How to Recall an Email in Outlook and Gmail

Did you send an email you should have not sent? No worries, in most cases it is possible to quickly stop this email or to cancel it from the recipient’s inbox. In some cases it is also possible to prevent the recipient from receiving the email in the first place. In this article I will explain:

  • Recalling an email VS stopping an email from being sent
  • Outlook recall email: how to do it from any device
  • Recall email from Gmail
  • How to prevent emails from being sent 
  • How to delay an email you’re sending in Gmail

Recalling an email VS stopping an email from being sent

Before explaining how to recall an email, it is important to know what recalling an email means and which alternatives there are. When you send an email, this will go from your account to the recipient’s account. To be a bit more accurate, the email will be saved on the cloud and the recipient will download it on their browser or mail app to read it. If you send a mail with mistakes or an email to the wrong person, you have two options to prevent her/him from reading it: recall an email or stop the email before it reaches the other user.

Stop an email from being sent

When you send an email, the first step will be transmitting your email from your PC/Mobile device to the internet. If immediately after clicking the “Send button” you realize that there is something wrong with the email, you might still be on time to stop this email before it reaches the internet. This process is called stopping an email before it is sent. The problem with this technique is that you only have a few seconds to act, because as soon as the email is uploaded to the internet it cannot be stopped anymore. Fortunately, once the email is already uploaded to the internet, you can still recall an email. Let’s take a look at what recalling an email is.

What does it mean to recall an email?

Once an email reaches the “cloud” of the recipient, the only way you have to prevent her/him from reading it is to recall the email. When you recall an email you are basically “sending a command” to the cloud of the recipient to cancel the email from the recipient’s mailbox. Recalling an email can be done for much longer than stopping an email from being sent. In fact, you have time until the receiver read the email to recall it. This means that if you recall an email within a few minutes you will be on time for it. After recalling an email, you will receive a confirmation email explaining whether or not the email was successfully recalled.

To summarize, when you stop an email you are preventing the email from being uploaded to the internet. When you are recalling an email, you are stopping cancelling it from the recipient’s mailbox. Let’s now take a look at how to recall email from Gmail and Outlook.

Outlook recall email

Outlook is one of the best and most used email managers available on the market. Outlook offers a great functionality to recall emails. However, this function is only available from the app for PC or laptop. You cannot recall an email sent from a browser or mobile app. 

How to recall an email in Outlook 

Recalling an email in Outlook is really easy. The first step is to go to the “Sent”  folder and double click to open the email you want to recall in Outlook. Note that to recall an email in Outlook you need to have it open (as in screenshot below). At this point select “Message”, click “Actions” and then “Recall this email”.

This will open a popup where you are asked to choose between “Delete unread copies of this message” and “Delete unread copies of this message and replace with a new message”. Remember that you can only recall an email on Outlook if the reader did not yet read it! This means that time is key! The more you wait the more likely it is that the recipient already opened your email and that you cannot recall it anymore. Therefore, I always suggest selecting “Delete unread copies of this message”. After cancelling the message you can always send a new one with the correct information.

 I also recommend selecting “Tell me if recall succeeds or fails for each recipient”. This is very important as you will know who received the wrong email and who did not. This way you will know whether or not the email was successfully recalled.

How to check if an email was successfully recalled in Outlook

After following the steps above, you will see the message (as in screenshot below) in the email you just tried to recall. 

You should now go to your Inbox and check if you received a confirmation email stating that the email you sent was recalled. It might take a while to get the confirmation, but Outlook sends you a confirmation email in case your email was successfully recalled. If you do not get any email within a few minutes, it means that Outlook failed to recall your email. If this is the case, there is nothing more you can do to retract the email in Outlook. Probably it is time to find a smart way to contact the recipient and apologize for the wrong email you sent..

Does the recipient know that you recalled an email?

Yes, unfortunately the recipient will be notified that you recall an email. They should not be able to read it, but they will get an email notification saying that you recalled an email. This means that if you were not supposed to send an email to someone at all, they will still know that you sent an email and decided to recall it. This is probably better than allowing the reader seeing the content of your recalled email, but the recipient might still ask you what was in there. 

