Accessing properties in Outlook emails in MSG form

Introduction

Photographic metadata

MSG files are emails, calendar entries etc. which have been exported from Microsoft Outlook, either manually by dragging them onto the desktop, or through an automatic extractor.

This previous article shows how generally you can view document properties in Windows Explorer.

This article will investigate how these methods work for MSG files.

Viewing MSG metadata in Windows Explorer

MSG email in Windows Explorer 1

The first method mentioned in that article is to use the detail pane. Unfortunately, when you click on an MSG file, no metadata is shown.

Even worse, as shown in this article about file dates shown in Windows Explorer, the Date created and date modified do not represent the date when the email was sent or received.

Instead, it is the date when the MSG file was extracted from Windows Explorer.

MSG email in Windows Explorer 2

The second method is to right-hand click on the file and go to Properties and the Details tab.

Once again, there is no metadata visible, and the only date information is misleading.

MSG email in Windows Explorer 3

The third way is to right-hand click on the grey bar and adding additional columns.

Of the three, this way seems to have the most chance of succeeding, as columns such as “Sender name” and “Date sent” are present. However, selecting those columns only results in blank columns, as can be seen on the right

Is this a problem?

Unfortunately, this is not just a problem with Windows Explorer but with Windows itself. Internally, the columns exist and are populated with information about the property itself, but the information about the file is empty. And this has not been corrected in Windows 10.

This can be a major problem. No information visible, and what you can see is inaccurate. This would have been a problem when we received over 160,000 MSG files from one of our client that they received from the other side in a legal dispute. Our client wanted these files investigated as quickly possible.

From Windows Explorer, there was no way to be able to find out:

  • the real date that the email was sent or received,
  • who sent it,
  • who received it (To, CC and BCC),
  • what the subject was, and
  • what attachments were included.

Reintroducing it into Outlook was also not an option. Having 160,000 emails in a single folder was not a viable option, and having them in multiple folders would have mean problems to searching the files all at once.

Also, as soon as they are re-imported into Outlook, the filename gets removed, so if you re-export it again, it will have a different filename.

What’s the solution?

Because of this problem, we have developed two programs which can investigate MSG files. This metadata extraction software requires Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10.

  • Filecats Professional can import up to several hundred columns relating to MSG files into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. From there you can sort, filter and create analyses.
  • Filecats Metadata extracts the MSG metadata into a self-contained table. It does not require Microsoft Excel.
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Speed of Filecats Metadata

On one computer, over 4,700 emails were catalogued in just over 3 minutes, and returned 82 columns of information.

There’s a free 7-day trial – why not download it and try it out today? You can’t investigate this data in Windows Explorer, so why not investigate it another way?

Next steps

Why not read more about MSG metadata. There are document properties which are common to more than one type of MSG file, and:

Alternatively, find out about metadata for other types of files.

Read more articles – and don’t forget to download the programs.

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