Retract an Email in Microsoft Outlook 2007

We’ve all heard email horror stories that make us cringe: the job applicant who hastily sends an email to confirm an important interview but forgets to spell check first; an angry worker who informs his employer that he is quitting his job before he stops to think about the consequences; the employee who inadvertently sends a personal email out to everyone in the office. The list goes on and on.

If you find yourself having nightmares involving email and disaster, there are two things you should know. First of all, Microsoft Outlook 2007 does contain a recall feature that allows you to retract a message after it has been sent. Unfortunately, this feature is far from perfect. It only works if the recipient is on the same Exchange Server as you, and even if you are able to rescind the message before the recipient opens it, there is still a slight chance that they will see part or all of the message before the recall is complete (especially if they have AutoPreview or the Reading Pane enabled).

Nevertheless, desperate times call for desperate measures. While the process is not foolproof, it is better than nothing.

Recall a Message 

To recall a message:

  1. Go to the Sent Items folder and double-click to open the message that you wish to rescind.
  2. On the Ribbon, in the Actions group, click the Other Actions button. A menu appears.
  3. Click Recall This Message… A new dialog box will appear.
  4. Verify that the Delete unread copies of this message radio button is selected.
  5. Make sure that the Tell me if recall succeeds or fails for each recipient checkbox is selected. If the recipient does not officially open the email before you complete the recall, you will receive a message stating that the Message Recall was a Success. If the recipient opens the email before the recall process is complete, you will receive a message informing you that the Message Recall was a Failure. You must remember, however, that if the recipient is sitting at their computer with the AutoPreview or Reading Pane enabled, and they click once on the new email in their Inbox, it does not show up as being opened, yet the recipient may still be able to read all or part of the email. Under these circumstances, you will still receive a message from Outlook saying that the recall process was a success.
  6. Click the OK button at the bottom of the dialog box.

An email alert will appear in the bottom right corner of the recipient’s screen notifying them that a message is being recalled. If they are sitting at their computer at the time the alert appears, it may catch their attention and cause them to open the email. If so, your efforts have probably been wasted. In most cases, they will have plenty of time to open and read both email messages since both will remain in the recipient’s Inbox until the recall process is complete (usually several minutes).

If you are lucky, however, the recipient will not be sitting at their desk and the recall process will be quick and easy.

Replace a Message

If you want to delete an unread message and replace it with a new copy:

  1. Repeat steps 1 through 3 above. 
  2. Select the Delete unread copies and replace with a new message radio button.
  3. Verify that the Tell me if recall succeeds or fails for each recipient checkbox is selected.
  4. Click OK at the bottom of the dialog box. A new editable copy of the sent message will appear on your screen.
  5. Edit the message and click the Send button.

Once again, an email alert will appear in the bottom right corner of the recipient’s screen notifying them that a message is being recalled. After several minutes, the first unwanted message will disappear and the new message will take its place. If the recipient does not open the first email before the process is complete, you will receive a message notifying you that the process was successful. The second message replaces the first and the recipient is none the wiser.

Delay Delivery 

Since message recall is not foolproof, you may want to change the settings in your Outlook Exchange account so that messages will not be sent immediately. If messages are sent to the Outbox for a brief period of time, it gives the sender a chance to take one last look at a message before sending, or to cool down, or to reconsider. Most email clients are set up to send email messages as soon as you hit the Send button, but these settings can be altered in Outlook 2007.

To customize outgoing email settings:

  1. Click on Tools in the File menu.
  2. From the drop-down menu, click Rules and Alerts… The Rules and Alerts dialog box opens.
  3. Click on New Rule… The Rules Wizard appears.
  4. In the Start from a blank rule section, click Check messages after sending, and then click the Next button at the bottom of the dialog box.
  5. Click the Next button again on the Which conditions do you want to check screen. A new dialog box will appear, asking if you want this rule to be applied to every message you send.
  6. Click on the Yes button.
  7. On the next screen, at the bottom of the first section, click the defer delivery by a number of minutes checkbox.
  8. Click on the link that says a number of and type in an appropriate number of minutes.
  9. Click the OK button and then Next. The next screen will ask if there are any exceptions.
  10. Click Next.
  11. In the Finish rule setup screen, give the rule a descriptive name such as “delivery delay” and then click the Finish button.  

