Perhaps you impulsively sent a cruel email to someone. Or maybe you sent a business email and forgot to attach a document that your colleagues need.
If you want a way to get it back, you’re in luck; if you use Outlook of course. Microsoft’s e-mail client has a built-in solution for this kind of situation: the ability to retrieve e-mails. Retrieving an email can prevent a recipient from viewing an incomplete, angry, or incorrect email you sent. Follow the instructions below if you want to recover an email in Outlook. If you also want to learn how to slow down your emails in Outlook (to avoid accidentally sending such emails in the future), browse the recovery instructions for a guide on how to do it.
Note: These instructions do not work with Outlook on the web; they only apply to the desktop client. In addition, they only work if you and the recipient use a Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft 365 account within the same organization. Reminders in Outlook don’t work with recipient email addresses that don’t belong to the sender’s organization.
How to recall Outlook emails
Step 1: Open the Sent Items folder and find the email you want to recover; It should be at the top of the list. You must double-click this email to fully open it before proceeding to the next step.
Step 2: Click the Message tab on the toolbar to activate it. Then navigate to the Move section and click the More Move Actions button labeled with a letter and an envelope, as shown below.
Step 3: Click the Get this message option from the drop-down list. (If your interface is the simplified version of the ribbon, do the following: select the Message tab, choose the three-dot icon, select Actions, and then choose Get this Message.)
Step 4: A pop-up window will appear on your screen. Here you have two options: delete unread copies of this message or delete unread copies and replace with a new message. You will also see an option for Outlook to notify you if the process succeeds or fails.
Select your options and click the OK button to continue.
If you deleted the message, congratulations! If you want to replace it, continue with step 5.
Step 5: If you choose to create a replacement, Outlook will open a second screen where you can view the message. As you compose your new email, Outlook retrieves your old message and displays a notification (if you selected that option). Just click the Send button when you are done with the revised message.
Note: Sending a recovery message doesn’t actually make your old email address disappear. To make the original message disappear, the recipient may need to open the recovery message first. This is why you should write “URGENT” or something similar in the title of the recovery message so that it opens before the first offensive email. Continue for a more detailed explanation. Microsoft also claims that in some cases, the recipient can be notified when the recovered messages are deleted from their inboxes. So keep in mind that even by remembering an email, the recipient can know that a failed or abusive message was sent to them, even if they can’t see it.
Why email recall doesn’t always work
While it sounds simple enough, remembering an email won’t always work the way you think. With today’s internet speeds (unless you live in a dead zone), that wrong email is probably already waiting in someone’s inbox, causing several problems. A few different factors affect your attempts to retrieve an email. These are some of the things that can frustrate your efforts or cause complications.
- Open messages – If a recipient opens your original email, they won’t be able to remember it. The recipient can still receive and read the second recovery message, but the original remains in their Outlook inbox. That’s one of the reasons why you need to act quickly.
- Redirect to other folders: If your first message triggered a filter and Outlook redirected you to a specific folder, the recovery will fail. The restore option only affects emails that remain in the inbox. If the first message is waiting elsewhere, it won’t disappear.
- Public Folders – If someone reads your message lurking in a public folder, the recovery will fail.
- Other email clients: The recovery feature works with Outlook. For example, if you send an email to someone using Gmail, the recovery won’t work.
Again, withdrawals are not foolproof and your efforts may be thwarted by factors beyond your control. If you find yourself trying failed withdrawals, consider these other two steps:
Solution 1: Write an apology email. Aside from double checking to make sure your emails are sent to the right people, this is probably the simplest solution to the problem. If you happen to send an email to the wrong recipient or group of recipients and it wasn’t too outrageous, save some time and effort by acknowledging your mistake and apologizing. An honest apology generally works well and can even build trust with the recipients. Then everyone can continue.
Solution 2: Delay your emails so they don’t get sent right away. If you constantly reply to emails, send and receive private information, or are simply prone to errors, you may want to delay your emails. You can easily configure this for all your Outlook emails by following these simple instructions:
Step 1: Select File at the top left corner of Outlook.
Step 2: Scroll down a bit and click Manage Rules and Alerts.
Step 3: The Rules and Alerts window will appear on your screen. Select the New Rule option here.
Step 4: Another pop-up window will appear. Here, click Apply rule to messages I send. You’ll see it listed under Starting with a blank line. Press the Next button to continue.
Step 5: Don’t worry about anything else in the list of conditions and click Next to continue. A confirmation screen will then appear. Select Yes to confirm.
Step 6: Select the Delay delivery for a few minutes option. Choose the A number of the link. You will see a pop-up screen asking you to choose the desired duration. Enter the number you want (120 minutes is all that can go) and then click the OK button. When you’ve been through all that, click Next.
Step 7: If you have exceptions, select the exception options you want. Then click the Next button to continue.
Step 8: Give your rule a name and check the Enable this rule if available box. Finally, hit the Finish button.