How to Recall an Email in Outlook

With some luck, you might catch it

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If you send a message to the wrong person, forget to add an important attachment or otherwise make an email-related mistake that you would love to take back, you might be in luck. If the circumstances are right, you can recall the email. Outlook provides a built-in feature for all versions of the application that makes it possible to recall an email or replace a message, although there are a few key requirements and caveats of which you should be aware. 

Learn how to retract an email in Outlook as well as what may or may not happen when you do.

Requirements

To recall Outlook email, both you and your recipient must be using an Exchange server email account and Outlook as the email client. The following must be true, as well.

  • The recipient's mailbox is open when you attempt to process a recall.
  • The original message has not yet been read and is currently in the recipient's Inbox.
  • The message was not touched by any process, such as a rule, spam filter or add-in.
  • In addition, if your recipient does not have an Exchange account within the same organization, you may not be able to recall email.

Note: When you attempt to retract email, be aware that Outlook may send a notification to the recipient that you have done so.

How to Recall an Email in Outlook (and Replace It, if Desired)

Screenshot Microsoft Outlook, Recall This Message highlighted

 Screenshot

The steps for retracting or replacing an email in Outlook are the same for all versions, from 2002 forward.

  1. Open Outlook and go to the Sent Items folder. 
  2. Locate the sent message you would like to recall and double-click the email to open it. Viewing the email in the preview pane will not give you access to the message recall feature.
  3. Make sure you are on the Message tab. Select the Actions drop-down arrow in the Move box and click Recall This Message. The Recall This Message dialog box opens. The dialog might display a message notifying you that the recipient has or may have already received and read your original email.
  4. Select either the Delete Unread Copies of This Message option to recall the message or the Delete Unread Copies and Replace With a New Message option to replace the message with a new one.
  5. Place a checkmark next to Tell Me if Recall Succeeds or Fails for Each Recipient if you want to receive notification of the results. 
  6. Click OK.
  7. Modify the original message if you selected the Delete Unread Copies and Replace with a New Message option and click Send.

You should receive an Outlook notification message regarding the success or failure of your attempt to retract or replace an email. 

Possible Results When You Recall Outlook Email

Depending on settings the recipient might have in place, whether the original email has already been read, and several other factors, the results of your attempt to recall a message can vary greatly. Following are some of the potential results of an Outlook recall. 

  1. If the recipient has already read the original message the recall will fail. Both the original message and the new message (or notification of your attempt to recall the original message) will be available to the recipient. 
  2. If the recipient has not opened the original message yet and opens the recall message first, the original message is deleted. Outlook informs the recipient that you have deleted the message from their mailbox.

These results also occur if the recipient moves both messages to the same folder, either manually or using a rule.

If the recipient has enabled the Process requests and responses on arrival feature under Tracking Options, and the recipient has not yet read the original email, Outlook deletes the original message and informs the recipient that you deleted the message.

However, If the original message is marked as read when the recall message is processed, the recipient is informed that you want to delete the message. The original message remains in the recipient's inbox.

If the recipient moves the original message out of the inbox and into another folder (manually or using a rule) and the recall message goes to the inbox, the retraction will fail regardless of whether either has been read or not. The recipient is informed that a recall attempt failed. The recipient has access to both the original and the new email message. 

In addition, if you use Outlook on a mobile device and attempt to recall a message, the process will likely fail. 

Delay Sending Messages

Sending an incorrect email can be counterproductive and even embarrassing. While Outlook’s recall feature might save you in a pinch, you can alleviate some stress by scheduling or delaying messages to be sent. This will give you time to recognize errors or update information before your email lands in your recipient’s inbox.