How to Prevent Outlook from Answering Read Receipt Requests

Not this kind of receipt, and Outlook should not send it. Vector Image by StockUnlimited

There is such a thing as knowing too much. Countless movies prove: some facts are best unknown.

If you think it is best for email senders not to know when you open their messages, you routinely decline Outlook's requests to return read receipts, I guess. If you get no such requests, maybe you wonder whether Outlook answers on its own? It may.

Fortunately, you can control how Outlook reacts to read receipt requests in emails. You can have it reply to them automatically, ask you what to do—or simply ignore them.

Prevent Outlook from Answering Read Receipt Requests for Emails

To make Outlook ignore all requests for read receipt you receive:

  1. Click File in your Outlook email inbox.
  2. Select Options on the left.
  3. Go to the Mail section.
  4. Make sure Never send a read receipt is selected under For any message received that includes a read receipt request: in the Tracking section.
    • Select Always send a read receipt to have Outlook return read receipts as you open messages automatically and without your knowing.
    • Choose Ask each time whether to send a read receipt to have Outlook pop up a dialog when you have read an email (i.e. have opened and now closed it or progressed to a different email); in the dialog,
      • click Yes under Do you want to send a receipt to have Outlook deliver a read receipt for this—and just this—email;
      • click No to prevent Outlook from sending a read receipt for this message (but ask you again for the next email whose sender has asked for such a receipt).
  5. Click OK.

Prevent Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007 from Answering Read Receipt Requests

To make Outlook ignore all requests for read receipt you receive:

  1. Select Tools | Options... from the menu.
  2. Go to the Preferences... tab.
  3. Click E-mail Options...
  4. Now click Tracking Options...
  5. Make sure Never send a response is selected under Use this option to decide how to respond to requests for read receipts. Only applies to Internet Mail accounts..
  6. Click OK.
  7. Click OK again.
  8. Click OK once more.

Keep in mind that, if you use Exchange server, the server will always respond to receipt requests if configured to do so.

What Do Read Receipts Generated by Outlook Look Like?

When Outlook does honor the request for a read receipt, it generates an email to the sender that has three parts:

  • one is purely technical and tells the email program or service that the email in question has been opened,
  • one tells in plain text when the email—identified by the recipient, subject, and date—has been opened and
  • one states the same with rich HTML formatting.

The sender's email program or service decides how to display that information; most will simply show the email's text—either in rich or plain text.

Outlook Read Receipt Example

The text part of a read receipt generated by Outlook looks like this:

Your message

    Subject:  Example Subject
    Sent:  4/11/2016 11:32 PM

was read on 4/11/2016 11:39 PM.