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How to bulk download attached files from Web mail

Whether you're approaching your storage limit, migrating to a new e-mail provider, or just want to organize your files for offline use, it's incredibly handy to download Web mail attachments in batches. Mail Attachment Downloader is a great, free Windows tool that helps do just that. Learn how to do it in this blog post by Rob Lightner.

Web mail services like Hotmail and Gmail are powerful and convenient, but one issue that can stress out heavy users is keeping track of attachments. You may be bumping up against storage limitations, shutting down an old address, or reorganizing files to a single offline location, but it can be a daunting grind without some way to download files in bulk. Windows users can use a free customizable program that makes it simple. Here's how to use it:

  1. Download, install, and run the free Mail Attachment Downloader (MAD) software.
  2. Enter an e-mail address and password (you can use as many as you like, and customize settings for each), then click "Change location" and direct MAD to download attachments to a folder you can easily remember.
    Mail Attachment Downloader Screen 1
    Step 2: Enter e-mail info
  3. If your e-mail provider isn't recognized, you'll need to navigate to the "Mail server" tab and enter the host information and server type.
    Multiple Attachment Downloader screen 4
    Step 3: Enter mail server info (if needed)
  4. Down in the "Folders and files" tab, you can tell MAD to check specific folders instead of just the inbox, set rules for filenames, and choose simple folder organization schemes.
  5. The first time you run MAD, you need to check your whole account for attachments, rather than just checking new messages. Navigate over to the "Basic filters" tab and select "All mail" under "Check in." (Make sure you switch it back later or you'll end up downloading attachments multiple times if you monitor this account in the future.) You can also specify a minimum file size for download and limit your download to particular file types.
    Mail Attachment Downloader screen 2
    Step 5: Select "All mail"
  6. If you want to get extra tricky, navigate to the "Advanced filters" tab and select start and end dates for your search or set filters to further limit your search. This can be really handy if you want to sort attached files by age, sender, or context.
    Multiple Attachment Downloader screen 3
    Step 6: Advanced filters
  7. If you want to keep monitoring this account for new attachments, navigate to the "General options" tab and tell MAD how often you want it to check the server and whether to run automatically when your computer starts up. The machine running MAD needs to be powered on and connected to the internet for this to work.
    Multiple Attachment Downloader screen 5
    Step 7: Select monitoring settings (optional)
  8. If it all looks good, click "Connect and Download" and watch the files pour in--or go get lunch if you've got years' worth of documents and media coming your way.