Would you like to know where an email you received comes from? More exactly, know the geographical location of its sender? It is generally not possible. Except in a few special cases. Explanations

Would you like to know where an email you received

Would you like to know where an email you received comes from? More exactly, know the geographical location of its sender? It is generally not possible. Except in a few special cases. Explanations

The question comes up often in discussion forums. Can we locate the sender of an email? More precisely, knowing the physical address – or failing that, having an idea of ​​its geographical location (city, region, country) – of the person who sent an email. A legitimate question when, for example, we are harassed and want to know where the author of malicious messages is located.

Unfortunately, the answer is disappointing: it is generally impossible to know the geographical position of the sender of an email. Only the authorities – in particular the police – can, with the help of operators, service providers and adapted tools, trace the path of an email to go back to its source. But, for an “ordinary” individual, it is practically impossible. Except in a few special cases.

The reason is not only legal: it is first and foremost technical. It is not enough to have the email address – real or not – of the sender to determine his geographical origin. And for good reason, the messages pass through servers which can be located all over the world. We find the trace by examining the technical information – the metadata – associated with a message. More exactly, those which are contained in the header of the email (the header in English), which a small, very simple manipulation can display in plain text. These data contain, among other things, the email address of the sender, the sending server the mail service used, and sometimes also the IP address from which the message was sent. And it is from this original IP address that we can locate the sender (see our article on the geographical location of an IP).

The presence of this address varies. It seems to be indicated when the mail was sent from an email software (like Apple Mail or Thunderbird for example) but remains absent if the missive was sent directly from a webmail like Gmail, Outlook.com or even Yahoo . In these latter cases, the only IP address mentioned corresponds to the sending server of the webmail. Unable to trace back to sender’s real IP address. Too bad, because it is thanks to this IP address that we can succeed in locating – without great precision, however – the place of sending of the message. If you absolutely want to try and locate the physical address of the sender of an email, here’s how.

The emails you receive in your inbox contain technical information that is hidden by default. Here’s how to display them in plain text in two popular messengers, Gmail and Outlook. You can easily adapt the method to other services and software.

With Gmail

  • From your web browser, access your Inbox. Double-click on the message for which you want to know the geographical location. Click on the 3 points placed to the right of the option To respond. In the menu that opens, click on Show original.

  • A new tab in your browser opens. It displays the main information about the message and then, below, many lines of code. Tap on the keys Ctrl + F of the keyboard. Fill in the term received and validate. Scroll down the page with the mouse wheel to the last two results highlighted. You should find an IP address (es) following one of the highlighted lines. IP addresses appear in square brackets and typically take this form: [].
  • In our example, an IP address is displayed in clear. The email was obviously sent from the Apple Mail application as indicated in the line below Content-Type. On the other hand, with an email sent from the Gmail webmail, only the Google IP address ( is displayed. Your investigation ends here. Impossible to trace back to the physical address of the sender of the email …

With Outlook

  • Open the Outlook desktop app. Click on Mailbox in the left column. Double-click on the email whose geographic origin you want to know. Click on the small arrow at the bottom right located in the section Indicators menu Message. The window Properties is displayed. Position the mouse pointer in the window Internet headers then use the wheel to scroll the display down. Find the named line X-Sender-IP: The following digits correspond to the sender’s IP address.


How to locate the sender of an email with his IP address?

Have you managed to find an IP address belonging to the sender of the email in the header? You can now get the approximate location from which the message was sent using a free online service like WhatIsMyIP.

  • Copy to the clipboard the IP address of the sender that you found in the header of the email. Copy only the four digits separated by periods, not square brackets. Open a new tab in your browser and go, for example, to the website of WhatIsMyIP.
  • Click on the default IP address displayed in the IP Lookup entry box then press the keys Ctrl + V to replace it with the one stored in the clipboard. Click on the button Lookup to the right. The results table contains the lines City, State / Region, Country Code, Postal Code. This makes it possible to theoretically estimate the origin of the email.
  • If you wish, you can also view on a map, the approximate location linked to this address. For this, consult the details presented in our practical sheet.
  • If you cannot locate the IP address among all the lines of the email header displayed on the screen, you can also rely on the service. IpTrackerOnline. Simply select the email header up to the Subject line. Copy these lines to the clipboard. Then go to IpTrackerOnline, then copy the text in the box shown. Click on the button Submit header for analysis.
  • Immediately, all the information related to the sender’s address is displayed. Be careful, however: we do not really know whether the Web service is content to analyze the data that you send to it (your e-mail address and that of your correspondent, your location, etc.) or whether it uses them subsequently for other purposes. advertising purposes, for example.

How accurate is the IP address geolocation information?

With these location tools, you will only get an approximation of the location related to the IP address you are looking for. This lack of precision is linked to several reasons.

  • The location of the IP address may correspond to the address of the access provider and not to that of the subscriber. This is what happens most of the time. However, you can determine the region (not necessarily the exact city) from which the email was sent.
  • The sender may have activated a virtual private network (VPN) that obscures their true location. In this case, even if an IP address appears in the header of the email, it can send you to a completely different region or even a country other than that of the sender.
  • The email may also have been sent from a smartphone connected to a 4G / 5G relay antenna. In this case, the IP address reflects where the mobile was at that time.
  • Generally speaking, no database of IP addresses can provide the exact physical address of its owner. At best, you will get the location of the country, region or city it is in, knowing that this information may very well turn out to be totally false. In reality, only Internet service providers are fully aware of the geolocation of their subscribers. This is personal data protected by law. Only a judge is empowered to compel an access provider to communicate the identities of the holder of the IP address.
  • Ultimately, never completely trust the geolocation information of these specialized sites. Not only will you get rough data at best or inaccurate data at worst, but you risk giving them your own private data without realizing it!