How To Trace an Email Address

Learn How to Trace an Email Address

Trace an email address in the most popular programs like Microsoft Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, by finding the header.

What Is an Email Header

Each email you receive comes with headers. The headers contain information about the routing of the message and the originating Internet Protocol address of the message. Not all electronic messeges you receive will allow you to track them back to the originating point and depending on how you send messages determines whether or not they can trace an email address back to you. The headers don’t contain any personal information. At most, the results of the trace with show you the origination IP and the computer name that sent the email. After viewing the trace information, the initiating IP can be looked up to determine from where the message was sent. IP address location information DOES NOT contain your street name, house number, or phone number. The trace will most likely determine the city and the ISP the sender used.  

How Do I Get The Header to Start the Email Trace Process?

Each electronic messaging program will vary as to how you get to the message options. I’ll cover the basics to start the trace…the rest is up to you. Outlook – Right click the message while it’s in the inbox and choose Message Options. A window will open with the headers in the bottom of the window. Windows Live – Right click the correspondence while it’s in the inbox, choose Properties, then click the Details tab. GMail – Open the correspondence. In the upper right corner of the email you’ll see the word Reply with a little down arrow to the right. Click the down arrow and choose Show Original. Hotmail – Right click the memo and choose View Message Source. Yahoo! – Right click the note and choose View Full Headers. AOL – Click Action and then View Message Source. You can see that no matter the program, the headers are usually just a right click away.

I’ve Got the Header, Now How Do I Start The Trace?

The next step to trace an email address is to find the first IP listed in the header. This is most likely the IP initiating point. However, there are exceptions to this. You’ll have to look at the information logically to deduce the originating IP.

Can You Trace any Email Address?

Yes and No. For example, someone who sends a message to your hotmail account shows in the X-Originating IP section of the headers. However, someone who sends you a message from GMail will ONLY trace back to Google IP addresses. We’ve got more information in our Trace An Email forum.
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Brian Gilbert

Brian has been a website administrator with WhatIsMyIP.com since early 2006. He's known in the forum as WIMIAdmin. He has an extensive computer background that started back in the early 80's when his mom bought him his first computer, a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A. Brian has turned his passion for technology into a full time gig.

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