Will from Detroit asks:
I often get .eml files from a friend and I just can’t open them. I don’t know what they are, but I’m sure they’re some kind of a joke… but I can’t get it if I can’t read it.
This is a common problem Will, but I’ll try to help. These files generally arrive as an email attachment, included in forwarded mail, and are by default designed to be opened by a Windows mail client (Outlook Express, Windows Live Mail, etc.) However, many people don’t use these email clients, so we’ll take a look at another option. The first step is to save the file to your computer. The one below was saved to the desktop from Gmail, using Firefox. For information on directing file downloads, see the article, Where Downloads Go.
You should always first scan the attachment for viruses. Just because it’s from a friend doesn’t mean that it hasn’t passed through an infected system somewhere along the way. To scan it, just right-click on the file and use your antivirus or some other program (I used Malwarebytes).
Now, since these files are generally opened by an email client, what we’ll do is change the default program to Internet Explorer. I was also able to open them in Opera, but had no luck with Firefox. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done; I just couldn’t do it. I also had mixed luck with Microsoft Word. They would open, but some had funky formatting issues. Internet Explorer worked best.
If the file is safe, once again right-click and in the Open With menu, select Choose Default Program.
If Internet Explorer is on the list, click that and check the Always use the selected program to open this kind of file box. If IE isn’t on the list, click the Browse button. This process was done in Vista, and will work in Windows 7 and XP, but the appearance of the Open With dialog box in XP is somewhat different.
Scroll down to the Internet Explorer folder and open it.
In that folder, double-click on iexplore.exe.
It should then appear on the list. Select it and check the Always open box.
Once the default has been changed, just double-click the file and it should open in IE, along with all future .eml files. When a new one arrives in your mailbox, just follow the save and scan steps in the beginning of the article.
Note: Several of the .eml files I opened (or attempted to open) were either corrupted, or contained nothing more than email addresses.
To read about another method for resetting default programs, click here.