Recalling Sent Messages

Last reviewed on January 9, 2015   —  30 comments

I’m frequently asked about message recall, specifically, they want to know why it doesn’t seem to work at all.

Bob writes

“I wrote a reply to a co-worker in anger and left it open on my desktop. Later I accidentally sent it. Thankfully, this is one time Message Recall worked. Moral of my story? I learned to close messages and save them to Drafts instead of leaving them open on the Task bar.”

Unfortunately, Bob’s story is all to common, but most of the time it’s not a happy ending as Recall has a history of failing more often than it works. The major problems are that it only works with Exchange server accounts in the same domain as your account and the message you are recalling needs to be unread. However, even allowing for those limitations, recall still has a high failure rate.

Several things need to happen for recall to work. You need a blue moon on a warm starry night, then throw a pound of salt over your left shoulder: and once you do all that, it still probably won’t work. I’m just kidding on those steps, but I’m not kidding when I say that recall really only works under certain very specific conditions.

Office 365 Exchange Online users can recall messages sent to any Office 365 Exchange Online user, including users in other Exchange organizations.

The first and most important is that it only works on Exchange server and only if the sender and recipient are in the same server organization. It won’t work on messages that are delivered through the SMTP connector (which means messages sent to the Internet will not ever be recalled).

Assuming this condition is met and both the sender and recipient are using the same Exchange server, the recipient can’t be sitting at Outlook reading their e-mail since recall fails once the message is opened. They can have Outlook open to the mailbox, but since it takes up to two minutes for the recall to automatically process, they are more likely to read the original message before it is recalled. If by chance they happen to read the recall before the message, it will process and remove the message.

Avoid Using Recall

Since Recall is one of the most useless features in Microsoft Exchange server, make it a habit type random letters into the CC field before you begin your reply. If you hit Send accidentally, the message will try to resolve the letters to a contact and fail, giving you a chance to cancel the send and avoid embarrassment. Along with saving messages to drafts and closing them, the Always check spelling before sending option can help prevent some people from accidentally sending messages.

If you send messages but have second thoughts soon after sending a message, create a rule to hold messages in your Outbox for several minutes before sending it to the server. In Rules and alerts, choose an After sending rule and set the Action to defer delivery by a number of minutes, up to 120 minutes. Either of these methods is much better than sending a recall that probably won’t work.

Both of the methods above will work with any account type.

Hybrid Exchange Server

The question is from an Exchange administrator in an hybrid environment, with some user’s mailboxes in “the cloud” and others using an on premise server.

When a user with an on-premise mailbox recalls a message, it’s recalled from all the users whose mailbox is on-premise. but not for the users who are on the cloud. Users in the cloud can recall messages sent to other cloud users but not to the on-premise users.

Recall only works for messages on the same Exchange farm, which normally means all users in an organization. Even though you are in the same organization, the servers are separate. There really isn’t anything you can do, the mailboxes need to be in the same server farm.

How to Recall a Sent Message

Now that I’ve covered who Recall will work for, I’ll show you how to recall a Sent message.

Step 1: Open the sent message, which in most cases will be in your Sent Items folder.

Step 2: Outlook 2007 and up: Look for the Actions button on the Message ribbon and choose Recall this message. Outlook 2003 and older: Expand the Actions menu and choose Recall this message.

On the open message's Actions menu, choose Recall this messageRecall message in Outlook 2003 and older

Step 3: Choose your recall options. I recommend replacing the message with a new message which contains a short note about why you recalled (or attempted to recall) the previous message. Click OK to process the recall.

Select your recall options

The recipient will receive a second message, and if the message has not yet been marked read, it should be processed and recalled within a minute or two. Sometimes the recall is not processed until the recipient attempts to view it. When recall is successful, both messages will disappear from the Inbox. If you are using the option to replace the message with a new one, the new message will be in the Inbox, whether or not the actual recall is successful.

Recall request in recipient's inbox

The sent items icon will use the Tracking icon. The tracking page on the sent item will be updated to show if the recall was successful or failed.

successful recall

When a recall is attempted to an Internet address, the recall message stays in the recipient’s Inbox. If you used the option to replace the message, the replacement message will be in the recall too.

Recall attempted on an internet address

Shared Mailboxes

You cannot recall messages sent through shared accounts. Recall only works if the account is opened as an account in Outlook. If the account was added to your profile as a secondary mailbox or as a managed or shared mailbox, recall is disabled, even if you have Send as permission on the mailbox.

OWA (Outlook Web Access)

In the desktop version, It’s very easy to recall a message. Is it possible to recall a message from OWA?

It’s not possible to recall a message from OWA. You’ll need to open the mailbox in Outlook to initiate a recall.

Automatic Processing

In order for the recall messages to automatically process, the recipient needs to have his Outlook configured to automatically process meeting requests and responses.

In Outlook 2010 and up, it’s in File, Options, Mail – near the bottom; in Outlook 2007 and below, it’s in Tools, Options, Email options, Tracking.

With this option enabled on the recipient’s system, recall should take less than a minute. With automatic processing disabled, the recall is not processed until the message is selected.

About Diane Poremsky

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

Please post long or more complicated questions at Outlook forums by Slipstick.com.

30 responses to “Recalling Sent Messages”

  1. Diane

    Where do I find the "Message" tab?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      What version of Outlook do you use? In Outlook 2007/2010/2013 it's the default tab in email messages. In Outlook 2003 and older, open the email message and look on the Actions menu for Recall.

