[xplorer˛] — Anorak Korner: file date anecdotes
home » blog » 26 June 2011

Windows file system keeps 3 dates for each file and folder with accuracy of round about a second:

  • Created. when the file or folder was first created (see below)
  • Modified. last time when we made changes (e.g. saved) a file
  • Accessed. Last time we did anything to the file e.g. read its contents

You can see all these dates if you pick the File > Properties menu command or simply press <Alt+Enter> keys. All pretty straightforward, right? However there are a number of curiosities you may or may not have heard of — and which may come handy anecdotes for spicing up the next geek cocktail party <g>

1. Folder modified date. Folders have modified dates too, reflecting the last time their 'table of contents' was changed, that is the last time some file was created or deleted in a folder. The date isn't affected when we merely change (e.g. rename or save) a preexisting file though. Only direct content change affects this date; changes in deeper levels (subfolders) won't affect the parent folder. Note this only applies to NTFS folders, FAT32 doesn't play with folder modification dates.

2. Creation date later than modified. How can a file be modified before it is created in a universe where Einstein's relativity theory cannot be violated? Well it is possible, and the picture to the right proves it. Did you guess it yet? Just copy a file modified a few days ago to a new folder! The new file is a new entry and gets a fresh (today's) creation date, but its modification date is inherited from the original.
file creation date later than modified!
3. Creation date with memory. Find some old useless file, delete it, then create a new one in its place with the same name. What is the creation date of this new file? Surprisingly it is the creation date of the original file not the current date as you would expect. This caught me out too the other day. The only way to ensure a brand new creation date is to first delete the container folder, then recreate the file in a new folder. That wipes the table of contents clean. This little known curiosity occurs in both NTFS and FAT formatted partitions, all the way back to windows 2000. Windows 98 (more naturally perhaps) assign the latest time of creation always.

That's all there is to say about natural behaviour of file and folder dates. xplorer˛ also gives you the tools to manually change (aka touch) file and folder dates using Actions > Change attributes menu command.

That's all folks! Next week we will probably have the new (and fixed) xplorer˛ v2.0 beta.

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