Why do .EML files modified date change on mouseover??

I have a series of .EML (email) files sitting in a folder on my hard drive.  When I view the contents of the folder in Windows Explorer (details view), then move the mouse to hover over one of the files (with a modified date from 2 days ago), the tooltip appears and has today's date showing as the modified date.  If I then refresh the view, today's date appears in the modified date column for the file, overwriting the previous value.  This all happens without opening the file, nor even clicking on it (neither right-click nor left-click).

Apparently I am not alone in this, and it has been a problem since Windows Vista days.  Why does this happen, and is there a fix or workaround?

Below are links to some other threads related to this problem, with some suggested registry hacks and such.  I would like to know why this issue still exists 3 or 4 years later.

http://www.sevenforums.com/browsers-mail/35334-eml-files-timestamps-updated-constantly.html

http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/itprovistasp/thread/8dc21ddc-9c87-40f6-a43e-96325ea14f96

(Note that the above threads also mention issues with deleting the EML files; this part is not related to my question.  But plenty of other users had issues with the weird update of the timestamp when hovering on a file.)

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When I view the contents of the folder in Windows Explorer (details view), then move the mouse to hover over one of the files (with a modified date from 2 days ago), the tooltip appears and has today's date showing as the modified date...

Here's a clue: Does the full Modified timestamp directly correspond to the date and time you opened the folder?

You're not confusing the Modified & Last Accessed timestamps, are you?

[If I hover over an EML file, the "tooltip" shows the Date received timestamp so I can't repro what you're seeing.]

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~Robear Dyer (PA Bear)
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Does the full Modified timestamp directly correspond to the date and time you opened the folder?

Nope.  It corresponds to the exact moment that I hover over the file in Windows Explorer.  Try it yourself and you'll see.  And you can check my provided links for more people who had the same problem as far back as 2009.  And I'm not clicking on the file at all, just hovering over it in the list.

You're not confusing the Modified & Last Accessed timestamps, are you?

Nope.  Last Modified timestamp immediately changes by simply hovering until the tooltip appears.  Just like I described.  I'm not "accessing" the file in any way, by the way.  Not clicking on it, nor pressing Enter, nor otherwise opening it, nor anything of that sort.

The file's modified date is permanently changed.  This is not an issue with the view, or with what is displayed.  If you close and reopen Windows Explorer and go back to the file, the newly updated modified date is still there.  This is a bug in Windows, I'm convinced of that.

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Nope.  It corresponds to the exact moment that I hover over the file in Windows Explorer...

Technically speaking, you're modifying the file when you hover over it so WYSIWYG.

You'll see the same thing should you choose to "investigate" your IE Favorites (bookmarks), too.

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Technically speaking, you're modifying the file when you hover over it

Not true.  If you hover over any other file type in Windows Explorer, the Modified Date does not change, nor should it.  Test it with both .EML and other file types (as I have done) and you'll see.  Hovering does not change the file contents, and there is no logical reason why it would update the modified date.  This is an issue specific to .EML files.  Did you look at the links I included in the original post?  I'm not the first person to report this.

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You'll see the same thing shoud you choose to "investigate" your IE Favorites (bookmarks), too.

No.  Did you actually try this?  I did.  It doesn't update the Modified Date when you hover over a shortcut in a Favorites folder.

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so WYSIWYG

Not sure how the acronym applies here.  What I see is exactly what I get -- a bug in Windows Explorer related to .EML files.  I'm not a novice user.  If you were to stop assuming that I've made a mistake in the expected behavior, and actually try it yourself, you might be surprised to agree with me on this one.

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it has been a problem since Windows Vista days.

How has it 'been a problem'?

Below are links to some other threads related to this problem


Again, why is it a problem? Files have many different properties, depending on their filetype. All files have an owner and a folder location. Image files have sizes in pixels, photos have a date taken and possibly even a camera model, video files have bit rates, mail messages have a sender, a recipient, a date sent and a subject. It is useful to be able to see these properties, so the OS provides ways of examining them, including displaying some of them in a bubble when hovering over the file name in Explorer.

However, this function depends on the properties involved having been recorded somewhere. Some file types - e.g. JPEGs - are capable of carrying these properties within the file itself. Others - e.g. EML files - aren't, because they are simple text files. So when Windows Explorer wants to display them in a bubble, a 'property handler' is invoked to extract the interesting property data from the file and write them to the file's Alternate Data Stream. Explorer then reads the data from the ADS and displays them.

