One of the most useful email features is providing date tracking for messages; if I know I bought something from Amazon on February 11, 2019, then I can search my email for that day and find my tracking receipt or confirmation.
However, sometimes there are reasons why users want to play with tracking that date, and back up emails so that they appear to have been sent at a date and time earlier than they really are.
Maybe you are trying to convince a teacher that you are sending a paper before the deadline, or convincing your boss that you send an email about the Johnson Project when it should.
So is it possible to send an email with the previous date?
Although it is possible, it is important to note that this method is only effective, and who knows what to look for will be able to reveal the actual date of the email sent.
With that in mind, let’s see how you can send an email with a previous date.
How to Send Pending Emails
There are several different ways to back up e-mail, including changing the date and time on your computer, using the Inspection Element, or creating an SMTP server.
Change the Date & Time on Your Computer
One very basic way to send an email with a previous date is to change your PC’s clock to the time you tried to simulate before sending the email. Some older email clients such as Outlook Express will accept this date and send it to the e-mail server with the local date and time.
Here is the procedure:
- In Windows 10, right-click on the clock on your desktop.
- Select Adjust date / time.
- Change the date to whatever you want and click OK.
- Write and send your e-mail.
Although this method might work, the email metadata will still contain the correct date. As such, this method might fail for several reasons:
- Depending on how you set up your e-mail, the time and date can also be overwritten by your e-mail provider.
- The next relay server (the computer that sent your e-mail to its destination) will ignore the time stamp of the computer and still use the server time.
- The metadata from your e-mail server will show when you received your e-mail, not when you wrote and sent it.
- The recipient’s email server will still stamp the correct time of receipt before being forwarded to the recipient.
For example, in the email metadata image above, the actual time and date are four separate times:
- Delivery date: Thursday, Sep 08 2016 17:31:45 +100
- Received: from email via mail147.extendcp.com with a virus-spam scan (Exim 4.80.1) for EMAIL ADDRESS; Thursday, Sep 08 2016 17:31:45 +0100
- Server (version = TLS1_0, cipher = TLS_ECDHE_RSA_WITH_AES_256_CBC_SHA_P384) id 15.1.609.9; Thursday, Sep 8 2016 16:31:40 +0000
- Received: from DB5PR03MB1415.eurprd03.prod.outlook.com 15.01.0587.013; Thursday, Sep 8 2016 16:31:40 +0000
To see any email metadata in Gmail, click the three dots in the upper right corner of the email. Then, click “Show original.” As you can see from the screenshot below, the metadata will display the correct date and time for each stop that the e-mail does on its way to the recipient.
Even if you can change your computer’s time, and that is reflected in your email application, the actual time is visible for anyone to see if they do a little digging.
(Interested in how all of this works under the hood? See our tutorial on how TCP / IP works.)
Creating an SMTP server
So the email server will provide the correct date and time stamp on your email, but what if you can manage and control your own email server?
E-mail works using the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and the SMTP server is not too difficult to set up or use.
If you have an older version of Windows, especially a server OS such as Windows Server 2000, then you may already have an SMTP server on your PC and all you have to do is turn it on and configure it to send your e-mail.
However, Windows 10 no longer includes an SMTP server. Fortunately, there are many free SMTP server programs out there and you can download one of them. It’s a bit difficult to get through just to get the email date to look different, but if it’s really necessary, this might be the only way.
Note that you must have a domain to use this procedure!
hMailServer is one of the most popular free email servers. I will give you a quick update on how to install and configure it.
- Get the latest version from the Email Server and download.
- Run the installer. You can accept default values.
- Be sure to note the administrator password you chose, because you will need it later.
- Click Finish to complete the installation.
- In the Mail Server interface, click localhost, click Connect, and enter the password.
- Click the Domains tab.
- Click Add Domain.
- Enter your domain name and click Save.
- Click the domain name in the domain list on the left side of the interface, and then click the Account subfolder.
- Click Add and enter the account information for the email account that you will create at your domain.
To manage the actual email transfer, you must obtain information from the ISP that you have registered for the domain. As I said, this is not a simple process and I’m only giving you the basics here.
Use Inspection Elements to Modify Webmail
If you use Gmail or another webmail client, then use Google Chrome’s “Inspection Element” strong functionality to temporarily change the HTML code that displays the email on the screen, then take a screenshot of the email displayed to “prove” that the email has a specific date on it.
Remember that this is basically forgery, so be aware of your legal responsibilities when engaging in this kind of behavior.
- Open the email you want to modify in your Gmail account.
- Right-click on the date displayed and select Check from the context menu.
- Double click on the time text under Gridcell in the Element Inspector and change the text to the date and time you want the email to display. The text in the email itself changes when you press Return in the Inspector.
- Take screenshots quickly. The element will only be displayed for a few seconds before Chrome changes it back to what the HTML source said it is the actual text.
- Crop your screenshot to only display emails with modified dates.
That won’t cheat the FBI but it might be good enough for your professor.
If you need to update your e-mail for any reason, there are several methods to choose from. However, although it may fool individuals who don’t bother digging, keep in mind that this method is far from easy and probably won’t work against people who better understand technology.