How to explore newly received emails
In our previous five articles, we talked about initial investigations for data that you have just received, whether it be by:
- walking through the filing structure,
- investigating the files’ dates,
- seeing how many different types of files there are,
- looking at Word, Excel and Power document properties, and
- examining photograph metadata.
In this article, we will be looking at possibly one of the hardest files to investigate – emails in MSG format.
MSG emails – Windows Explorer
I have previously written how to view metadata in Windows Explorer. Unfortunately, unlike MS Office files or pictures, when you right-hand click on a file and go to Properties, all you see is the standard properties – name, type, folder path, size, date information, attributes, owner and computer. And that’s it.
Also, the date created and date modified are the dates when the MSG file were created, not the date when the email was original sent or received – see my article on incorrect Windows Explorer dates. So, not only is the information insufficient, it is also misleading.
So, Windows Explorer will not help. What about importing the files into Microsoft Outlook?
Well, Outlook search facilities are not that good. I have one client who asked me to look at a PST file, which is a single Outlook file which contains multiple emails, maybe several thousand of them. And I looked for the first search term, and got no results and a message which basically said “Outlook is still indexing this file. Please wait.” So we waited. And waited. And waited. We weren’t receiving any more results, and it didn’t look like it was indexing. And I had another 35 PST files to search for around 25 different search terms each. This clearly was not going to be a viable option.
It should be said that the rumors are that Outlook 2016 is going to have significantly better search facilities, but whether that is true is yet to be seen.
So if Windows Explorer refuses to help, and Outlook wants to help but can’t, can cataloging help?
Filecats Professional and Filecats Explorer with MSG files
We once had a client which had just received 161,000 emails from its opponent in litigation in MSG format, and the question I had was: can I help? None of the filenames helped – they were just 6 digit numbers.
Thankfully, Filecats Professional could indeed help. Within a short space of time, I was able to have a catalog with:
- the date of the email (as mentioned above, the Windows Explorer dates were misleading),
- recipient and
Now, I could have produced a lot more, and we suggested that they may have wanted a massive spreadsheet which included more details such as the body of the text. Well, actually it would have been 10 massive spreadsheets, because while Filecats Professional can export such huge quantities of data, Excel would literally have not been able to save the data (it would have said “Out of memory”). There were many other attributes that we could have included as well – see the link for more details – but the client said that what I had produced was sufficient.
I also was able to reorganise the files into a sensible folder structure, which again helped the client get an initial handle on the data. I believe that the client saved a lot of time for a lot of people by being able to get to relevant data that much sooner.
That concludes this series of articles. But my question to you is: how would you handle newly received files. What would you want your brain round first – the filing structure, the date range or the types of files? Please let me know in the comments below.
And of course, you can download the cataloging software for yourself – Filecats Professional if you have Excel, or Filecats Metadata if you don’t want to use it. Why not give it a spin now? There’s a free 7-day trial.