How To Recall An Email In Outlook 2010: For The Rash And Forgetful

Blured text with focus on RECALLHave you ever sent an email and immediately regretted it?  Maybe you fired one off to a colleague and the tone was just a bit reflective of your inner loathing?  Maybe you perpetuated a family feud by clicking “Send” a hundred times?  Or, the most classic example of all, you accidentally forwarded your entire, incriminating thread when you only meant to forward one friendly little part of it?  Then again, maybe you just forgot to attach a file and wished you could have conveyed professionalism.  Whatever the case, everyone single person in the history of the Internet has sent emails prematurely, and begged the web gods to bring them back.  Well, you’re going to wish you had learned this trick ages ago: how to recall or replace an email you already sent.  This particular tutorial applies to Outlook 2010, but it easily translates to many of the newer versions of Outlook, as well.  Safeguard yourself further by learning other popular management techniques in Outlook 2010.

The Catch

Let’s just get this over with.  You need a Microsoft Exchange Server account in order to recall or replace sent emails (at least, to recall or replace them in the following manner).

Total Recall

We’ll start by looking at how you can recall a message.  This is just like it sounds and one command is performed: the sent email is recalled and unread copies are deleted.  I suppose I should mention one other catch: the following method applies only to emails sent within your organization.

The process itself is extremely easy:

  • In Mail, open your list of sent messages (Sent Items).
  • Find and open the message that you would like to recall.  Please note than you cannot just highlight the message; you must open it.
  • Under the Message tab, click Actions (this will be part of the Move group).
  • Clicking Actions will activate a drop-down list with several options.  Simply click Recall This Message.
  • This will launch a small dialogue box with several options, one of which asking if you would like to delete unread copies of this message.  Click Delete unread copies of this message and breathe easy: your rashly sent message has been recalled.

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The Replacements

This little gem is the next step up from a simple recall.  It’s the old bait-and-switch, if you will.  Essentially, you are withdrawing one email and sending a replacement message including the necessary changes (adding a link or attachment, for example).  So if you forgot to attach a resume or cover letter and you think you ruined your chances, think again (and read on):

  • Repeat the process for recalling an email up to the point of deleting unread copies.
  • In the same dialogue box that has the option to Delete unread copies of this message, you will see another option: Delete unread copies and replace with a new message.  Clearly, this is what we’re aiming for, so give it a click.
  • As a matter of procedure, you will have to click OK.  This will open the recalled message and allow you to make edits as you see fit.  You can do pretty much anything you want; you can add, remove, amend, etc.  When you’re satisfied, click Send and count your blessings.


Hiccups are annoying, right?  Well, unfortunately recalling and replacing messages don’t always work according to plan.  Here a few things you should keep in mind:

  • If you’re trying to recall a message that is days old, or even that you sent to someone who you know is on top of their email, then you’re likely to run into trouble.  There are a number of scenarios, so let’s walk through them.  The real bummer here is that most of these occur as a result of the recipients settings, in which case there is little you can do (actually, that’s not entirely true: you can get informed by acquiring some Outlook 2010 management skills).
  • If you recall a message and replace it with a new one, both messages can find their way to the recipient’s inbox under the following conditions:
  1. The recipient has requested that Outlook automatically processes requests and responses to meeting requests and polls.  If this is the case, and the recipient had not yet opened the original message, the message will be deleted BUT the recipient will receive a notification saying that you recalled a message.  Obviously, it would be better if this didn’t happen, but it’s not for you to decide.
  2. If the recipient does not request automatic processes, something can still go wrong.  If the recipient opens the original message first, then the recall fails BUT it still delivers the intended replacement message.  So that’s even worse than not recalling it in the first place.

Here is an odd anomaly to watch out for, as well:

Make sure you send your recall message to the same folder as the original message.  If the original message exists in a different folder when the recall message arrives, then not only is the recipient informed of a failed recall attempt, they still receive the second message.  It’s simply idiotic.  And worst of all, there’s no way to fix it.  It happens regardless of Outlook configurations.

Let’s end with some good news:

  • If you send a message to a public folder, a couple of reasonable things can happen: as long as the recipient isn’t under any weird restrictions or possess any admin privileges, the recall will work perfectly (assuming the original hasn’t been viewed, of course).
  • Even if the recipient has already opened the message, they are only notified of a failed recall and no not receive the replacement message.  Finally, something that makes sense!

Like it or not, email is a vital part of modern life, and it seems foolish to be left in the dark on so many important (potentially career-saving) tricks.  Never get caught red-handed again with these 22 advanced Outlook tutorials.