Now when you send a message, it will sit in the Outbox for the specified amount of time. If you want to check a message one last time before it goes out, you can. You can also edit or delete the message before it is sent.




  1. Rasmuw Hill

    I have been blogging for since january 2009 and had to learn

    a lot of things through trial and error. I am currently

    reading to your training blog and finding it to be very informative.

    For anyone that is thinking of starting a training blog I highly recommend this is a good one.

  2. Computer Tips

    I wouldn’t want to rely on this method of email recall, however delaying delivery makes it so much safer. I have unfortunately learnt my lesson the hard way… A simple mistake is to reply to someones message and then add more recipients to the list…therefore sending the reply message to everyone. But unfortunately there is usually a record of the previous emails exchanged and if anyone was to scroll down and read on further they would get the rest of what was a private email.. Am I the only idiot that has done this…???

  3. Broncos Domination

    Hey thanks for putting this up. I tested it w/ a work colleague this afternoon and it worked out like a charm. Good to know in the event that you sent something you REALLY wasn’t supposed to. Good stuff! – R

  4. Donna Jones

    Hi Jim,

    When you start the process of recalling a message, there is an option that says “tell me if recall succeeds or fails for each recipient.” If you don’t put a check in this checkbox, Outlook will not send you a message to let you know whether or not the recall was successful. Furthermore, there is really no way to tell unless you ask the recipient.

    Good luck.


  5. Alex

    Thank you for the helpful tips. I had to use these tips for recalling an email. I checked the option for indicating ” if recall succeeds or fails for each recipient” however only received notice from one recipient that the email recall failed. Does that mean the other recipeints received their email?

    Thanks in advance for your assistance.

  6. Donna


    Unfortunately, if the recipients are not using Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange, the process may not work and you may not receive any notification at all. If you don’t receive a notification, you must assume that the recipients received the original email.


  7. Home Business Pro

    One of the employees who I support called me a few minutes ago and asked how to recall an email that he had sent. I told him “I don’t think you can do that. But I will check for you.” I hung up the phone with him and within 20 seconds I had found your article and called him back. I walked him through the process in Outlook 2007 over the phone and he successfully got the email retracted. He was pretty happy! Thanks for making me look good today. Or at least from saving me from looking like I don’t know how to do that.

  8. Eli

    I sent a message to 3 recipients, then recalled it. I received 3 success messages for all three recipients and 3 failure messages for the 3 recipients all
    at the same time. Extremely confused, i was able to ask one of the recipients if they actually received any email from me, and she said no (which means it was successful) -could be lying though! How can i know this?
    Thanks in advance

  9. Janet

    I sent an email from my home pc by logging into my exchange account at work. After I sent the email, I realized that I sent it to the wrong recipient. I then connected to the exchange server on my work PC and recalled the message and asked for success or failure message to be sent to me. (I cannot recall from my home pc even when logging into the exchange account from home). I only recalled the message, I did not replace it. Do you think the recall worked?

  10. Alexandrea L Frye

    Thank you so much for this information. My boss just told me to rescind an email and I was unsure. Very helpful article. I have received two failed messages already. However, it was still successful.

  11. Jeremy

    I sent an email to two co-workers on outlook 2007/same network(by mistake) and used the recall feature and I did receive an email notification that the recall was successful for both recipients. My question is about the time frame; now when I recalled the email, it was minutes after I sent it(literally) and the recall successful was sent back to me within minutes of the original sent time. When I looked in to the details of the recall successful notification today, it showed two different times that the email was recalled for each recipient.. Im confused because i received a recall successful notification within minutes of requesting the recall. Are the two different times for each recipient because in order for the actual deleting of the email that I requested to be recalled and deleted can only take place when the recipients open their outlook?(just and FYI-the times I’m referring to are around the times these people would check their outlook. Thanks!

  12. Donna


    To learn more about why there were 2 different times listed for the recall, please read the following information from Exchange

    For those of you who aren’t interested in the specific details, just know that this discrepancy in time has to do with the way Outlook processes the recall when your recipients are running Outlook in Cached Exchange mode or when recalled messages are sent to their personal folders.

    I hope this helps.


  13. New Launch

    Great helpful tips, which save my day. I have been searching for this. Sending emails is my everyday job and at times i make mistake and send to wrong people. Lucky with this tips, i have no worries if i send wrongly.

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