How to recall a message in outlook

undo sent email in microsoft email, unsend an email microsoft outlook

We’ve all accidentally sent an email too early, without a specific attachment, or to the wrong address.

Regardless of how it happened, an accidental email can make you seem too eager, too rushed, or worse: make you violate HIPAA. Sending protected health information (PHI) accidentally or to the wrong recipient (don’t always trust auto-fill!) is one of the most common causes for data breaches.

Luckily, there is a free and easy way to undo a sent email. Anyone can set it up, and we’re going to show you how.

We’ve looked at how to undo sent emails in other email providers:

This post will cover how to undo a sent email in Microsoft Outlook.

Recall message only works if the following criteria are met

The above example is great if message recall works you can relax and you don’t have to bear the agony of your mistake. However, it is very seldom that message recall is successful like in the example above – especially today when people read their email on a number of different devices. For message recall to be successful, all of the following have to be true:

  • You have sent the email to someone (one or multiple people) within your own organization
  • Your organization is using Microsoft Exchange as your email server
  • The recipient is using Microsoft Outlook (and Outlook is running) and logged on to the server
  • The recipient hasn’t already read the message
  • The message hasn’t been moved from the inbox

This happens when the criteria are not met

If one or more of the criteria above are not met, your message will not be deleted from the receiver’s inbox. Instead, the receiver will see an additional email informing him or her that you would like to recall the email.

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In the below example I’ve tried to recall an email sent to Ariel. Since she is outside our organization and since she is not using Exchange or Outlook the message recall does not succeed.  An email titled “Recall:” is sent, but the original, incorrect email is not deleted from the recipient’s inbox.

How to recall an email – and why you shouldn’t do it

If you are lucky, the receiver will see that you want to recall the email and simply delete it or ignore it. Unfortunately, the “recall” message often sparks the receiver’s curiosity. Now he or she will definitely open up and read the initial email and try to figure out why you wanted to recall the message.

How do you recall or replace an email in Outlook?

Recalling a message in Outlook without sending a revised message is extremely straightforward and you can do it in a few seconds.

  1. Navigate to your sent items
  2. Open the message in question
  3. At the top, search for the Message tab and click actions, you’ll then be presented with a dropdown that has the option ‘recall this message’
  4. Click the recall option

You can take this one step further by recalling a message and sending a replacement; a prime example is forgetting to include an attachment on an email. With the replace option you can simply recall the email and resend it with the attachment included. If the recipient has not read the original email it will be replaced with the updated message.

To recall and replace an email, follow these simple steps.

  1. Navigate to your sent items
  2. Open the message in question
  3. At the top, search for the Message tab and click actions, you’ll then be presented with a dropdown that has the option ‘recall this message’
  4. Click the recall option
  5. Click ‘delete unread copies and replace with a new message’
  6. Construct your updated email and send as normal
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How to recall or replace an email in Gmail

Now that we have covered Outlook our next port of call is Gmail. In recent years Gmail has rapidly emerged as a premier emailing system and millions of people across the world use it every day… that’s a lot of people who could potentially do with some form of recall or replace feature!

Countless Gmail users aren’t aware of it, but the recall feature does, in fact, exist and it’s extremely straightforward to use!

  1. Log into Gmail
  2. Click on the gear icon located in the upper right-hand corner
  3. Select ‘settings’
  4. Click the ‘labs’ tab
  5. Enable the ‘undo send’ option and save changes

From now on each time you send an email, you’ll be presented with an ‘undo’ link at the top of your screen for 30 seconds. Once your 30 seconds is up you won’t be able to recall the message so make sure you get to it on the double to avoid the embarrassment of the recipient seeing your mistake.

Unfortunately if you have previously sent an email via Gmail and haven’t enabled the ‘undo send’ option then you will be unable to recall the message, we suggest dropping the recipient a line to tell them to ignore your previous email and keep an eye out for a replacement that you’ll send manually in the next few minutes.

How often do you find yourself in a position where using a recall or replace feature is an absolute necessity?  Leave a comment below and get involved in the conversation.

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