For every file on an NTFS volume, there are the following dates:

  1. File Created
  2. File Accessed
  3. File Modified
  4. MTF last written

Each of these dates are explained below:

File Created: This is the date the file was “created” on the volume. This does not change when working normally with a file, e.g. opening, closing, saving, or modifying the file.

File Accessed: This is the date the file was last accessed. An access can be a move, an open, or any other simple access. It can also be tripped by Anti-virus scanners, or Windows system processes. Therefore caution has to be used when stating a “file was last accessed by user XXX” if there is only the “File Access” date in NTFS to work from.

File Modified: This date as shown by Windows there has been a change to the file itself. E.g a notepad document is has more date added to it, would trip the date it was modified.

MFT Entry Modified: A basic understanding of NTFS and the MFT is required for this section. This is a date not shown by Windows Explorer or the average windows interface, but requires forensic tools , e.g EnCase, FTK, iLook, WinHex, etc.  This date shows when the MFT entry, which points to the file of concern, was changed. This means that if the record that points to the file  is changed, then this date would trip. As all the dates, file name, file sizes are stored in the MFT, if any of those are changed then the date will change. For example, if the file size changes then the MFT Entry modified date is changed. If the file name is changed, than the MFT entry modified is changed.