Under specific circumstances, you can recall your emails in the Outlook desktop app. This is quite useful if you don’t want the recipients to read a particular message or you have a replacement message for them.
The method to recall such Outlook emails are shown below. The only condition is that both the sender and the recipient should be using Microsoft 365 or Microsoft Exchange email accounts. For example, this technique would only work for the employees of the same organization who are using the Outlook program.
Steps to Recall the Outlook Email
After sending the email, check if it’s still in the Drafts folder of your Outlook Mailbox. These are unfinished messages which can be deleted, so you don’t have to worry about them being sent.
However, if the email is showing in the “Sent” folder, there isn’t much you can do to prevent it from being read by the recipient. Such emails are particularly difficult to recall if the recipient has already received an alert on their PC, laptop, or Outlook mobile app. Yet, if it’s been just a few seconds or minutes, you can take a chance and try to recall the email. These screenshots are for Outlook 2020 desktop, but these methods will work all the way back to Office 2007.
Go to the “Sent” items folder of the Outlook desktop app. Double-click the email to open it. This will open a new window as shown below. Go to the “three-dot” menu to the right of the email under the “Message” tab. In “Actions,” you can see the option, “Recall this message.”
The idea of message recall in Outlook is to delete or replace copies of the message in recipient inboxes only if the message has not been read already.
What Happens After You Recall the Message in Outlook?
Once you recall the message from Sent Items in Outlook, you have two choices: either delete the unread copies of the message or delete and replace the unread copies with a new message. You can let Outlook inform you whether the recall succeeds or fails for each recipient.
The message recall action will be prominently displayed in the Sent items of your Mailbox. If you’ve replaced the message, it will show an alert: “This is the most recent version, but you made changes to another copy. Click here to see the other versions.”
If the recipient is a Microsoft Outlook user within the same organization, the message will be successfully recalled. Assuming the original message hasn’t been read, the original message is deleted, and the recipient is informed that you, the sender, deleted the message from his or her mailbox.
However, If the original message is marked as read (viewing in the Reading Pane doesn’t count) when the recall message is processed, the recipient is informed that you, the sender, want to delete the message. However, the message remains in the recipient’s Outlook folder.
Of course, if the recipient is a non-Outlook user, the recall technique won’t work under any condition. The recipient will be able to see your original as well as the recall messages each time they open their inbox.
If you want to avoid problems with sending unwanted emails in Outlook that cannot be recalled, it’s better to use its “Send Later” function and schedule the email in advance.
Compared to Outlook, Gmail has a more flexible strategy to deal with emails that have to be unsent. It has a generous 30-second recall window, within which you can unsend the emails sent to any recipient and not just Gmail.