Received mail timestamp is off by 7 hours

Anthony Atkielski atkielski.anthony at
Sun Feb 27 09:36:37 GMT 2005

Pat Maddox writes:

> I've included the headers of messages from both Gmail and Hotmail, to
> show that it's not on Gmail's end.  Also, here's the output from date:
> %date
> Sun Feb 27 02:42:21 CET 2005

That can't be right.  You sent your message in reply to a message I sent
at 9:34 CET.  The time on your local machine is incorrect by seven
hours.  It should be one hour ahead of UTC right now.

> They should show up in my inbox as being received at 1:40am or so, but
> they show up as 6:40pm instead.

And 1:40 is exactly seven hours later than 18:40.

The disparity is visible in the timestamps, too:

>>From Gmail:
> Return-Path: <pergesu at>
> X-Original-To: pergesu at
> Delivered-To: pergesu at
> Received: from ( [])
>         by (Postfix) with ESMTP id 3161733C1B
>         for <pergesu at>; Sun, 27 Feb 2005 02:38:52 +0100 (CET)

Notice that the timestamp on your local e-mail server corresponds to
1:38:52 UTC, but the timestamp on Gmail's server ...

> Received: by with SMTP id 67so1650347wri
>         for <pergesu at>; Sun, 27 Feb 2005 00:37:53 -0800 (PST)

... corresponds to 8:37:53 UTC, which is correct.  The other timestamps
for intermediate servers are also correct, but the timestamp generated
by your machine on the original message is not ...

> Date: Sun, 27 Feb 2005 01:37:53 -0700

-0700 corresponds to MST (Mountain Standard Time in the U.S.), not CET
(Central European Time).

So the solution is to set the time and time _zone_ correctly on your
machine.  For a UNIX machine, the CMOS real-time clock should be set to
UTC (what many people still call GMT), and then your time zone should be
set to whatever is appropriate for your location (CET would correspond
to most of Europe outside of the UK--here in France we are on CET).

Are you by any chance running a dual-boot configuration?  Windows
expects the CMOS RTC to be set to local time.  UNIX expects it to be set
to UTC.  If you are running only FreeBSD, you can just reset the CMOS to
UTC and fix your time zone to match your location.  If you are also
running a boot of Windows or something like that, you'll have to leave
the CMOS clock set to local time, and make appropriate adjustments.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure which variables to change in FreeBSD, as
I've always just set the time at installation time (when I'm asked if
the local clock is UTC and what time zone I'm in).

Maybe someone else can explain what needs to change in your FreeBSD
configuration to set it to the correct time.

In general, setting the time incorrectly on a local client machine in
the SMTP protocol will produce seemingly random errors in the time on
received messages, depending on the path they follow on their way to you
(this is true even for messages you send to yourself).  The local
machine is almost always the one with the time set incorrectly
(incorrect time on mail servers tends to be noticed by users very
quickly, especially if more than one time zone is involved).


More information about the freebsd-questions mailing list