“Super-Hidden” Folders Are Super Annoying

HI Fred. In Windows XP Pro (and probably most other flavors of Windows) when I’m using Outlook 2003, I receive messages with attachments (e.g., a Word doc). When I save this attachment, the default folder is something like “OLK1C” (without the quotes. If I accidentally save to this folder, I can never find the document or the folder again. It is apparently a “super-hidden” folder that cannot be seen in Windows Explorer. I think over time I’ve accumulated lots of stuff in this folder (and maybe more similar folders). There must be a way to “unhide” this folder so I can see it and work with it like a normal folder. Your thoughts?

On a separate but related subject, is there a way to make sure that Outlook (in particular) defaults to a normal folder and *never* resorts to using these folders with funny names that are invisible? Thanks so much. Keep up the great (and most enjoyable) work with your newsletters and columns. —John R. Youngman

Outlook is designed to open attachments only after copying the file to disk (for security, stability and recovery). Opening attachments prompts Outlook to create a "super hidden" folder (which Microsoft calls an "Outlook Secure Temporary File folder") with a filename that begins with OLK (apparently an abbreviation for "Outlook") and ends with a randomly generated string of characters. This is where the copy will be made and stored temporarily. At least that’s the design— these files are not deleted by Outlook right away if the attachment file is still open when you close Outlook.

As you point out, Outlook can offer these folders as the default location when you want to save the attachment to disk. When your end-user copy of an attachment is saved to an OLK** folder, it cannot be viewed with Windows Explorer or found with any search utility.

So can you see this folder and work with it normally? The answer is yes and no: Yes you can see it, no you can’t work with it normally.

To see your OLK folders and their contents, you’re going to have to use the Command Prompt (Start/Run/cmd) and some simple DOS commands. Use the CD command to navigate to C:documents and settings(USERNAME)local settingstemporary internet files (where (USERNAME) is replaced by the actual user name), then use the DIR /A command and parameter to see those OLK** folders. (If you don’t find such folders, try a different user name, starting with "All Users" or "Default User"). CD your way into each folder present to see what lost attachments remain.

Here’s how to recover the files from the most recently created folder. Find a message with an attachment, then open the attached file by double-clicking on it. Save it, then choose Save As. Chances are, you’ll default to the OLK** folder. Leave the Save As dialog box open, then open another folder (wherever you really want the file to live). Now you can drag and drop the files from the Save As dialog box to the regular folder.

A registry hack changes the path of OLK** folders for Outlook 2002, but this feature was "fixed" in Outlook 2003.

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Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.