How to retract an email from Outlook mobile App

Unfortunately it is NOT possible to retract an email from the Outlook mobile app. In case you realized you sent a wrong email from the Outlook mobile app, the best you can do is to try stopping the email before it is sent. I will explain how to do this later in this article.

Recall email Gmail 

Unfortunately it is not possible to recall email Gmail. You have two options to stop a wrong email sent via Gmail. You either stop the email before it is sent or you add a delay in sending the email. Let’s take a look at how this can be done as an alternative to recall email Gmail. Note that if you want to have an email offering the Recall option, you can open a free Outlook account or a personalized email address with Godaddy. I personally would recommend getting a personalized email address, as it really gives you a lot of credibility for just a few dollars!

How to stop emails before they are sent

Now you know how to recall email from Gmail and Outlook. However, you should also learn how to stop sending an email before it is sent. As I said at the beginning of the article, this strategy yields the best results, but you have a very small time window to do this. You need to be really fast to be successful. 

Note that you can stop an email from being sent only if you are sending it from an app! If you are sending an email from your browser (Microsoft explorer, Chrome, Safari, etc..), it is not possible to stop an email from being sent!

First step: disconnect your device from the internet as fast as possible 

How to stop an email from being sent? The first step is to immediately disconnect your device from the internet. Once a device is disconnected from the internet, it will not be possible for it to upload data and therefore the email will not be sent. The trick is to be quick enough to disconnect before the email is already uploaded to the internet. 

To disconnect a mobile device from the internet, you should put it in “Airplane mode”. This is really fast and can be done anytime from the drop down menu of your phone. If you were sending an email from a PC or a laptop, it is enough to disconnect it from the wifi network or remove the ethernet cable in case you are connected via ethernet cable.

Second step: remove your email from the Outbox, if you were fast enough…

Open your Outbox folder (remember, this folder does not exist if you are looking at your emails from a web browser) and check if the email you mistakenly sent is there. If this is the case, you were fast enough! If the email is not there, take a look at the “Sent folder”. 

If the email is in the “Sent folder”, it is too late for stopping it from being sent and the only option you have is to recall the email. If the email is still in the Outbox folder, just right click on it and cancel the email to stop it from being sent. 

Step three: reconnect to the internet and rewrite your email

Good news, you can now connect again to the internet without risking that the incorrect email will be sent. The final step is just to correct your email and send it to the right recipient. 

How to add a delay in Gmail send email: a strategy to prevent recall email Gmail

To prevent is better than to cure, isn’t it? Gmail offers a great option to prevent the need to recall emails in the first place. This is a very simple yet efficient solution: Google offers the possibility of adding a small delay from the moment you click the “Send button” to the moment it starts uploading the email to the internet. This allows you to stop an incorrect mail before sending it, a good way to avoid having to recall email Gmail. Let’s take a look at how this can be activated from your web browser.

Activate undo send option in Gmail as alternative to Recall email Gmail

Open, and click the setting button on the top right of your Gmail page.

From here click “See all settings”

This will bring you to the all settings page. Here you can find the “Undo Send” setting (as in screenshot below). Select the length of the delay. I suggest selecting 5 seconds. 5 seconds are definitely enough for you to Undo Send in Gmail when needed.

How to Undo Send email in Gmail

After sending an email with Gmail, a popup (as in screenshot below) will appear on the bottom left of the page. You have 5 seconds to click “Undo” to Undo send email from Gmail. If you do so, the email will be stopped before being sent. 

What to do if you cannot recall an email anymore?

Did you send an email with some embarrassing mistake(s) and it is too late to recall it? Unfortunately there is nothing you can do to stop the reader from reading it. If you are in the same office, maybe the best thing to do is to walk to the desk of the recipient, apologize and ask them to cancel the incorrect email.

An alternative to this, would be to reply to your own mail and modify it from there. This does not prevent the receiver from reading the old email. However, as most people have their mailbox setup as conversation, you might be lucky enough and the reader will only read your last email. In the screenshot below, you can see how I corrected a mistake where the price was said to be $20 instead of $30.  

Conclusion on recall email 

You now know how to recall an email and how to prevent an email from being sent. Remember that recalling an email is not always possible if the recipient already opened it. Therefore, when possible, it is always better to undo sent emails or to disconnect your device to stop the email from being sent in the first place.