A Guide to Viewing Full Email Headers in Gmail

Email headers reveal important clues about a message's origin

What to Know

  • Display full headers: In an open message, select the More menu (three vertical dots) and choose Show original.
  • Email headers contain information that can identify how a message arrived in your inbox.

Email messages contain essential information in the 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 an unwelcome message back to its likely origin. Gmail supports full header inspections on a per-message basis when you're accessing it form you desktop with a supported web browser.

How to View Full Email Headers in Gmail

To display a message's full email headers in Gmail:

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

    Gmail with the More menu highlighted
  2. Select Show original from the menu.

    The Gmail More menu with the Show Original command highlighted
  3. Gmail opens a new tab that shows 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 in the lower pane. The summary information at the top of the window repeats and makes 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, 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. 

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