Recover Outlook attachments “saved” to the OLK folder


Welcome to our next installment of “How Outlook tries to confuse you”. Today we’ll be covering that elusive default OLK-series folder that Outlook is so fond of.

Let’s put it into perspective…

Say, for instance, that you have received an important email, perhaps with your annual performance review attached, and have been given the instructions to look it over and redline it accordingly before sending it back to the originator.

You open the attachment and read it over, finding little things here and there that you want included or altered, and suddenly you are interrupted with another urgent issue. Not realizing the implications, you click the save icon (we don’t want to lose our notes now, do we?) and go deal with the urgent issue.

Later, you have time to go back to your redlines and continue, only to realize after reopening the email, that the attachment was not previously saved to a location on your hard drive!!!


Or was it?

You clicked the save icon, didn’t you? And you saw the dialog window open confirming a save location, right?

Hmm… so it must be here somewhere – but where?

Well, we know the file name, right? It’s the same as the name of the attachment from the original email. So we pop that open and copy the file name. We now have an exact match for the file we need, and have multiple options for finding it.

The obvious way is to use search, since we don’t know what folder it was saved into. But what’s this?!?!?! Search results show no matches, even if we run our query from the top level (C:\)???

Well that’s odd. So, we know we saved it, but the system doesn’t appear to believe us.

I suppose we could retrace our steps, since we know it performed the save correctly, and just look at the location it claims to have saved to, right? We open the attachment, and click the save icon, and lo and behold we see the folder named “OLK” and some numbers. For instance, mine is OLK92.

Cool, we can just look for that folder! But again, search renders nothing with that name.

Well that’s odd, and we’re starting to get irritated, aren’t we? Maybe that’s just me. Regardless, we have proof it saved to this folder, with a known file name, so why is it fighting us? It’s OUR DATA!!! GIVE IT BACK!!

Ok, let’s follow the trail back. Again, we open and save the attachment, and when the save dialog box opens, we follow the map path from OLK92 up to it’s parent folder, Temporary Internet Files. Odd that it is in there, since we’re not doing any internet work, but whatever. Just to be cautious, we continue back tracking until we get to the top to make sure we have the right complete path. In my case, it is C:\Documents and Settings\(your user name)\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files.

Hmm… ok, so I open Windows Explorer and navigate through those folders, in order, but when I get to the Temporary Internet Files folder, what’s this?!?!? No OLK92 subfolder?!?!?! Now I’m definitely irritated.

I double check that I don’t have system files and folders hidden by clicking on TOOLS/FOLDER OPTIONS, and in the popup window, navigating to the VIEW tab and scrolling down to the folder icon called HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDERS. I make sure SHOW HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDERS has a dot in the radio button. Then I continue scrolling down a bit to ensure there is NO check in HIDE PROTECTED OPERATING SYSTEM FILES (RECOMMENDED).

Ok, we’re sure we should be seeing everything now, but another search, followed by another manual navigation through Windows Explorer turns up zilch. Yes, that is the technical term.

At this point we’re deciding what type of hammer to crush the monitor with… I suggest a nice solid 20 pound sledge, personally – works great on concrete slabs. But I digress…

Being technical in nature, we decide to look the problem up online – surely we aren’t the only ones to have ever experienced this problem, right?

Lo and behold (I know, I already used that phrase – I’m too lazy to find a cooler one), this confusing method of saving attachments is INTENTIONAL. Yes, this is one of the many reasons we love Microsoft products.

It turns out that this “folder” is actually a secured, hidden registry “location” that you “cannot” access other than to save things “accidentally”. I know, too many quotation marks. The set we need to focus on is containing the word “cannot”.

Stick with me just a little bit longer please…

Never one to give up when told something is not possible (until I’ve exhausted my means or ended my non-risky methods and am looking at only high risk possibilities as remaining alternatives), I decide to dabble with the only window I’ve found into this hidden area – the save dialog window.

Opening the attachment again and bringing up the save window, I see the list of other previously saved items in there. HEY!!! There’s my file! I can change the VIEW setting to DETAILS and ensure I am looking at the file I edited on the right date. Yup, that’s my file!

So I try the right-click menu. HEY! There’s the option to OPEN it! Crap…can’t do it with a dialog window open. But if I close the window, I lose my link to the file so I can’t open it. Hmm…

Well, I may not be able to open it here, but what about grabbing it and moving it elsewhere to examine freely? Right-click again and click COPY. Hey, that didn’t give an error. Go to the desktop and right-click, choose PASTE, and BAM! There’s my file!!!

Double-click it to open it and there it is!!!

Now we can close the dialog window and ignore the attachment since we have our redlined file back in our possession!

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode! Next time we delve into the hidden secrets of recycle bin recovery, even for items no longer displayed there!!


10 Responses

  1. You saved my life and about 10 hours of work with this post. Thank you my new friend. Thank you!!!

  2. Glad it helped 🙂

  3. hi phaktor
    i tried looking for your next episode but couldn’t find it sadly enough i have an excel file that was edited , saved in OLKxxxx folder but it is not there anymore….
    can you point out to a good solution ?>

  4. Thanks so much for the info. This has been a maddening problem. I didn’t even know how many files had been floating in the abyss…THANK YOU!!!

  5. Buddy, i can’t tell you how grateful i am to you.My boss lost an important document and i recovered it for him.Thank you.Thanks a ton.

  6. This is a Great Tip!
    I have fought the ‘OLKfolder’ for years.
    And I have an easier tip to share for getting files out of the OLK.
    Just put a link directly to the OLK folder on your desktop. Right-Click on your desktop – New – Shortcut : Browse… and navigate My Computer through to the OLK ‘folder’ as described (‘local disk’-Docs&Settings-Temp Internet Files – Select OK. THEN Manually edit the Location string to include ‘\OLK92’ at the end of the location string inside the quote mark. (the number will be unique to your Outlook installation version). Click Next. I just leave it named OLK92. Finish. NOW you can always find those lost OLK saved files.

  7. Dear,
    Here is a more easy way to find out.
    Carefully follow the instructions below:
    1. Note the attached file size and file type from your inbox for example file type is MS Word Document and size is 350KB.
    2. Go to C:\Documents and Settings\\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files
    3. Sort or filter all files of the rquired type, means all MS Word documents in current case.
    4. Names of all these files will be starting with “GetAttachment.aspx?file=****”.
    5. Search the file which matches the file size you noted in your inbox, 350KB in current case.
    6. Copy that file to any other folder outside the Temporary Internet Files folder.
    7. Now open the file. It will be the one you was searching.

  8. It looks like these solutions only work if the person has not closed out of Outlook and re-opened it. I’ve been testing this, and each time that I close and re-open Outlook, the OLK file empties out. 😦

  9. Here’s another cool way to open this folder.

    Open the same attachment again. You may see that the name has now changed to Filename (2).extension.

    Go to File-> properties. Look for location. Copy and paste that into Start -> Run and remove the filename from that.

    I just recovered my file doing the same.




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