How to Trace Email Routing

by Avery Martin

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

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

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.

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

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

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).

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

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

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

Avery Martin holds a Bachelor of Music in opera performance and a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian studies. As a professional writer, she has written for, Samsung and IBM. Martin contributed English translations for a collection of Japanese poems by Misuzu Kaneko. She has worked as an educator in Japan, and she runs a private voice studio out of her home. She writes about education, music and travel.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images