path into File Explorer’s address bar and you hopefully will see your file sitting there.

There is a security issue in all this: when you find this directory and your file, you will also see a large number of other files you have opened from email in Outlook, also all just sitting there. Perhaps some confidential ones, in fact. Since windows doesn’t ask you for an administrator password when you run regedit.exe, anybody who has access to your computer while you are logged in can find the files as well. Oops.

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Posted: Thursday June 9, 2011. 10:36.

Last modified: Thursday June 9, 2011. 11:36.

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