Where the !#$@ are the headers?

I've been asked many times over the years how to actually get at the email headers when using a standard email client to read messages.  This not only comes in very handy when you're troubleshooting deliverability problems on the sender's side (IP address, HELO values, authentication, etc.) but also allows you to take a closer look at the individual ISPs and what information they tack on to the message headers which can usually tell you something you didn't know before.  Headers are an immutable piece of data that represent the snapshot of when and how the email was sent from points A to B.  Granted, if you work in deliverability to any extent, this is child's play.

However, if you've ever wanted to be an email diagnostician (I remember saying this on my 5th birthday!) or found yourself wondering what people meant when they discussed email headers, keep reading and I'll show you some of the most popular email clients' paths to headers.  Keep in mind, every email that is successfully sent contains headers.  But, the programs that consume the email packets and present them to the end recipients vary on how transparent they are with exposing headers.  Following the lead of the major clients below, you'll get a pretty good idea of what access strategy to use in the majority of email clients available.  



Windows Live Mail (desktop client):


Windows Live Hotmail (web client):






*If left clicking doesn't produce what's shown in the image, right click.

Hopefully this gives you a better idea of where to look when trying to needle out the email headers from your email client without having to get too technical with setting up your own fancy inbound mail server or handler.  If you have any questions, let me know and I'll be glad to go deeper.  Many resources are available explaining the value of and how to read headers.  Depending on the feedback, I might post a follow up to this explaining what you should look for and how the data points play into enhancing your deliverability strategy.  Let me know what you think!


8 Responses to “Where the !#$@ are the headers?”

  1. Mi
    March 29, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    FYI – It looks like your yahoo image is actually hotmail image.

  2. Chris Wheeler
    March 29, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

    Thanks for noticing! I accidentally selected the wrong file when inserting images.

  3. Sotiris Tsimbonis
    March 29, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    Thanks for poining out how important the headers are!

    Spamcop has instructions for quite a few standalone or web-based email clients at http://www.spamcop.net/fom-serve/cache/19.html

  4. Codrut Turcanu
    March 30, 2010 at 2:06 am #

    Good info. I'm using outlook to check g-mail…

  5. Gregg Oldring
    March 30, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    I love this stuff. Keep it coming.

    Thanks Chris!

  6. Chris Wheeler
    March 30, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    I'm glad you're finding it useful! Would a follow-up post on what to do with headers, once you've found them, be helpful or too remedial? Let me know if it would be beneficial and I'll get to work.

  7. josh gartler
    March 31, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    Thanks Chris. Gmail was always a puzzle. Thanks for clearing that up. What to do with headers might be useful to those of us that are still learning. There maybe a little nugget of new knowledge in there that we all could learn from.

  8. Richard King
    May 5, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    Good post Chris. I use this link as well:

    Plus for non-Exchange users that use Outlook you can do this:

    •Press Windows-R
    •Type "regedit".
    •Hit Enter.
    •Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\­­Software\­­Microsoft\­­Office\­­12.0\­­Outlook\­­Options\­­Mail.
    •For Outlook 2003, go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\­­Software\­­Microsoft\­­Office\­­11.0\­­Outlook\­­Options\­­Mail.
    •Select Edit | New | DWord from the menu.
    •Type "SaveAllMIMENotJustHeaders".
    •Hit Enter.
    •Double-click the newly created SaveAllMIMENotJustHeaders value.
    •Type "1".
    •Click OK.
    •Close the registry editor.
    •Restart Outlook if it has been running.