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How to recall emails in MS Outlook for Windows?

By Nicholas Nabakwe | December 14, 2018 |

greater than 4 minutes

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Knowing how to recall an email in Microsoft Outlook is vital if you work in an office. You never want to send an email full of embarrassing mistakes, especially to your seniors. That can make you look incompetent, and even make your manager question why he or she hired you.

Even seniors would never want to ruin their reputations by unintentionally hitting “Send” or “Reply all” on the wrong message. Enduring the ridicule and shame is something no one ever wants to go through.

Fortunately, many email clients/ email services provide the functionality to recall emails. Yes, even after you’ve sent the email.

MS Outlook for Windows is one such email client with this valuable feature. Here’s how you can use the feature to save both your face and job.

Step-by-Step Guide to Recall Emails in Outlook

Recalling emails in Outlook is pretty straightforward.

Follow these steps, and you’ll see how to recall an email in Outlook:

  1. Look for the message that you want to recall by opening the Sent Items folder. Being a recently sent email, it is at the top of the list.
  2. Double-click on the email, and it will open up.
  3. Ensure you’re in the Message tab (check the top of your window).
  4. Now locate the drop-down menu labeled, ‘Actions.’ You’ll find this next to the email options, ‘Rules’ and ‘Move’ on your taskbar.
  5. Now, to recall the message, click on Actions. Then click on Recall This Message.

Note that these options are only available if you have an Exchange account. In certain organizations, the options may actually be blocked by your administrators.

To complete the operation, proceed by following these steps:

  1. You’ll get a recall window.
  2. Here, you’ll get two options: deleting unread copies of your email or replacing it with a more appropriate message.
  3. The functionality provides an option that reports on successful or failed recall of the email for individual recipients.Select your preferences before clicking OK.

If your selection was to delete the message, the process is complete, and you’ve successfully saved yourself from a potentially embarrassing situation.

If your selection was to replace the message, proceed with the following steps:

  1. After selecting the replacement message option, you’ll get a new screen to compose your new message.
  2. When you’re ready, select ‘Send,’ and the recall process will start.

Keep in mind that your old email doesn’t disappear just by you sending the recall message.

So, what should be done to make the old message disappear? Well, the recipients should open your recall message first before opening the email you don’t want them to see. Only then will the wrong email disappear. That’s what happens when you recall emails by sending a replacement message.

A nifty little trick to get recipients to open your recall message first is titling your recall message “URGENT.” This should motivate recipients to open it as quickly as possible.

Why Email Recall Doesn’t Always Work


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Unfortunately, the email recall process may not work correctly.

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problem yourself, you can
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Considering the super-fast Internet speeds we currently have, an email sent in error will land on someone’s inbox within seconds. If the recipient is sitting at his desk with the email client open, he will likely see and open it faster than you can recall it.

And that’s not the only problem

Several other factors can complicate things, including:

  • Any opened email cannot be recalled. However, the recipient will receive your recall email, making him aware that you didn’t intend to send the wrong email.
  • The recipient may have specific filters that reroute received emails into other folders besides the inbox folder. That makes recall impossible since it only works if the email is in the recipient’s inbox.
  • Emails sent to public folders have a higher risk of being seen by everyone and a lower chance of being recalled. It doesn’t need everyone to see the email for it to be impossible to recall. Just one recipient tagging it as read will make it impossible to recall.
  • This Outlook recall feature won’t work on emails sent to other email clients, like Gmail. It only works for emails sent within Outlook. Therefore, you’ll probably want to restrict communication within Outlook to be safe.
  • The functionality will be problematic when dealing with different versions of Outlook. This is the case if you’re using Outlook on mobile devices with the Exchange ActiveSync settings. And it gets even worse if your mobile phone is offline.
  • If your PC has performance issues, it will be sluggish. Your computer might be unresponsive for a while, making it difficult to recall an email quickly. Hence, you should tune up your PC for peak performance, using a useful tool like Auslogics BoostSpeed.


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Considering these challenges, the valuable feature doesn’t look so beneficial after all.

What if email recall doesn’t work? Is there anything else that will help?

You certainly have one more option left: write a sincere apology. The people on the other side are more likely to understand your predicament and not to take offense.

Better still, you can take precautionary measures to avoid such a scenario in the future.

The best precaution is to double-check our emails before sending them. Never be in a rush to send even urgent messages. Read them twice or thrice over.

And if you feel you need an even more full-proof precautionary measure, you can set your emails to delay when sending. To apply these settings, follow these steps:

  1. Go to File.
  2. Select Manage Rules and Alerts.
  3. Choose New Rule.
  4. Skip conditions and start from Blank Rule. This ensures you cover all emails.
  5. Now, select Defer Delivery by a Number of Minutes.

If your emails delay by a few minutes, you’ll have ample time to reconsider sending them. And it will likely give you enough time to recall the ones you sent.

You now know how to recall your emails and what to do to avoid the situation in future.

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