Email forwards: receiving and sending email from a different address

I manage the email setup for a number of organisations, and often get questions about how email forwarding works. This post explains how to email is configured to arrive in someone’s personal account (e.g., GMail), and how to set up your personal account to send messages from an address other than your personal email address.

In this post, I’ll assume your personal email account is chuck.norris@gmail.com and that you hold a position as PR representative at an organisation called “EvilCorp”, which entitles you to the email addresses pr@evilcorp.com and c.norris@evilcorp.com. You would like to use your GMail account to receive messages addressed to pr@evilcorp.com and send messages so that they originate from pr@evilcorp.com.

The system administrator tells you that pr@evilcorp.com is a forwarding address and not a mail box on its own. What does this mean? It’s actually just like in real life where addresses can be divided into two categories:

  • An address describing an actual house with a traditional mail box in the front garden (or in the front door);
  • A forwarding address. E.g., the Royal Mail’s redirection service in the UK, a postbusadres in The Netherlands. Mail sent to addresses of this type often doesn’t actually end op in a physical mail box at this address, but is forwarded to a mail box located somewhere else.

E-mail uses the exact same concept: some e-mail addresses describe an actual mail box that you can login to (like your GMail account chuck.norris@gmail.com), and other addresses merely forward messages to a different place altogether (the so-called forwarding email addresses, like pr@evilcorp.com).

Receiving emails addressed to pr@evilcorp.com

Being the PR representative of EvilCorp, you will probably want to receive messages sent to pr@evilcorp.com. Unfortunately, you can’t set this up yourself: the system administrator at EvilCorp will have to configure the email system in such a way that a copy of every message addressed to pr@evilcorp.com is forwarded to chuck.norris@gmail.com. The sender of this message will never know that his email got forwarded to your personal GMail address, and you get the ease of being able to read and archive all your emails in one place.

Note that it is possible set up a forwarding address to forward messages to multiple addresses. For example, messages sent to pr-team@evilcorp.com can be forwarded to your GMail account chuck.norris@gmail.com and everyone else on the PR team.

Sending emails from pr@evilcorp.com

Sending emails from pr@evilcorp.com using your GMail account is what is called using a different sender address or configuring an alternative identity in many email clients. This can be set up without bothering your system administrator at Evil Corp — anyone can send emails that originate from pr@evilcorp.com. I can hear you think: “Really, anyone can send emails pretending to be a random other person?”. Yes, that’s right.

But remember, the same holds for old-school letters: anyone can write a letter pretending to be you. However, not many people will do that, as a reply to the spoofed letter (or email) will end up in your mailbox, rather than the spoofer’s inbox.

So how do you set up your GMail account chuck.norris@gmail.com to send emails from pr@evilcorp.com? Read on. And if you happen to be a Hotmail, Yahoo, or Thunderbird user, read on too. If you use a different email provider or application: Google is your friend. Just look for “[name of your email provider] send from different address”.

Sending up GMail to use an alternative sender address

Google actually put a verification mechanism in place to make sure you’re not trying to send emails from an address that you shouldn’t be using. Read the following page from the people at Google to set up your GMail account to send emails from pr@evilcorp.com: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/22370?hl=en.

Note that, when asked, you should probably choose for the option “Use Gmail’s servers to send your mail”, which is much easier to set up.

Setting up Hotmail / Outlook online to use an alternative sender address

If you would like to set up your personal Hotmail account chuck.norris@hotmail.com, you can follow the following instructions from Microsoft: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/outlook/other-email-accounts.

Setting up Yahoo to use an alternative sender address

To set up your Yahoo account chuck.norris@yahoo.com to send messages from pr@evilcorp.com, following these instructions from the people at Yahoo:
http://help.yahoo.com/tutorials/mmail/mmail/mm_accessother2.html.

Setting up alternative identities in Mozilla Thunderbird

If you’ve set up Mozilla Thunderbird on your computer to send and receive emails with (through IMAP and SMTP), you can add an extra identity: an alter-ego to send emails from. Read this page on the Mozilla Knowledgebase for more information: http://kb.mozillazine.org/Mozilla_Suite_:_FAQs_:_Mail_Aliases.