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How to Recall an Email Sent in Outlook, And Why You'd Need to

We’ve all experienced that gut-wrenching feeling after sending an email to the wrong person. Previously, calling the recipient and sending them a polite (but slightly panicked) follow up email, asking them to ignore and delete the message, was the only way to resolve this. Luckily, technology has evolved and there are now several ways to stop emails falling into the wrong hands.

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Recalling an email in Outlook

To recall an email means retrieving a message from your recipient’s inbox to ensure they don’t read the contents. In Outlook, you can do this in a few easy steps:

  1. Open Outlook and click on your ‘sent items’ folder.
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  2. Find the message that you want to recall and double-click to open it in a separate window.

  3. Navigate to the message tab in the Outlook ribbon, located at the top of the page.
    Message circle
  4. If you’re using the 2007 Outlook version, find the ‘Actions’ group within the message tab, click ‘Other Actions’, then select ‘Recall This Message’.

    If you’re using Outlook version 2010 or later, find the drop-down button labelled ‘Actions’ and click ‘Recall This Message’.
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  5. A dialog box will appear that should look like this:
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    Select the option to ‘Delete unread copies of this message’ and recall your email. You also have the option to receive a notification email telling you if the recall was successful.

 

Replacing an email in Outlook

You may have noticed that, when completing the final step above, there is an option titled ‘Delete unread copies and replace with a new message’. If you pick this option, instead of simply recalling the original email, you will have the chance to write and send an updated message that will appear in your recipient’s inbox.

If the recipient opens the updated message first, the original message will be deleted, and the recipient will be informed. However, if the recipient opens the original message first, the recall will fail, and they will be able to see both versions of the email.

 

Why email recall and replace doesn’t always work

Whether email recall and replace works depends on a variety of factors, including:

If the message has already been opened: if your recipient has already opened your original email, unfortunately, you cannot recall it. You can send them a recall message, asking them to disregard the email you previously sent, but it will remain in their inbox, and they will continue to have access to it.

If the message has been redirected to another folder: If the email you sent activated a filter, directing it to a folder other than the Outlook inbox, you will be unable to recall it. This is because outlook recall only affects emails that remain in your recipient’s inbox. The same applies if the recipient manually moves a message to a separate folder themselves.

Which email client you are using: Both you and your recipient must have an Exchange server account that you are using in Outlook. Using an email client other than Outlook, such as Gmail, will mean you are unable to recall your message.

How you’re accessing Outlook: Email recall only applies for those using Outlook desktop and will not work for those using the Outlook mobile app and Outlook for the web.

 

Alternative Solutions

Although Outlook’s native recall feature can be useful if you realise your mistake straight away, it doesn’t prevent you from making a mistake and you’re not always able to recall it.

Here’s some alternative ways to prevent or recall misfired emails:

Option 1: Message Delay

Outlook offers a Delay Message feature, allowing you to schedule messages to send at a later time and data when you compose them. This can give you more chance to re-read messages and spot any ‘wrong address’ errors before they are sent out. To delay a message in Outlook:

  1. Compose your email, whether it’s a new message or a reply.

  2. Locate and click the ‘Options’ tab in the Outlook ribbon at the top of the page.
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  3. Within the options tab, you should be able to select ‘Delay Delivery’.
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  4. Within the dialog box that appears, navigate to the ‘Delivery options’ section and change it to a date and time to suit you.
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  5. Once completed, close the dialogue box, and send your email as normal.

Important Note: This method only works if your emails are not time sensitive. If you regularly need to send and reply to emails quickly, this option may not be suitable for you.

 

Option 2: Outlook Add-ins

If you find that Outlook’s built-in recall and delay features are not enough, there are several add-ins available for you to consider.

Our secure email solution, Mailock, can be integrated directly with Outlook. Mailock gives you the capability to fully revoke a sent email instantly, even if your recipient:

  • Has already opened your message.
  • Has moved the message to a different folder.
  • Is using an email client that is not Outlook.

Plus, you can set challenges to authenticate your recipient’s identity before they are able to access your message in the first place.

Find out how full revoke works and what Mailock encryption for Outlook can do for you.

Did you know… there are hundreds of Outlook add-ons available for you to use, not just for improving email security but for productivity and collaboration too! Take a look at our guide to the top 12 must-have Outlook add-ins.

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