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As I understand, the IP address on the email header is the IP address for the SMTP server of the ISP of the sender.

I was just wondering if it's possible to find the exact location of an email sender based on the IP address from email header? How does this process work?

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3 Answers 3

In short, no.

The IP addresses in the email headers are logged for each SMTP server the message passes through. The best you could probably do is map the IP address of the initial SMTP server to an ISP. This is of course not an exact science, and you're pretty much screwed if the message was sent from a free provider like Hotmail or Google Mail.

I question why you would want to do this in the first place, and I can't think of any real useful reason you would want to anyway.

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Since you do not have access to smtp server of Jim's ISP and its log, you cannot determine where he send the e-mail from. (If he is using his smtp server, than you know the answer...)

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I was trying to figure out how to get this information in case of abusive emails sent. So Jim's ISP will have all the detail of Jim's whereabouts if they are given the email header? –  chilly-child Nov 7 '10 at 0:13

Assuming you mean geographic location, you can use IP geolocation. There are many different solutions for this. This search for prior Server Fault questions is a good start.

Okay, it looks like you want the geographic location of the computer where Jim used his email client. There's no universal solution. In some cases, the IP will be in a Received header. In others (e.g. webmail), it will be in a special header such as X-Originating-IP or X-AOL-IP.

This page gives an overview of finding the IP for several common services. Once you have that, you can of course use IP geolocation.

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Not sure if I explained clearly. For instance Jim sends an email to me. From my email header, I get Jim's IP address (which is in fact the IP address for the SMTP server of Jim's ISP). Based on that IP address, is it possible for me to determine, Jim's exact geographic location (where he sent email from- could be his home or internet cafe) and his computer details? –  chilly-child Nov 6 '10 at 23:51

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