The following desribes how the problem was solved. If you want to jump to the solution, just scroll down.
I recently had a customer call me complaining that his Gmail account had a problem were all email with attachments showing up as zip files. That is, any email that had an attachment, the attachment(s) were showing up as a text file attached. The text file was meaningless and if you downloaded the attachment, it would show as a zip file. Of course this can be very frustrating when you know that there should be some pictures or some type of a document attached, but you cannot get to it. We made an appointment for in home computer service because he also wanted me to optimize his system and clean up some programs that he no longer wanted.
A lot of my clients make lists for me so that when I arrive onsite, we can go down the list of computer problems and solve them one at a time. When I sat down at his computer desk, we went over the list, the Gmail issue was at the top of the computer solutions needed. He also noted that he had searched about this Gmail attachment problem and found several forums where people were having the exact same problem; one of these pages was the Gmail help forum. However, none of these pages seemed to have a solution to the problem. This customer had recently purchased the computer and he was not happy with Windows 7. His conclusion was that it had to be related to the new operating system. I assured him that it was not related to Windows 7 as I have been using it for over a year and I did not have the attachment problem with my Gmail. Reading over the forums quickly, I found that there were many others that had the same problem, but not everyone. This points to something wrong with these particular Gmail user settings.
To solve computer problems, you have to make deductions until you pinpoint the exact thing that is causing the user to have different results than others. I began to dissect the problem beginning with the browser. We downloaded and tried Mozilla Firefox browser, in which the problem was still occurring. To try my customer’s theory that is was the Windows 7 operating system causing the problem, I brought in my notebook which has VMware and XP Mode installed on it. This allowed me to quickly let my customer login to his Gmail account using Internet Explorer 6 on Windows XP. Again, we were looking at the same Gmail problem where attachments show up as zip files.
We have now ruled out any possibility of it being the operating system or browser. As I suspected, this will lead us to believe that it must be in one of the Gmail settings. Still, I could not help but feel that the solution had to be something deeper than just a mere setting. Otherwise the Google help team would have discovered what setting was wrong and posted the answer to all the cries for help on the web. Looking closely over all of the different tabs for Gmail account settings, I was still not able to come up with a reason why this was only happening to a few of the people out there. Trying different search terms brought us the same as before. No results with a solution to the problem and it appeared that not even Google had an answer. Reluctantly, I had to set the problem aside as I had never run into this Gmail zip attachment problem before. I made a promise to my customer that I would look into the issue and try to come up with a solution. After all, the oldest post asking for help on this was dated back to 2008 with no clear resolution in any of the following posts and this problem was being discussed in more than one place on the web.
After correcting the other minor issues on his computer and as I was preparing to leave, I reaffirmed that I would somehow get to the bottom of this for him. It was at this moment that my customer mentioned that he had used the Gmail software to setup the forwarding from his ISP POP email account. That was it. He said the magic term in order for me to understand where this problem was coming from. There had to be a glitch in the format that Google was using to pull email from the pop server. I sat back down and quickly corrected a problem that had been causing this man a problem receiving any emails with attachments for over a year. For those in the Gmail help forum, it had been close to two years. The short of it was simply to delete the forwarded email account from Gmail and then go in and forward the ISP pop mail from the web based account. I sent a test email with a picture attached and within a couple of moments his Gmail account had a new email from my IPhone with a picture attached. This time we could see the attachment and it would later be downloaded to his desktop as a image in .jpg format just as I had sent it. This clearly shows why it was only some of the Gmail users experiencing this problem and not all. Problem solved!
For those who have arrived at this page by either searching for the Gmail problem where you are receiving email attachments showing as zip files or from the Gmail help forum the solution is below. I will make an instructional video in the next day or so, but for now I have laid out a simple text explanation on how to fix this issue. Though I have in short terms described the problem and how to fix it above, it gives me great pleasure to give you step by step “how to” instructions.
Problem: your Gmail inbox is full of worthless email with attachments that you cannot see or download because they are visible on the web only as a text file and can be downloaded only as a zip file containing no more than a .dat file that does not contain the file sent to you.
Cause: the problem appears to have been caused by forwarding email from your ISP pop server account using the Gmail wizard to pull your email.
Solution: you will need to go to the web based email control panel and manually setup your POP email account to be forwarded to your Gmail account. This will normally be under your web based account tools or options. There will be a check box to enable email forwarding and then there will be a text box for you to input the email account you wish to forward it to. In this case, of course you will need to insert your Gmail account fully using the email@example.com. Next you will need to go to your Gmail account click on settings and then click on the tab labeled “accounts and import”. In the first section look for the email account you set up using the Gmail POP email wizard and delete it. You will not lose any of your inbox by doing so and on the same hand this will only work for future email received. Unfortunately, it will not correct any of the emails you have received prior to this correction. However, while you are in your ISP POP email web based account have a look and maybe you were lucky enough to have left a copy on their server that you will be able to see. Also, it will now be possible to forward those emails to your Gmail account individually and you will now be able to view them from within the Gmail side.
Note: this solution will only work if you have used the Gmail account wizard to forward your email into your Gmail. If you have not used this tool there is another problem all together for you.
Hope this helps all of those who have been waiting for Google to supply you with a solution.
Disclaimer: I do not give any guarantees on this solution and it is up to you to properly follow directions. If you cannot find the setting to forward your email from your pop server, please contact them before attempting this solution. If you are not clear on the instructions I have given, please wait for the video or you can contact me for remote support. I will be happy to help at my low remote support fee. Mike’s PC Support is not affiliated with Google and I do not work for Google. This solution has been provided as a guide to help and I cannot be held responsible for the outcome. Always have back up all of your important data before attempting any computer repair. Thanks for visiting!
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