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Viewing the Message Source / Full Headers of an Email

When diagnosing issues with email delivery and analyzing the properties of an email message, it is almost always the case that one needs to obtain either the “full headers” of the message or the “source” of the message.

The “message source” is the complete raw content that represents the message.  This includes all of the “metadata” about the message (who its from and to, the subject, etc.) as well the body content and all of the attachments. The full message source really contains two distinct parts — the full headers and the body.  The full headers are at the beginning of the message source and continue until a blank line is reached;  one or more blank lines separate the headers from the body.

In this article, we are not going to discuss what is in the headers or body, or how that information is formatted.  Instead, we will show you how to retrieve this information when using different kinds of email programs and web-based systems.  With these instructions, you should be able to get the “full headers” from any email message located in most email systems.  This information can be helpful to your technical support representatives when analyzing message behavior.

What the Message Source looks Like

Before we show you how to get the message source or headers, it will be useful to review what the message source looks like and where the headers are in it, by way of example.   Below is an edited, abbreviated, sample of a message that we sent to a user at LuxSci.

Received: via dmail-2008.19 for +INBOX;
        Tue, 3 Feb 2009 19:29:12 -0600 (CST)
Received: from abc.luxsci.com ([10.10.10.10])
	by xyz.luxsci.com (8.13.7/8.13.7) with
        ESMTP id n141TCa7022588
	for <user-999@xyz.luxsci.com>;
        Tue, 3 Feb 2009 19:29:12 -0600
Return-Path: <test@sender.com>
Received: from [192.168.0.3] (verizon.net [44.44.44.44])
   (user=test@sender.com mech=PLAIN bits=2)
   by abc.luxsci.com (8.13.7/8.13.7) with
   ESMTP id n141SAfo021855
   (version=TLSv1/SSLv3 cipher=DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA
   bits=256 verify=NOT) for <test@domain.com>;
   Tue, 3 Feb 2009 19:28:10 -0600
Message-ID: <4988EF2D.40804@domain.com>
Date: Tue, 03 Feb 2009 20:28:13 -0500
From: "Test Sender" <test@sender.com>
User-Agent: Thunderbird 2.0.0.19 (Windows/20081209)
MIME-Version: 1.0
To: "Test Recipient" <test@domain.com>
Subject: Example Message
Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Comment: Lux Scientiae SMTP Processor Message ID -
   1233710941-9110394.93984519
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01
 Transitional//EN">
<html><head></head>
<body bgcolor="#ffffff" text="#000000">
<b>&nbsp;Example HTML-formatted
email Message.<br></b>
</body></html>

The example is broken up into two parts by the boxes we have included.  The first part is the headers; the second is the body.  The headers are a lot of lines that start with some word, like “Received”, followed by a colon (i.e. “Received:” with text that follows.  If the text is long, it is wrapped onto one or more additional lines … by indenting the content on those successive lines with spaces.  Once all of the headers are listed, a blank line is added.

So, if you need the full headers, but can get to the message source, you should be able to grab the full headers from the top of any message’s full source.

Getting Message Headers or Source in Various Email Programs

Mozilla Thunderbird

When viewing the email message in question, click on the “View” menu option and select “Message Source”.  You can also choose “View > Headers > All” from the menu and then expand the headers to show all of them. However, this view is not easily copied and if there are many headers, there might not be room to view them all.  Your best bet is to view the message source directly.  If the message is large, then the source will also be very large.  In this case, the best bet is to choose “File > Save As > File” to save your message to a file (in EML format).  You can then open this file with any text editor (like Notepad) and copy the headers …. the file is really just the message source.

Outlook 2007

When viewing the message in Outlook 2007 you’ll see an “Options” area at the top of the email. In that section, on the lower right, you’ll see a circular icon that says “More Options” when you hold your mouse over it. Click this icon. You’ll then see a new window that has a section at the bottom marked “Internet Headers”.  The full headers of the message will be displayed therein.

Outlook 2007 Web Access

When viewing the message in Outlook 2007 Web Access you’ll see an “tool bar” area at the top of the email. In that section, there is a “Message Details” icon.  Click on that and the Message Details area pops up.  The “Internet Mail Headers” area contains the full headers for the message.

Outlook 2000/XP/2003

Right click on the message in its folder and choose “Options”.  In the resulting pop-up window, you will see a section called “Internet headers”. The full headers of the message will be displayed therein.

Outlook Express 6

Right click on the message in its folder and choose “Properties”.  In the resulting pop-up window click on the “Details” tab, you will then see a section called “Internet headers for this message”. The full headers of the message will be displayed therein.  You can also click on the “Message Source…” button to see the full raw source of the message.

