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On NTFS filesystems, each file posses (at least) two attributes that hold (among other information) Modification, Access, Change and Birth (MACB) timestamps:



The impact of a number of operations on each timestamps for the $STANDARD_INFORMATION and $FILENAME attributes are detailed in the SANS's Windows Time Rules poster. Globally, the following points should be noted:

  • $FILENAME MACB timestamps are updated on file creation / copy / volume move with the date of the operation itself but are not reliability updated on regular file operations (access, modification, rename, deletion). However as the $FILENAME MAB timestamps are updated / copied from the $STANDARD_INFORMATION MAB timestamps on file rename or volume-local file move, they are prone to false-negatives. Indeed, by timestomping the $STANDARD_INFORMATION timestamps then renaming or moving the file, the $FILENAME timestamps will be indirectly timestomped as well.

  • On file copy (between two NTFS partitions): the $STANDARD_INFORMATION MC timestamps are inherited from the original file but the $STANDARD_INFORMATION AB timestamps (and the $FILENAME MACB timestamps) are the ones of the copy itself.

  • On local file moves (on the same NTFS partition), the $STANDARD_INFORMATION C $FILENAME C timestamps are updated with the timestamp of the move). On file moves (between NTFS partitions), the $STANDARD_INFORMATION AC timestamps are updated, also with the timestamp of the move.

  • The update of the $STANDARD_INFORMATION A timestamp is unreliable and depends on the value of the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem\NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate registry key. The following values may be encountered:

    • 0 (default on Windows XP), 80000000 (User managed), 80000002 (System managed) means that last access updates are enabled. Starting from Windows Redstone 4 (Build 1803 of 04/2018), last access updates seem to be enabled (back) by default if the system partition size is <= to 128 GiB. Starting from Windows 10 20H1 (Build 18970 of 05/2020) last access updates seem to be enabled by default independently of the system partition size.

    • 1 (default from Windows Vista to early Windows 10 versions), 80000001 (User managed), 80000003 means that last access updates are disabled.

Depending on its filename length, a given file may have one or two $FILENAME attributes:

  • file with short name will have a single $FILENAME attribute.

  • file with long name will be associated to two $FILENAME attributes, one for the long file name and a second for the MS-DOS-compatible short file name (FILENA~1.TXT for example).

Additionally, another $FILENAME attribute can be found for each file in the directory index of their directory of residency. Indeed directory are stored on NTFS partitions as B+ tree data structure with the keys, representing files and subdirectories, stored as $FILENAME attributes. MACB timestamps for each files and subdirectories of a given directory can thus be found in the directory index. The directory index are stored in NTFS Index Attribute files, also known as INDX files and named $I30 on disk.

A given file may thus be associated with either:


  • 20 timestamps: $STANDARD_INFORMATION + 2 * $FILENAME + 2 * NTFS $I30's $FILENAME (duplicate timestamps for files with long name).

Registry last write timestamps

The last write / modified timestamp of a registry key correspond to the last time a write operation occurred on the key. Multiple types of write operation may trigger an update of the last write / modified timestamp of the key:

  • Addition / modification / deletion of one (or multiple) values under the key.

  • Addition / deletion of a sub-key under the key.

  • Change in the security descriptor (including Access Control List (ACL)) of the key.

The last write / modified timestamp of a registry key is the only generic timestamp available regarding registry keys.

Convert UNIX time to human readable format

Timestamps in Windows are often stored as UNIX time: 32-bit value containing the number of seconds elapsed since 1/1/1970.

Note that Active Directory generally store time values of objects (stored in each object's attributes) in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

The following one-liners can be used to convert an UNIX time to an human readable format:

# Display both the time in GMT and in the local time zone of the system.
w32tm.exe /ntte <UNIX_TIMESTAMP>





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