The Secret behind GMail Timer !

Gmail’s timer is simply awesome. I guess you haven’t noticed how it works. When ever you receive or send  a mail you will get the information about time when the mail was received or sent as shown:

7:04 AM (7 hours ago)

Do you know what it means ? The first part of the time, here 7.04 am, is the Standard Time of your country. I am in India, so it is the Indian Standard Time (IST). The second part of the time i.e ‘7 hours ago ‘ indicates the time relative to your computer. It actually is the difference between the time of your computer and the Standard Time of  your country.

Have a look at the videos made by my friend Roshan Singh. Ensure that you take a note of the ‘time’ shown in the videos and view the videos in full screen so that you don’t miss out minute details.

The 1 st video shows that the mail was received -1442 minutes ago. The explanation to this is that the IST was 8.48 am on 26 th of February, 2009 and the computer time was 8.46 am 25 th of February, 2009 (note this from the right corner of the video). 60(minutes) * 24(hours) + 2 minutes equals 1442 minutes, Simple Math 🙂 and the negative sign to indicate that the system (your computer) time is lagging behind by a day ! 🙂

This second video is another example of the same. Note, the time is 8.37 am, 26 th of February, 2009. The computer time was set to 2.30 pm, on 26 th of February, 2009. So the difference in time is ‘5 hours’ and this is exactly what is being  showed.

Don’t this it is a bug,  It simply is NOT . Google has put great thought before designing the timer so as to make the timer best suited not only for the individual but also to the place where he works.

If you think how could this be useful or what is the use of this, here goes the answer . Say you are a nationality of some country and go on an work to some other country, so it becomes difficult to keep track of both the time zones. This feature ensure that you keep a track of the time you received the mail in both the time zones  and ensures that you dont miss out anything because of the change in timings. The time indicated, say ‘5 hours ago’ in the second video, is machine dependent. It you happen to view the same email in another computer which is set to IST or the country’s Standard Time (matching with the first part of the time as showed in gmail), it will then show that the mail was received ‘0 minutes ago’ or ‘x minutes ago’ where x is the time difference between when you received the mail and the current time of your computer set to IST or standard time. 

You can try it out to understand the significance of how the timer works !

 The Gmail Timer therefore, takes care of both the country’s Standard Time and the local time of you machine.  Marvellous isn’t it !! 😀


Credits to me and Prashant Thorat for rightly spotting that it was not a bug ! hehe 😀


  1. 1
    Suzanne Says:

    Hi! I recently had a virus on my computer that is supposedly gone. After it was removed, I had to reset the date/time function on my laptop through Windows, but the Gmail timer is still in negative time. Is this something I can fix with my computer? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    • 2
      crazycool5 Says:

      Hmmm, by how long is the time negative going negative? If it is 2 minutes, supposedly there is no help. I guess the timer in Google’s mail server is set 2 minutes ahead of you standard time. This is the situation in India. Even if the variation is 10 minutes, I guess it should not be a issue. However, if the time goes negative by say an hour ago, the Gmail is going to show something like (- 60 minutes ago ). So, if you could provide me more information about the negative time you are getting (i.e. how much is the time negative by ?), the Standard Time of your country and your computer’s time, may be I will be able to help you better !

  2. […] friend G Praveen Kumar had explained all this.It was really interesting to know that Gmail’s timer is simply awesome. I […]

  3. 6
    Suzanne Says:

    For example, My Gmail timer says this evening (3/9/09), when the time is 6:37 PM (EST) on both a clock and on my computer, that an email received last evening (3/8/09) at 11:04 PM was sent -39146 minutes ago. Any ideas?

  4. 7
    crazycool5 Says:

    Hmmm, I am still not able to grip of how this is happening! If I am right, you must have got the details of the dates you have mentioned by hovering over the time

    7:04 AM (7 hours ago)

    If you have not done this, reconfirm the dates from here. Next to the time, there is an option called “Reply” and consequently a scroll down below that. In the scroll down there is an option called “Show original”, click on that. This is going to give you more details about when the mail was sent and when was it received. Check whether you are able to spot some time lapse form here.

    Also try logging in from someone else’s computer and check whether u get the same (negative) time. If you don’t, there is definitely a problem with your local machine. If you get the negative time, just confirm if from others whether they face the same problem or not. You can do another thing, send a dummy mail to yourself and see if there is any negative time shown both from your machine and someone else’s machine. And, was the negative time only with a particular message or is it happening with all the incoming emails ?

    Please give me the reviews, I will try my level best to sort out the problem !

  5. […] friend G Praveen Kumar had explained all this.It was really interesting to know that Gmail’s timer is simply awesome. I […]

  6. 9
    warLog Says:

    great, this article is awesome…

  7. 10
    neebit Says:

    interesting one!

  8. 11
    Pablo Says:

    Hi, I am having some troubles with this too. As soon I receive an email, it is said that it was sent 16 hours ago. But this happens with all the emails I am receiving, also with those I sent to myself and I am receiving just one second after sending them.

    any clue?? Thanks in advance,


  9. 13
    Pablo Says:

    Thanks for your answer. But my clock is with the same time with Google at my location. I am in Argentina, so I have set the time with Buenos Aires (-3:00 GTM). This problem begun two months ago, and before that there was no problem at all. I will ask other friends in the country if they are experiencing something similar.

    Thanks again.

  10. 15
    Md. Tanveer Rahman Says:

    Can you plz tell me, how to modify the time in gmail? I am having wrong time while getting mails. My pc time is okay, i think i have to reconfigure the gmail clock. The question is, how to do that?

  11. that was informative!!

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