Instructions in this article apply to Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, 2007; and Outlook for Office 365.
If your business uses Microsoft Outlook on the collaborative communications server, Microsoft Exchange Server, you have some advantages over standard Outlook account users, such as the ability to search multiple mailboxes, increased security features and the ability to recall or even replace an email message. With the latter, you can “unsend” emails, which is ideal if you forget to include important information, discover an error in a message or realize you hit the dreaded “Reply All” button on a private email. In addition, you can replace the recalled message with a modified version.
Requirements to Recall
To recall Outlook email:
- Both you and your recipient must have an Exchange server email account and use Outlook as the email client.
- The recipient’s mailbox is open when you attempt to process a recall.
- The original message is unread and is in the recipient’s Inbox.
- The message was not touched by any process, such as a rule, spam filter, or add-in.
When you attempt to retract email, Outlook may notify the recipient of the recalled email.
How to Recall an Email in Outlook (and Replace It, if Desired)
1. To recall an email in Outlook:Open Outlook and go to the Sent Items folder.
2. Double-click the sent message you want to recall to open it in a separate window.
The options to recall a message are not available when the message is displayed in the Reading Pane.
3. Go to the Message tab, select the Actions dropdown arrow, and choose Recall This Message.
4. In the Recall This Message dialog box, select one of the following:
- Delete Unread Copies of This Message to recall the message.
- Delete Unread Copies and Replace With a New Message to replace the message with a new one.
5. If you want to receive notification of the results, select the Tell Me if Recall Succeeds or Fails for Each Recipient check box.
6. Select OK.
7. If you selected Delete Unread Copies and Replace with a New Message, modify the original message.
8. Select Send.
9. You’ll receive an Outlook notification message regarding the success or failure of your attempt to retract or replace the email.
How to ensure the recall is successful
Whether an already-sent e-mail can be replaced by a new message depends not only on the requirements listed above, but also on the recipient’s Outlook settings.
The following scenarios are possible according to Microsoft.
Scenario 1: The “Automatically process meeting requests and responses to meeting requests and polls” feature is enabled (as default).
If the recipient has the “Automatically process meeting requests and responses to meeting requests and polls” feature enabled, both the original message and the message to recall the e-mail will be stored in the recipient’s inbox. Whether the recall works or not depends on whether the mail has been read.
- If the recipient has not yet read the original message, it will be replaced by the recall message. The recipient is then informed that you have recalled the original message.
- If the message is marked as read when the recall message arrives, the recall attempt will fail and the message will remain in the recipient’s inbox. However, the recipient will be informed that you attempted to recall the message.
Scenario 2: The “Automatically process meeting requests and responses to meeting requests and polls” feature is disabled.
If the recipient has not enabled the “Automatically process meeting requests and responses to meeting requests and polls” feature, both the original message and the message about the recall will be stored in the recipient’s inbox. Whether the recall is successful or not depends on which e-mail is opened first:
- If the recipient opens the message about the recall first, the original message will be deleted, meaning the recall was a success.
- If the recipient opens the original e-mail first, the recall will be unsuccessful.
Scenario 3: An inbox rule moves the original e-mail to another folder.
- If the recipient has defined a rule, which means that the original e-mail and the recall e-mail will be stored in different folders, the recall will fail.
Scenario 4: An inbox rule moves both the original e-mail and the recall e-mail to a different folder.
If the recipient has defined a rule stating that both e-mails should be stored in the same folder, then it depends which e-mail is opened first.
- If the recipient opens the recall message first, the original message will be deleted. The recall was a success.
- If the recipient opens the original e-mail first then the recall will fail.
Why recalling an email in Outlook doesn’t always work
Unfortunately, if the recipient opens the email you didn’t want them to see, you can’t recall it. They can still get the recall message and note that you wanted to delete the first email, but it will stay in their Outlook system anyway.
If your first message was sent to a folder other than the inbox then the recall won’t work. Neither will it work if it’s sent to a public folder or if you try to recall it from a mobile device. Once one person has seen it, it’s too late.
The recall feature is designed to work with Outlook. If you are sending from a Gmail account for example, you can’t expect it to work, you’ll need to read our guide on how to recall an email in Gmail for tips on how to achieve this.
Different Solution – Delay your emails.
This means you can delay the delivery of an email after you’ve sent it giving you that extra time to change your mind.
Delay the single message in Outlook.
1. Click Options in the Message editing window
2. Hit Delay Delivery.
3. Select the Do not deliver before check box.
4. Select the delivery date and time that you want from the two drop-down lists.
5. Then click on the Close button to save the changes
6. After you click Send, the message will stay in the Outbox folder until your scheduled delivery time.
This will only work to give you a bit more time to reconsider your message; it will not prevent you from accidentally sending the email to the wrong person. It is also only useful if you remember to check the message again before it leaves your Outbox.
Delay messages sending in group
1. Click on the File tab
2. Click Manage Rules & Alerts
3. Click New Rule under the Email Rules tab
4. In the Rules Wizard window under Step 1: Select a template box, and under Start from a Blank Rule, click Apply rule on messages I send, and then click Next to continue
5. In the Step 1: Select condition(s) list, select the boxes for any options that you want and then click Next
6. If you leave all the conditions unchecked when you click Next a confirmation dialogue box will appear. If you click Yes, the rule you are creating will then be applied to all messages you send
7. Now under Step 1: Select the action(s) list, check the box stating defer delivery by a number of minutes
8. In the Step 2: Edit the rule description (click an underlined value) box, click the underlined part of the phrase: defer delivery by a number of minutes
9. Enter the number of minutes you want to delay the messages for before it’s sent (Note: delivery can be delayed up to 120 minutes)
10. Click OK, and then when you’re done hit Next
11. Another list of checkboxes with exceptions that you want will then appear (Step 1: Select exception(s) if necessary)
12. If you want your rules to apply to all your emails click Next
13. Then under the Rules Wizard In the Step 1: Specify a name for this rule box enter a name for the rule you’ve created.
14. Check the Turn on this rule check box and then click Finish
15. It’s then a good idea to test your rule before relying on it when you come to sending something vital.
16. From now on, after you send each message it will stay in the Outbox folder for the time specified.
Again, this solution only works if you are carefully checking each of your emails for mistaken recipients or incorrect email attachments before it leaves your Outbox.