There are many reasons why you might want to backdate an email and we don’t judge. The good news is that it is simple to send an email with a previous date. The bad news is that it won’t necessarily fool anyone and can quickly be identified.
For example, let’s say you were meant to submit a term paper or piece of work by a given date and you missed it by a few days. You want to backdate the email submitting the paper or piece of work so it looks as though you submitted it on time. In theory, this is simple but if the recipient knows anything about how email works, it won’t fool them.
How to send a backdated email
The easiest way to send an email with a previous date is to change your PC clock to the time you are trying to simulate.
- Right click on the clock on your desktop (Windows 10).
- Select Adjust date/time.
- Change the date to whatever you need it to be and click OK.
- Write and send your email.
However, the email metadata will still contain the correct date. So your cunning plan will likely fail for several reasons:
- Depending on how your email is set up, the time and date may also be overwritten by your email program.
- If you’re at work and can actually change the date on your PC, the Exchange or other email server will ignore the timestamp from the computer and use the server time anyway.
- The metadata from the email server will show the time it received it from you and not the time you wrote and sent it.
- The receiving email server will still stamp the correct receipt time before it is forwarded on to the recipient.
- A delay of a few hours is believable. A delay of a few days is not.
If you look at the metadata of an email, it will show the time and date the email was sent from the senders server, the time it was received at the recipients email server and possibly the time it was scanned for malware too.
For example in the image above, the real time and date is included four separate times:
- Delivery-date: Thu, 08 Sep 2016 17:31:45 +0100
- Received: from mail by mail147.extendcp.com with spamvirus-scanned (Exim 4.80.1) for EMAIL ADDRESS; Thu, 08 Sep 2016 17:31:45 +0100
- Server (version=TLS1_0, cipher=TLS_ECDHE_RSA_WITH_AES_256_CBC_SHA_P384) id 15.1.609.9; Thu, 8 Sep 2016 16:31:40 +0000
- Received: from DB5PR03MB1415.eurprd03.prod.outlook.com 15.01.0587.013; Thu, 8 Sep 2016 16:31:40 +0000
So even if you could change your computer time and it was reflected in your email app, the true time is visible for anyone to see.
To view email metadata in Outlook:
- Open the email in full (not in the preview pane).
- Click File and then Properties.
- The metadata is contained within the box in the bottom right.
Email is now regarded as legally binding and one of the reasons for that is the ability to track the real time and date of transmission as well as the sender and the email contents. So unfortunately, if you missed a deadline sending an email with a previous date just isn’t going to work. Sorry about that!