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Issue #499: February 12-18, 2017

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Q: An e-mail problem has occurred infrequently in the past, and only since I (most reluctantly) resumed using Windows 10. I’ve searched several hours online and your column archives and have found no solution.

Two days ago a friend sent several emails with photos. The photos do not appear and cannot be “opened.” All that appears is an icon which appears to be two mountain peaks with a sun or moon above. There are no error messages. Under mail accounts >change mailbox sync settings>always download full messages and internet images IS CHECKED.

I did ask another recipient of the same email to forward it to me and in the first one, there was the embedded photo and the attachment icon! But not in the second forwarded email – no photos, just the icons. Just one more reason I HATE WINDOWS 10!!!!

– Marvin R.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: In the first couple of years of writing this column, it seems like one question I answered over and over again was that of pictures not appearing in e-mails. Back then, it was “the red-X problem” where a small image containing a red X served as a placeholder where the picture should have been. The icon you described with the mountain peaks is the modern equivalent placeholder. It is not a link to the pictures, so there’s no point in trying to open anything by clicking them. The placeholders are an indication that something is missing, in this case, the pictures. You might see something similar if your web browser can’t download pictures for one reason or another.

The problem with trying to solve this is that the source of the problem could lie with either the e-mail sender, or the recipient. Since you can’t diagnose things on the sender’s PC, you’re limited to what you can do on yours. I wish I had a firm answer for you which would be certain to fix the issue, but I don’t, so I’ll offer what I have.

First of all, for the benefit of anyone else who may have this problem, the most common solution is to ensure that the box that Marvin mentioned in his question is checked. To get to it, you can click on Win 10’s Start button, then click the gear icon, which pulls up the Settings dialog. Click “Accounts” then in the left-hand navigation pane, click “Email & app accounts”. Select the account in question from the list, and click “Manage”. Click the link that says “Change mailbox sync settings” and near the center of the Account settings dialog that appears, you’ll see the checkbox in question. The missing pictures problem may occur if it’s not checked.

Another option is to take a chance on the automated troubleshooting capabilities built into this version of Windows that you revile so much. Press the key sequence [Winkey+X], then click on “Control Panel”. Select “Troubleshooting”, and in the left navigation pane, select “View all”. I wish there was a “Downloading Pictures in Email” troubleshooter, but no such luck. The closest thing you’ll find is “Windows Store Apps”, since the Mail app is essentially a Windows add-on, even though it comes distributed with Windows. So let that troubleshooter run, and see if it can find any issues.

The only other thing that I’ve seen as a potential fix for this in my research is to create a new User Account. Apparently certain accounts that are ported from older versions of Windows into Win 10 can have issues. You can try this by going to Settings (the gear icon) and choose “Accounts”. Then select “Family & other people” then click “Add someone else to this PC” and follow the prompts.

I have read comments from several techies in several forums claiming that this issue is simply a bug in Microsoft’s software, and begging, cajoling and demanding that Microsoft fix it. Several times in the past, I have seen Microsoft turn a deaf ear to such, and since the forums I was reading date back as far as a couple years, I can’t help but wonder whether history is repeating itself. If nothing I’ve offered so far helps you, the final counsel I will offer on this issue is that there is nothing forcing you to use this hated Mail application. There are 3rd-party e-mail clients out there, and there’s always webmail. Good luck!

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