Writing to a file's ADS is of course a modification to the file, so the file's Date modified property has to be updated to reflect this modification. The EML file's most meaningful properties - what it's about, who sent it, to whom and when - remain unchanged, as does the message content itself.

Of course, if you've read the threads you refer to, you already know all this. 


Noel

 

Noel Burgess | Certified Pedant | Claims to know a bit about Windows Live Mail

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Thanks Noel.  I had originally skimmed past some of that ADS stuff, but after your post I looked at it more closely.  I would disagree a little with the way you phrased it ... from reading a bit elsewhere, the ADS doesn't have to exist to allow viewing properties on a file.  Yes of course, text files don't store their properties inside the file contents.  This data is stored in the NTFS structures, even without the ADS being created.  But from what I can tell, the purpose of Windows Explorer creating an ADS in this case is for indexing, to speed up searches etc.

Maybe if I turn off indexing for those file types, this behavior will go away.  However, the user "barryd815" (in the thread deemed unhelpful by PA Bear above) actually gives a good technical explanation of this, but he says that turning off indexing doesn't resolve it.  Maybe I'll try it and see, now that I'm curious enough.

Bottom line is ... This is not what an average user should expect to have happen to a file when they roll over it with the mouse.  And I still believe it should be classified as a bug, or at least a design flaw on Microsoft's part.  Feel free to disagree.  :-)  But rolling over an item should not modify it or change its modified date.  This date is an important piece of information that could need to remain pristine and untouched for various reasons.  If MS were to create a separate file property called ADSModifiedDate and update that instead, this would make more sense perhaps.

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This data is stored in the NTFS structures, even without the ADS being created.


I think you'll find that NTFS structures is just another way of saying ADS.


 

But from what I can tell, the purpose of Windows Explorer creating an ADS in this case is for indexing, to speed up searches ...


... and for populating the info bubble that appears when you hover over the file in Explorer!

 the user "barryd815" (in the thread deemed unhelpful by PA Bear above) actually gives a good technical explanation of this, but he says that turning off indexing doesn't resolve it. Maybe I'll try it and see, now that I'm curious enough.

Yes, it's a good rundown - not very different from mine. Indexing of course makes use of the file properties, but because the property stream is needed for other purposes (so you can select and populate columns called Date sent, Date received, BCC and so on in Explorer's Details view), stopping indexing of .eml files won't stop Windows from writing those properties to the files' ADS.
 I still believe it should be classified as a bug, or at least a design flaw on Microsoft's part. ... This date is an important piece of information that could need to remain pristine and untouched for various reasons.


No. Different file types have different characteristics, and it would be wrong to expect Windows to treat them in the same way.

Think of the file as a container for information. There are different sorts of containers. A JPEG is a big box containing a primary object - some image data. But there's space in the box for other objects with different information, like dozens of different sorts of properties. A text file is a box with room for only a single object - some text. So to add different types of information to the box, you stick labels on the outside of it. These labels bear vital information extracted from the text inside the box and present it in a readable fashion.

The vital information contained in a mail message - apart from the message itself - that could need to remain pristine includes the timestamps when it was sent and when it was received in the addressee's mailbox. The date it was put in a box by the recipient is essentially irrelevant. This is not the case with, say, a Word document, where the date it was last modified can be crucial. A mail message is (or ought to be) static.


Noel

 

Noel Burgess | Certified Pedant | Claims to know a bit about Windows Live Mail

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Yep, I just encountered this problem this morning with Windows server 2008.  In my case, hover does not seem to trigger it, however just selecting or right-clicking on a .eml file (not opening it) in Windows Explorer causes the last date modified to be changed.

I have further discovered through testing that this only happens once for each file, i.e. if Windows Explorer has previously changed the date modified on selection, it will not do it again for the same file.

I have read the technical explanation earlier in this thread of why this happens, but I find it hard to believe that Microsoft have done this deliberately.   Systems need to operate in an expected manner for people to trust them, and Microsoft has a great track record (imho) of building systems with this in mind.

Why would someone keep .eml files?  Wouldn't it be logical to assume that the last date modified of such files is actually a critical piece of information?

In my case, a workaround solution is to depend on the date created rather than the date modified.  I'm not sure if this will fit the needs of the original poster.

Can someone suggest an answer that includes a solution (e.g. modifying some registry settings) ?

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Last updated August 7, 2020 Views 4,238 Applies to: