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Every so often the sort order of email in your inbox may change unexpectedly. A stray click can do that, and a not-so-stray click can fix it.

I don't know what I did but for some reason my emails are out of order; they're not in chronological order. It is getting harder to check my e-mail. Please tell me how I can reset my the order of my emails.

This is one of those things that's very obvious and easy if you know about it.

But if you don't know, it can be extremely frustrating until someone shows you. And based on how frequently I get the question, a lot of people don't know.

So... let me show you.

I'll use MSN Hotmail as my example, but the technique applies to just about any web mail program, and almost all GUI mail programs like Outlook, Thunderbird, Eudora and the like.

Short version: click on the column header you want to sort by. Click on it again to sort "the other way".

Here's a snapshot of my Hotmail inbox:

Hotmail Inbox sorted by Date, Ascending

"... click on the column header you want to sort by."

You can see that my messages are sorted by date, in ascending order. The date column header shows this because it's a slightly different color, and it has an up arrow in it. If I click on the word "Date" in the header, the sort order changes:

Hotmail Inbox sorted by Date, Descending

You can see that both the arrow next to "Date" has changed, as has the sort order of my messages.

Actually, you can click on any of the column headers to sort by that header. Here's my inbox sorted by "From" after I clicked on the From column header:

Hotmail Inbox sorted by From

Here the "From" column header has changed color, and now has the arrow indicating the direction of the sort. I can also click on the envelope on top of the read/unread/junk? icon column, and have my messages sorted by that:

Hotmail Inbox sorted by Envelope

There's no room in the header for the accompanying up or down arrow, but you can see that the column header has changed color.

That's all there is to it! And as I said, almost any mail program or web mail interface that shows your messages in a list with columns will allow you to change the sort order by clicking on the appropriate column header.

In fact, it was probably a stray click that got your inbox in an unexpected order to begin with :-).


Reader David reports: "The word from Hotmail customer support is that the 'sort' function now disappears after your mailbox exceeds 5000 emails. They recommend either configuring Outlook Express to use a Hotmail account or downloading Windows Live Mail."

In my opinion if you're keeping 5000 emails in Hotmail you're asking for trouble anyway, simply based on the number of reports of lost and hacked email accounts. Using Windows Live Mail, or one of the other approaches to downloading your Hotmail to your own PC so it can be managed and backed up there is by far the best approach.

Article C2899 - January 16, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Karmen Smith
January 29, 2007 2:46 PM

HI!Leo , that well and good. Now I need to delete 950 unsolicited e-mails and including msn stuff they send. How do I clear out the mailbox without losing real solicited e-mail.

February 21, 2007 8:49 AM

i use to be able to look at my e-mail, and see right there the last 8 or so who e-mailed me last. now it is gone. i still have the colume on my home page but now i have to click on it to see it. thank you for your help. cheri

shelley collman
February 23, 2007 3:12 AM

i used to have e-mails displayed on my home page,i have the column but no e-mails are shown anymore. help. thanks shelley

john magill
March 1, 2007 3:23 AM

my hotmail inbox shows the message hotmail service unavailable but the messages are in my in box but icant tell from my home page if there are any messages.regards j.magill.

March 19, 2007 2:21 PM

Thank you, I am glad I found you, you answered all of the questions I needed answers to, quick & to the point!

April 5, 2007 7:38 AM

When i forward an e-mail that has photo's or jokes with pictures,the photo's and pictures will not forward.It sends a white box with red, white, and blue colors in the upper left corner.My husband also has a hotmail account and his doesn't do this.We have a business account and it doesn't do this.Our settings are the same except the full headers are set on mine for reporting spammers and i have the paid version which he does not have. I have e-mailed MSN 3 times and they have tried to figure it out,but they don't know anymore than i do.It's a real pain when you want to forward a good e-mail and can't.Thanks in advance!

April 14, 2007 3:01 AM

Thank you very much. I'm now able to help my younger bro. Btw I found u thru google. So thanks to google too

April 28, 2007 5:06 PM

Hi there, I have been trying to send my mum an email but it keeps failing? I have no idea why and its annoying me lol. I tried it with gmail too and i got a msg saying that her email box was unavailable ?? Can you tell me why?

