Skip to main content

Retracting (recalling) email messages

Please note: Recalling a message only works effectively for messages sent to other WBS or Warwick live@edu users. Even then the success of this feature varies and depends on the behaviour of the recipient and the setup of their Outlook program. You can attempt to recall a message but it may not always be successful.

The recall feature in Outlook is similar to the 'retract' feature that previously existed in GroupWise. It aims to stop delivery of a message you send and, optionally, recall messages that you have already sent. It is useful if, after clicking send, you realise you need to revise the content of your original message.

How to recall a message

  • Ensure you are in the Mail section of Outlook by clicking the 'Mail' icon in the Navigation pane

    Mail icon
  • Click the sent items folder

    Sent items
  • Locate and open the sent message you wish to recall
  • Click Actions > Recall This Message ...

    Actions > Recall
  • Ensure the 'Delete unread copies of the message' is selected. If you are recalling a message sent to lots of people you may wish to uncheck the 'Tell me if recall succeeds' box. Click OK

    Delete unread
  • For internal users with Outlook the message *should* automatically be removed (although see below for the scenarios that affect this). Any external recipients will see the original message and a follow up message requesting recall of the original message. Usually this simply serves to draw attention to the error in the original message. This is how this appears in an external mailbox.

    External mailbox view 

How to recall and replace a message

  • Proceed as above until you see the option below. This time select the 'Delete unread copies and replace with a new message' option. Click OK.

    Select the replace option
  • Your original email is then opened, allowing you to edit it. When finished click 'Send'.
  • For internal users with Outlook the incorrect message *should* be replaced by your corrected one (although see below for the scenarios that affect this). Any external recipients will see the original message, a follow up message requesting recall of that message and, finally, your corrected message....

    How a replace request appears for external users

Scenarios that affect recall success

The following information is taken from a Microsoft website.

The success or failure of a message recall depends on the recipients' settings in Outlook. In the following table, five scenarios are presented:

  • Four scenarios that explain what happens when message recall is tried in various situations
  • One scenario that describes what happens when the recall of a message that was sent to a Microsoft Exchange public folder is tried
Action Result

You send a message to someone. You recall the original message and replace it with a new one.

On the recipient's computer, under Tracking, the Automatically process requests and responses to meeting requests and polls check box is selected.

Note To view this setting, click the File tab. Under Outlook, click Options, click Mail, and then scroll to the Tracking section.

Both the original message and the recall message are received in the recipient's Inbox.

Assuming the original message has not been read, the original message is deleted and the recipient is informed that you, the sender, deleted the message from his or her mailbox.

Note If the original message is marked as read (viewing in the Reading Pane is not reading in this scenario) 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.

You send a message to someone. You recall the original message and replace it with a new one.

On the recipient's computer, under Tracking, the Automatically process requests and responses to meeting requests and polls check box is not selected.

Note To view this setting, click the File tab. Under Outlook, click Options, click Mail, and then scroll to the Tracking section.

Both the original message and the recall message are received in the recipient's Inbox.

On the recipient's computer, one of the following results occurs:

  • If the recipient opens the recall message first, the original message is deleted, and the recipient is informed that you, the sender, have deleted the message from their mailbox.
  • If the recipient opens the original message first, the recall fails, and both the original and recall messages are available.

Note If the original message is marked as read (viewing in the Reading Pane is not reading in this scenario) 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.

You send a message to someone. You recall the original message and replace it with a new one.

On the recipient's computer, either by rule or by action of the recipient, the original message is moved out of the Inbox to another folder and the recall message remains in the Inbox (or it is moved to another folder also).

If the recall message and the original message exist in separate folders, the recipient receives a message that indicates a recall attempt failed. This occurs regardless of the Outlook configurations and the read status of the message.

The original message and the new message are both available to the recipient.

You send a message to someone. You recall the original message and replace it with a new one.

On the recipient's computer, either by rule or by action of the recipient, both messages are moved to the same folder. This results in behavior similar to what occurs when Outlook is not configured to automatically process messages.

On the recipient's computer, one of the following results occurs:

  • If the recipient opens the recall message first, the original message is deleted, and the recipient is informed that you, the sender, deleted the message from his or her mailbox.
  • If the recipient opens the original message first, the recall fails, and both the old and new messages are available.
You send a message to a public folder. You recall the original message and replace it with a new one.

One of the following results occurs:

  • If the recipient who reads the recall message has read access to all the items in the public folder but did not read the original message, the recall succeeds, and only the new message remains. You, the sender, receive a message that indicates the recall succeeded.
  • If the recipient has already marked the original message as read, he or she is informed that the recall failed, and only the recall message is deleted.

If a user who has any other public folder rights opens the recall message, the recall fails, and the user receives a message that states the recall failed. Both the old and new messages remain in the public folder.

Notes

  • If the recipient reads the original message and then marks it as unread, it is considered never read and recall is successful.
  • In the public folder, it is the reader's rights, not the sender's, that determine the success or failure of the recall.