How to Change the Date and Time of an Email

How to Change the Date and Time of an Email

Email is a way to send messages electronically over the Internet. While emails used to be simple text, they have evolved to include fancy formatting like HTML and CSS.

Sometimes, you might need to change the date and time when a message was sent. You can manually adjust the date of any email to show when it was originally sent. This process requires some manual work and using a mail program for exporting and importing.

Let’s say you want to forward an email from one address to another, which changes the time it was sent. You may want to adjust the message so it shows the original sender’s time.

There are a few programs that allow you to copy emails from the client to your computer. For this example, we’ll be using Windows Live Mail.

In the Windows Live Mail inbox, the forwarded message looks like this:

What I want to do is change this so it shows the original send date. To get this information, first, open the email:

The original send date was September 28, 2010, at 5:55 pm. Your mail program may display this information differently, but it will be similar.

Next, drag the email out of the mail program and onto your desktop to make a copy of it.

Then right-click on the copy and choose Edit with Notepad++ or another text editor.


Note: I highly suggest installing the Notepad++ text editor because it will make this process much easier. Notepad++ adds a right-click menu option so you can quickly and easily edit files. If you don’t have it, you’ll have to open Windows Notepad manually and enter the location of the EML file you want to edit on your Desktop.

In Notepad++, look for the line that starts with Date:

You will find the date and time stamp of an email in this format: Abbreviated Weekday, Day of Month, Abbreviated Month, Year, 24-hour Time of receive, Time Zone.

Based on the time/date information in the email, it needs to be changed to September 28, 2010, @ 5:55 pm, Eastern Standard Time. So it would be written as:

Tue, 28 Sep 2010 17:55:00 -0400

You can find the original weekday by using your Windows Calendar. Just double-click the clock and adjust the date to when the sender originally sent the email to you.

If you prefer, you can also use alternative calendars like Google Calendar or Yahoo! Calendar.

Next, remove the “Fw:” part from the subject line:

The only other header needed is Received. If you see it, you should also modify the date and time for it:

Important note: “Received” may or may not be there in the email. But if it is, you’ll need to change it to match the “Date”. Otherwise, Windows Live Mail will read Received first and ignore Date completely.

Once you are done making the changes, save the file and close the text editor.

Finally, just drag the email file back into your mail client’s inbox.

If you see the email with the date and time you intended, then you have successfully changed the date and time stamp of your email. Well done! It takes a little practice to get the hang of changing email dates and times quickly.

Final notes

Look for other types of date headers

When manually modifying the date of an email, as described above, make sure to carefully check the entire message while editing it. This is to ensure that you have changed all the mail received dates and times.

Microsoft uses “Received“ as the header, but other clients may have different date and timestamp headers. Pay attention to any mention of the date in the email headers, and you will quickly find the appropriate timestamp header.

What about emails with file attachments?

Since email headers are always at the top of the email, attachments won’t affect your ability to change the date and timestamp. However, it is even more important to use Notepad++ because it can handle large text files easily.

Just make sure you don’t touch anything in the part of the message where the attachment is. It will look like programming code. That way, it won’t be affected when you import the message back into the mail client. So follow the normal process described above, and be extra cautious not to accidentally change anything related to the attachment.

Will manually editing email files corrupt them?

As long as you use a suitable text editor (again, Notepad++ is recommended), you won’t corrupt the email message itself. Notepad++ can edit these email files without causing any corruption.

Can I change things besides the receive date?

You can change anything in the email header that you want. You will most likely want to change “From”, “To”, “Date” (obviously), and “Subject”.

Remember that, like with “Date” and “Received”, you may also have to deal with additional headers depending on which mail client sent the message originally.

Is there a way to mass-change a batch of emails?

No. Unfortunately, you need to follow the above process for each email message that you want to modify the date and time for.

If the email account is Hotmail or Gmail via IMAP, will the new date be reflected immediately once I import the modified message into the mail client?

Yes. Both Hotmail and Gmail will read the modified date header correctly, so you can follow this process for Hotmail, Gmail, and most other Inbox Provider services that allow you to read your mail with the IMAP protocol.

Can I use this method to modify emails sent by me in the past?

If you forwarded all your sent emails to a new email address and want to change the email back to the original date and time without the forwarding information, you can follow the process described in this article.

The “sent” folder is treated the same as any other email folder, so you can take emails out of that folder and make the same modifications as you can to received emails. Use the same process as described above for emails in your sent folder.

Can I use this method to send “future” emails?

No. Importing emails is entirely different from actually sending them. The mail client will always timestamp the email with the exact date and time it is sent. The timestamp will only change when the email is forwarded.

Once I’m satisfied with the modified emails I import into my client, is it safe to delete the old ones?

Yes. The messages you import will be treated as separate, so they won’t affect the modified messages. However, I recommend moving the old emails to a backup folder instead of deleting them, just in case something goes wrong and you need to start over.

Recalling Emails

Both Outlook and Gmail servers allow you to recall emails once they’re sent. If you accidentally sent an email or want to save it as a draft to send later, you can do that.

  • Gmail users can enable the “Undo Send” option from the settings menu. It gives you a 5-second recall timeframe by default, but you can change it to 30 seconds.
  • Outlook users can recall a message as long as it hasn’t been opened yet. Go to the sent items folder, double-click the message you want to retract, click “Actions” and then “Recall This Message”. Finally, delete unread copies of the email message.

Emails have evolved a lot since they first became popular. Understanding the full capabilities at your disposal reduces the risk of embarrassing mishaps when communicating with others.

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