Mail.app

With Mail.app open and your message selected, go to “View > Message > Raw Source” to access the message source.  This works in both Mail.app v2 and Mail.app v3.

Entourage 2008

With Entourage open and your message selected, go to “Message > Source” to access the message source.

Eudora (The New One Based on Thunderbird)

For the new Eudora, which is based on Mozilla Thunderbird, you need select the message in question and go to “View > Message Source” to access the message source.

Eudora (The Original)

For the older versions of Eudora, you need to double click on a message to open it in a new window.  Then click on the “blah blah blah” icon at the top.  This will show you all of the headers for the message.

Evolution

Select your message and choose “View > Message Source”.

The Bat!

When viewing the message in question, select from the menu “View > RFC-822 Headers”.  You will then see the full message headers in a “Headers” tab in the message display area.

KDE Kmail

Select the message in question and then choose “View > View Source”.

Pine

When viewing the message in question, use the “E” command to export the message to a text file.   This file will contain the full raw message source, starting with the full headers.

Pegasus Mail

Right click on the message and choose “messages headers …”. Highlight the the headers and copy and paste. Alternately, just press “Control-H” when viewing the message to view the full headers.

Another option is to forward the message as an attachment — so the full headers are preserved in the forwarded message:

  • Create a new email message
  • Drag and Drop the old message into this new message.
  • In the “Drop message(s) into editor” dialog box, check the last check box at bottom of dialog box under heading “Attach or include message?” … here click “Add as attachment instead of including”

Getting Message Headers or Source in Various Web-based Email Systems

LuxSci WebMail

When viewing the full content of an email message, click on the “Headers” tab at the bottom of the message display area. This will display the “full header”.  Alternatively, you can see the message source by selecting the “View Source” option from the “View” drop-down menu in the upper left of the window.

Gmail

Open the Message. Click on the down arrow for the drop-down menu next to the Reply button on right hand side of the screen. Click “show original” — the text that pops up contains the message source.

Yahoo! Mail Classic

To get the complete headers of an email message in Yahoo Mail Classic follow these steps:

  1. Open the email message in Yahoo Mail Classic,
  2. Go to the lower right hand corner of the email and click on “Complete Headers”,
  3. You should now see the complete (i.e. full) headers and not the simple headers of the message.
  4. To return to Simple Headers,  click on the “Compact Headers” link.  It is located in 2 places in the email message: at the top under the complete headers on the right side and at the bottom right corner of the screen.

Yahoo! Mail (New)

To get the complete headers in Yahoo Mail follow these steps:

  1. Open the email message in Yahoo Mail,
  2. In the upper right hand corner of the email (above the simple headers) you’ll see a link that says “Standard Header” with a down arrow next to it.
  3. Click on the down arrow and you will see these choices: Compact, Standard, and Full
  4. Click on Full to see the full email headers of the message (which are loaded in a pop up window)

Windows Live Hotmail

To get headers in Windows Live Hotmail, right-click on the message in your message list and then select the last option “View message source”.

AOL

Open an email in AOL mail. Click on “actions”. Choose “View Message Source”

7 Responses to “Viewing the Message Source / Full Headers of an Email”

  1. Matt C Says:

    Bonus points for anyone who can figure out how to view full headers in the iPhone email client or is there a third party program for iPhone that can display full headers if it won’t do it? Going through Safari to get them via webmail is tedious.

  2. cm Says:

    Nice list – pity it didn’t answer the iPhone which is how I ended up here! One addition – to view full headers in mutt you can toggle them on and off with the h key.

  3. Erik Kangas Says:

    Thank you — unfortunately we have found no way to get message headers or source in the iPhone’s mail application.

  4. Tracing the Origin of an Email Message — and Hiding it | LuxSci FYI Says:

    [...] In order to determine physical location of the sender of the message, you will first need the full headers of the message that you received.  To get these, see: Viewing the Message Source / Full Headers of an Email. [...]

  5. kauz Says:

    Correction: In Pine and its successor, Alpine, press “h” command to toggle between full header display and displaying the standard one. Exporting (using the “e” command) does NOT include the full header of the email (in default configuration) unless you have pressed the “h” button before.

  6. alik Says:

    kauz is right. I’d add that the setting
    “Enable Full Header and Text” should be checked (it is not by default).

  7. Getting Full Email Headers in LuxSci WebMail « LuxSci Videos Says:

    [...] to find the full headers for any email message, this video shows how to do it in LuxSci WebMail.  Here is how to do it in other email programs. Email Headers from WebMail ► if ( !jQuery.VideoPress.data["pnH6Hemc"] ) { [...]

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