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Private investigators use metadata like a card catalogMetadata is supplemental information attached to a file. It literally means "data about data". The first form of metadata most of us learned was in 5th grade, memorizing the Dewey Decimal System and learning about library card catalogues.

In a digital file, metadata can record a number of useful facts, including the date and time a file was created or modified, the username of whomever used or accessed the file, sometimes even the geolocation of the file at creation, among many other possibilities depending upon the type of file in question.

An important form of metadata for digital investigators is the file header. File headers follow very specific naming conventions meant to help the operating system more easily identify and load information when requested by the user, such as opening a Word document or image file.

Digital forensic tools allow certified computer examiners to use metadata to link file fragments, helping us manually or automatically carve the files from the disc and piece them back together.


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