You can recall an email in Outlook in five easy ways by following the steps below. You’ll also see why unsending an email might not be your best choice, and what to do instead.
We’ve all had that sinking feeling after sending an email to the wrong person and revealing too much. We’ve also made mistakes, misstated facts, sent typos and errors, and even reacted emotionally – then later wished we hadn’t. The good news is that it’s not hard to recall an email in Outlook (and Gmail, too).
MS Outlook lets you recall an email up to 120 minutes after you send it. You can simply unsend the email and delete it from the recipient's inbox. Or, you can replace it with a new one that has the correct facts, tone, or attachment. But be warned: there are some situations when your old email may not automatically vanish.
In this article, we’ll also discuss how to recall a message in Gmail, but you’ll only have 30 seconds to do that.
Let’s now dig into how to recall a message in Outlook.
How to recall a sent email in Outlook
In case you’re sweating bullets over that message you just sent, here’s how to retract an email in Outlook:
In the left menu bar, find the Sent Mail folder. You may need to open a drop-down menu before you can see it.
2. Look for the email you want to recall.
3. Double-click the original message to open it in a new window. (If you single-click, you’ll get stuck at this step.)
4. At the top right of the message, choose File > Info.
5. Select Message Resend and Recall and then Recall This Message.
6. Make sure to select Delete unread copies of this message.
7. Also select Tell me if recall succeeds or fails for each recipient.
8. Click OK.
That's it! You just recalled the email and deleted the old version from the recipient inbox — as long as the recipient(s) didn’t already read it.
How to replace an email in MS Outlook
Maybe you’d like to cancel that unwanted email and replace it with a new message. You may also want to attach a file, fix an error, or rewrite your message with a friendlier tone. You can replace an Outlook email with a different version like this:
Find the Sent Mail folder in the left menu.
Double-click the email you want to recall, which will open it in a new window.
At the top right of the message window, choose File > Info.
Select Message Resend and Recall, then Resend This Message.
Edit the message text.
Click the Send option.
That’s it! You just deleted all unread copies of the offending message and replaced them with a better version.
Warning: Your old email may not vanish
When you recall an email in Outlook, your old email may not automatically disappear. Here are a few reasons why your message recall may fail:
The recipient already opened it
If your email recipient(s) already opened it, then Outlook can’t recall the email. At this point, they already read it and the damage is done. If you checked the button for Tell me if recall succeeds for fails for each recipient, you’ll receive an email telling you who read your email and who didn’t.
Your email was redirected to another folder
Sometimes you can’t recall an Outlook email because your recipient has filters that sort incoming emails into different folders. If your email went into the spam folder or a project folder, for example, Outlook can’t recall or delete it.
It’s in a public folder
If your email went into a public folder for some reason, you won’t be able to recall it. This may happen when the email address you sent it to is public, or a filter forwarded your email to a public folder.
The recipient uses an email client other than Outlook
If you sent an email to an Outlook account, you can always recall it. But if you sent it to a Gmail or Yahoo account, Outlook can’t unsend it. Likewise, if your recipient’s Outlook account is set up to forward mail to a third-party email client, then you can’t recall the email.
What to do if Outlook email recall fails
If you can’t recall your Outlook email because of one of the reasons above, your best bet is to send a new email to apologize. This isn’t anyone’s favourite option, but it often does the job. It’s easy to apologize for errors or unsent files, and most people will understand that you’re human.
Things get a little trickier when emotions get in the way. If you had a George Costanza moment and said something you really, really shouldn’t have, you should definitely apologize if you can’t recall the email. You may still have to deal with some fallout from your gaffe, but a sincere apology will go a long way toward minimizing the damage.
Instead of recalling an email, turn on this safeguard
If you already sent a damaging or error-packed email, then a recall or an apology are your only options. But to stop yourself from making a costly mistake in the future, you can set up a delay in your Microsoft Outlook outbox. This can give you a nice buffer where you can decide if you actually want an email to go out.
How to create a delay for Outlook emails
Putting a delay on every email you send can create a nice grace period if you ever change your mind. Just follow the steps below:
In the MS Outlook general tab, click File in the top left.
Click Manage Rules & Alerts.
3. In the popup window, select New Rule.
4. Click Apply rule on messages I send, then Next.
5. If you want the delay rule to apply to every outgoing email, click Next again to skip the next window. (If you want to set up some exceptions to the delay, you can do that first.)
6. Click Yes to confirm your selection.
7. Select the checkbox next to defer delivery by a number of minutes.
8. Click the link in the middle of the text below.
9. Choose a set number of minutes to wait after an email is sent. (You can choose up to 120 minutes.)
10. In the next window, you can add exceptions to the delay, like if you have a recipient you always need to respond to immediately.
11. Click Next.
12. Click Finish. Your emails will now wait for a set amount of time before they’re sent.
Setting up a delay will slow down your email responses, creating a lag in your communications. A 5- or 10-minute delay is often long enough to cool down or realize a mistake. Beyond that, many recipients will have already read your email.
FAQs for MS Outlook recall
Still have questions or need help with how to recall an email in Outlook? Here are some frequently asked questions.
How can I see a recalled Outlook email?
If you recalled an email and you want to check its status, open the Sent Mail folder and select the original email you recalled. Next, click the Tracking button to view the recall status.
If you think you received an email that was then recalled, you can check it with the Recover Deleted Items feature. Just select the Deleted Items folder and check it for any recalled emails.
If you have a Trash folder but not a Deleted Items folder, then your account doesn’t support recalled email recovery.
How can I recall an email in Outlook 365?
Here’s how to unsend an email in Outlook 365.
Navigate to the sent items page, then double-click the email you’d like to recall.
In the Message tab, click Actions, then select Recall This Message.
You’ll see a popup window in Microsoft 365 (or Microsoft Exchange) that will show you the email to recall it.
How long can you recall an email?
You can recall an email in Outlook for up to 120 minutes. However, by that time, most of your recipients will have already read it. Once that happens, it’s not possible to recall, delete, or replace the email.
Can you recall an email in Gmail?
Gmail doesn’t have a 120-minute recall feature like MS Outlook. However, you can unsend your email after you click send, for a limited amount of time. You can set that cancellation period to as much as 30 seconds in your Gmail settings. Just scroll down to Undo Send, and then adjust the time.
You can recall an email in Outlook by following the simple steps above, but the process isn’t foolproof. If your recipient(s) already read the email or if an email filter sent it to a different folder, you won’t be able to unsend it. Our advice? Set up an automatic delay for your outgoing Outlook emails to mitigate any problematic messages being sent.
About the Author: Tom Gerencer is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Tom is an ASJA journalist, a career expert at Zety.com, and a regular contributor to Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. His work is featured in Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many more.
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