Undelivered e-mail metadata

Problem with my Ho Ho Ho cards.

cache_34914975410a‘Twas seven nights before Christmas, and all through the office, I was setting the computer up to send 840 electronic Christmas cards.

This could have been a difficult job, but I wrote a VBA macro to create individual e-mail cards with “Dear INSERTNAME”, followed by the card itself.

I had also set up a bit of a delay, so that it would send all of them at random points within 12 minutes – that’s about 1 every second.

I didn’t think that that would cause any problems. However, our ISP (Internet Service Provider) thought otherwise. It saw several hundred nearly-identical emails, and thought I was spamming. Oops.

They did what any computer would do; stop me from emailing. And anybody else in the company. For three days. Double oops.

Microsoft Exchange would continue to deliver emails sent in these three days – for two days. This meant that any emails sent in the first day would not be delivered, and I received an Undeliverable notification. It looks like this:



Now, note that what information is there.

  • The From is Microsoft Exchange, and
  • the To is blank – but given that I received it, presumably, it is me.

However, nowhere in the metadata there is the person I was sending the card to, except in the message itself. And I had 387 undelivered Christmas cards. And I had to resend them. Manually. Not looking forward to that.


I needed some way to get the original receipient, hopefully without having to parse the body text. I therefore copied all 387 undeliverable emails into Windows Explorer, and then did a catalogue using the metadata extractor Filecats Professional, extracting all of the Microsoft Outlook email metadata, including the text of the body.

The results surprised me – and may surprise you. Remember, the Outlook email above has a blank “To” address. Here’s what the metadata says:


Apparently, Outlook is not 100% truthful. Some of the metadata from the original email, including the “To” name and email address, is still there. This meant that I was able to retrieve the receipients of all of the emails which hadn’t gone without having to go through the body of the text, and recreate the Christmas cards emails. That just took a few minutes. The alternative, manually resending 387 emails, would have taken over an hour, and would have been very tedious. And just imagine I had sent 10 times as many Christmas cards.

Filecats Professional saved me a lot of time. How much time could it save you? Why not find out, and take a free seven-day trial.

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And to all, a good night!







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