Microsoft Outlook Can't View Pictures in Email

Updated April 17, 2017

Many e-mail messages contain links to pictures that are stored on servers other than your e-mail server. These links are referred to as "Web beacons" and may expose your e-mail address to potential spammers when you attempt to retrieve the picture. Microsoft Outlook uses a default setting to block the automatic display of pictures in e-mail messages to protect users from spam. There are several steps you can take to display some or all pictures automatically in your e-mail messages using Microsoft Outlook.

Open any e-mail that contains a blank box image with a red "X" in the top left corner. A message that says "To help protect your privacy, Outlook has prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet" will appear within the image box. Right-click the image box and select "Download Pictures" to display the content on a one-time basis.

You can also enable pictures for all e-mails based upon your junk filters. Right-click the image box and select "Permit downloads in e-mail messages from senders and to recipients defined in the Safe Senders and Safe Recipients list used by the junk e-mail filter."

Click "Tools," "Options" and the "Junk Email" button in Outlook 2003. Click the "Safe Senders" tab to manually add, edit or delete the list of safe senders. Pictures from any contacts within your Safe Senders, contact or domain list will display automatically when you open their e-mail messages.

Click "Tools" and "Options," then select the "Security" tab to enable automatic downloading of all pictures within e-mails using Outlook 2003. Click "Change Automatic Download Settings" and clear the "Don't download pictures or other content automatically in HTML e-mail" check box option. Click "OK" two times to enable automatic download of all pictures within e-mail messages.

Click "Tools," "Trust Center" and "Automatic Download" to enable automatic display of pictures using Outlook 2007 and 2010. Cick the first check box to remove the restriction and download all pictures automatically. Click the second check box to selectively enable the download of pictures from recipients defined in your Safe Senders list.


You can potentially expose your computer to viruses and other malicious content in addition to spam when you enable the automatic display of all pictures. It's better to selectively display pictures as they are read or as defined by junk mail filter lists.

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About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Morris Wall has been writing about computer technology since 1996. He holds a Bachelor of Science in management from Georgia Tech and is certified in Novell Networking and Lotus Notes/Domino technologies. He provides technical support for Apple computers, iPhones, iPads, OS X and iOS technologies.