A Guide to Viewing Full Email Headers in Gmail

Email headers reveal important clues about a message's origin

Businesswoman Checking E-mail Online on Laptop

 

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Email messages contain much essential information in their header area: the sender, recipients, subject, and tracking information. The latter data points can be used to troubleshoot email problems, for example, or to trace the odd unwelcome message back to its likely origin. Gmail supports full header inspections on a per-message basis.

How to View Full Email Headers in Gmail

To get a message's full email headers displayed in Gmail:

  1. Open the email message in Gmail then select the More menu to display additional options.

    Gmail message with the flyout menu loaded
  2. Select Show original from the menu. Gmail will open a new tab showing the full message.

    Gmail original-message display

In the original-message view, Gmail offers two links — one to download the email as an .EML file (a plain-text format that many email programs can read) and another to copy the message to the clipboard. In both cases, what gets clipped or downloaded is the actual message content, which appears on the lower pane. The summary information at the top of the window merely repeats and makes more reader-friendly information within the source headers.

Email Header Content

Email headers contain a significant amount of information—like digital postmarks—that identify how the message got from the sender to the recipient. If you report inappropriate messages to the authorities, you'll need to paste the full header content. It's not unusual for some header blocks to run more than 100 lines long and be filled with gibberish-looking strings.