Lindsey Stillman
May 19, 2007 11:38 AM

Is the "sort" function still available? I used to be able to sort using the method you described above but hotmail will no longer allow me to do this. Did they change something?

Leo A. Notenboom
May 21, 2007 9:37 AM

Hash: SHA1

Not sure what to tell you other than "it works for me".

Things that could affect it: make sure you're using IE. I use Firefox and it
worked for me, but perhaps other browsers don't? Also make sure that Javascript
is enabled.

Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


June 12, 2007 1:13 PM

Interesting- my wife has run into the same used to work but it does not now. I have used my computer and accessed and sorted my hotmail account and then I open another window and access her account= not able to sort. I deleted a bunch of messages but still nothing . Help . Who can I contact?


mr smith
September 14, 2007 3:43 PM

I can do these things you suggested, but the problem is that the new emails appear anywhere in the inbox, sometimes the middle, never the top or bottom...I have to look for the unopened letter icon. I can file some of the other emails in folders, but not all of them, and it is driving me nuts that it is so hard to find emails...

November 6, 2007 8:21 AM

The problem I have since Windows Live started is: Generally, the newest mail is on top. This can be sorted by clicking on date, but it keeps switching back to new mail on top, i guess it's preset.

Is there a permanent solution? If I've received several mails i hate having to switch so the new ones are on the bottom. Arrgh...

Thanks for any advice because you can't expect any from msn,

Lucie Hearne
January 29, 2008 4:21 PM

Hi I am having the same problem, my hotmail account will no longer sort by from. It used to do it no problem and I have not changed anything on my computer. I am finding it frustrating as I cant function without it and find it difficult to move and delete emails if I cant sort so they are piling up in my inbox.

Help! Thanks

March 28, 2008 9:17 AM


I am not able to see Column Header "From" in my home PC, while checking messages in "Inbox" but when I open Hotmail account in office able to see "From" column header.
So, What is the problem?
And What are the steps to get back "From" column in Hotmail account.
Is there any option in Hotmail to add/delete "Column Header"?

Thanks In Advance.


June 15, 2008 10:51 PM

there is a problem held in my email account.i dnt know how to remove it.ny mailbox is not opening i tried several times plz plz plz help me out i wana check my mail plzzzzzzzzz

Jenny Hammerton
June 18, 2008 2:51 PM

Like other users, the option to sort mail in my hotmail inbox has recently disappeared - the column headers are no longer clickable if you know what I mean -any advice welcome - Jenny in London

July 8, 2008 9:16 AM

You have to update to the NEW HOTMAIL.

August 8, 2008 7:43 AM

The ability to 'sort' disappears after you have so many emails in your inbox. The last time I went through this I had to get that number down to 1200 emails before the sort function came back. The answer from hotmail customer service told me this, but they couldn't give me a specific # of emails or percentage full the entire account had to be before the sort function came back.

August 9, 2008 2:04 PM

The word from hotmail customer support is that the 'sort' function now disappears after your mailbox exceeds 5000 emails. They recommend either configuring OE to use a hotmail account or downloading Window Live Mail at

Thank you! I'll add this to the article.


Jane de Guerre
November 30, 2008 7:56 PM

OMG, this was driving me absolutely insane... I googled it many times before... and it told me there to go to sort by, but I couldn't find it. I did what you said in one second. The images helped alot. Thank you so much!!!!!

March 7, 2009 11:14 AM

Has the option to display email headers (Incoming IP Addresses) been removed from Hotmail? It once worked but I cannot activate it any longer. The recommended sequence cannot be completed as the option seems to no longer exist.

November 4, 2010 4:27 PM

How can you change it permanently? I know about the "arrange" button and use it frequently. I always want my mail displayed in the order received, but everytime I reopen my inbox, even if I have just been away briefly answering a message, when I come back it is back in most recent first order.

Daniel Iwagu
April 10, 2013 6:22 PM

Very Helpful, Thanks so much.


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