How to Trace Email Routing

by Madison Carter Google
An email sender can attempt to hide his identity using public computers.

An email sender can attempt to hide his identity using public computers.

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

The success of tracing the origin of an email depends on many factors outside your control, and senders might use a proxy or VPN service to hide their IP address. Also, depending on whether the sender initiated the email online or with a desktop application, you may not see the IP address of the user. Instead, you may only get the IP address that the email provider used to send the email. If the sender doesn't attempt to mask the IP address, you can trace the email to a general geographic location. Depending on your method of receiving email, various methods exist to locate the email headers and then paste the headers into an online form designed to locate the source of the email.

Find Email Headers

Step 1

Select the email message in Apple Mail. Click the "View" menu, choose "Message" and select "All Headers" to view and copy the headers.

Step 2

Locate the email message in Outlook for Windows. Select the "File" tab, click the "Properties" button and copy the headers listed in the Internet Headers section.

Step 3

Select the email message in Gmail, and click the arrow next to the Reply button. Select "Show Original," and copy the headers displayed.

Step 4

Right-click on the email message using Hotmail or Yahoo. Click "View Source" in Hotmail or "View Full Headers" in Yahoo, and then copy the headers.

Find Source Information

Step 1

Access a website designed to locate the source of an email based on the email headers. The WhatIsMyIPAddress, IP2Location and Levine Central websites all provide a form to submit and parse email headers (link in Resources).

Step 2

Paste the email headers retrieved from your email client into the website form.

Step 3

Click the "Get Source," "Lookup" or "Parse" button to identify the source of the email message.

Step 4

Scroll down and view the location information listed in the Location field, or click the link for the IP address listed to show more information about the location.

About the Author

Madison Carter specializes in computer technology, computer repair, operating system support, security, digital audio and recording. She writes professionally for IBM, STACK daily news, Angie's List and NewMusicBox.org. Carter holds a doctoral degree from the University of Washington.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images