People in our company have been emailing a person with an AOL email address (let's say bob@aol.com).

The first problem was that the emails were taking hours to arrive. This isn't a big deal. However, what we've also found is that the emails are arriving with a wildly inaccurate sent time included.

For example, if I send an email from me@mydomain.co.uk to bob@aol.com (both of us being in the UK) at 16:00, when Bob eventually gets the email and replies to it, the email body it says my email was sent at 07:45. The inaccuracy is not even a specific number of hours.

I did wonder if Bob's date and time settings in Windows were wrong (as detailed in AOL help), but surely that would not affect a time flag set on sending?

I'd be grateful for any pointers please (as Bob is not a happy person).

  • 1
    Are your messages sitting in your SMTP outbox? I found that we often get the message that complains that our server is sending too many messages so it tarpits the servers for a bit of time slowing down delivery. I have a user that we forward her corp mail to her AOL box and she nicely likes to mark messages as SPAM and then gets our servers blocked as well. Point being, take a look at the SMTP Queues (EMC->Toolbox->Queue Viewer) and see if you see anything under the "Last Error" column for AOL.com.
    – MikeAWood
    Feb 7 '14 at 2:44

It quite possibly is. A lot of email clients will take their time from the time it arrived in the recipient's mail client, not whatever is in the message headers.

Without the message headers, or knowing whether Bob is using AOL's website or a mail client like Outlook or Thunderbird, it's impossible to say for sure.

Get the message headers from Bob to find out what timestamps each mailserver is adding to the message, and find out how he's checking his email.

If the time is set right on your mailserver and email client, it's most likely a problem at Bob's end.

  • A lot of email clients will take their time from the time it arrived in the recipient's mail client, not whatever is in the message headers. Do you have any citation for this? I appreciate that the client will populate Date Received using the system date/time, but Date Sent should surely not be alterable by servers beyond the Sender's email server?
    – EvilDr
    Feb 6 '14 at 10:53
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    My mistake - I read "received" in place of "sent". The point still stands though - if your mailserver has it's time set correctly the only way to identify the source of the problem (most likely not you) is to get a copy of the headers and see what exactly happened to the message. Feb 6 '14 at 11:08
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    @EvilDr For what it's worth, that's how the email clients I have on my [corporate] iPhone and BlackBerry display a message's "time." (When it arrived on the mobile device.) Feb 6 '14 at 12:06

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