  2. KT

    I would like to know is it a must to have the recipient opens the outlook by the time I recall the message in order to make the recall success.

    I also want to know if I send the message recall on Friday but the recipient already close his computer, will the recall work if the recipient opens the outlook next Monday?

    Please advise. Thanks.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Outlook needs to be open for recall to work. If you recall on Fri and outlook remains closed, the recall won't happen until they come back Monday morning, but it should work, as long as they don't read mail on a smartphone over the weekend.

  3. KT

    Thanks for your clarification. I would also like to know if I forgot to check the "notification of recall status" when I use the recall message function, I should not receive any notification (or the exchange server will still inform me those recipients with recall failure). And i would like to confirm if the tracking function can only work properly if the "notification of recall status" is checked. Please enlighten also. Trillion thanks. (FYI, I am using outlook 2010).

    1. Diane Poremsky

      If you don't request status, you won't be notified for successes or failures. Sorry.

  4. Freddie

    I had a message recalled from a POP account and it failed. The problem is that the failed attempt receipts are now going on 170 and climbing. I have now diverted it back to my deleted items, abut it still comes through. When will it stop, or can I stop it manually?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      What antivirus are you using? The request could be 'stuck' in the antivirus scanner. What type of email account do you have? (I'm reading the 'pop account' as the recipient's account.)

  5. Freddie

    There is no AntiVirus, User has a POP account as well. The user has now received over 560 replies to say the message failed to recall. Thanks

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Ouch. I would delete the message from the Sent folder - Shift Delete to get rid of it for good. Ask the recipient to do the same. If that doesn't stop it, I'm not sure what will. You could browse the pst file using MFCMAPI - look for something in the root folder and the outbox but I'm not sure if it's being generated by your user or the recipient. (Outlook 'hides' automatic outgoing mail in the root level folder.) Or close Outlook, rename the pst and create a new default pst for that account then import the old pst.

  6. Mrinalini Rao

    Hi,

    One of our exchange user tried to recall a message that was sent to 2 user's. The mails were unread. But the recall failed and failure message was received 3 days later,

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Both recipients were on the same exchange server as the sender? Do they use smartphones? There is a lot that can go wrong with recall, it's really hard to say why it failed, but the notification wouldn't be generated until Outlook downloaded the mail and processed the recall message.

  7. Mrinalini Rao

    Both recipients are in same exchange server and they do not use smartphones.

  8. Betty J Madden

    Can I and if so, how do I recall a forwarded Outlook calendar meeting?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Meetings can't be recalled, only cancelled. Only the owner can cancel the meeting. Sorry.

  9. wendy

    hi there - this is very useful. If i already recevied a recall success reply with the icon of a tick, is there any way the original recipient can still retrieve it? she uses blackberry.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      If she uses BES, the message is delivered to the BB almost instantly - It's been forever since I tested this, but think as long as she doesn't open it, recall will succeed and it will be removed. I no longer use a BB, so i can verify this is the correct behavior. Sorry.

  10. kk50392

    when i try to recall message from sent items of functional mailbox i am getting error message,It's being tried to remove or replace a message you have previously send. Because you are not the original sender of the message, the message is not being recalled or replaced...kindly help

  11. Skippy

    I sent an email (outlook 2010) that had someone receive a CC of it. The original recipient opened their mail and the CC recipient had their out of office on, can I I recall the CC recipients mail

    1. Diane Poremsky

      No, I don't think recall will work. You can try it... but I'm pretty sure it's going to fail.

  12. Snazzleq@gmail.com

    Quick question - I sent a recall message, via "deleting the original and replacing it with a new message" as well as "notifying me re: the success". So I received a "Message Recall Success" notification/email, but my question is, is it still possible that the message was read, even though the recall was deemed a "Success"? I sent the recall within about 30sec of sending the message and I know the recipient was on her email at that time. Does this just mean she opened the "replaced" message and the other was deleted, so she didn't see it? Could she have seen it via "preview"? Thanks for the feedback!

    1. Diane Poremsky

      It's possible she could have read it using preview, as long as her preview setting is not set to mark mail as read, because as soon as it's marked read, recall will fail.

  13. Kirstyn Chante Balkrisna

    if I have a customized email like ****@plastic.co.za, will the recall work then also???
    because I tried but it says "an object is missing"

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Recall should send but it won't actually work. Recall only works with Exchange mailboxes and only with other people on that exchange server. So... you shouldn't get the error message, but unless that is an exchange mailbox, it wouldn't recall the message.

      Is that the only time you get that error? It often means there is a problem with the address book service.

  14. Abel

    We have hybrid environment in the organization. Some users mailbox are on-premise and some are in cloud. when i am trying to recall a message from my on-premise mailbox, the mail is recalled from all the users whose mailbox is on-premise. but for the users who are on the cloud, message recalling is not happening.

    Please confirm if the recalling of mails is possible for cross premise?
    If yes, please suggest what could be done in this case.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Recall only works for messages on the same exchange farm - and even though you are technically in the same org, the servers are separate and it won't work. There really isn't anything to do - they need to be in the same server farm.

  15. Anna

    I received an email from the recipient's address that read. "The Sender Responded M." What does this mean regarding the success of my recall?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      That was the full text? It sounds like recall probably didn't work. Recall only works with Exchange server and only when the other person is in the same org or on the same server.

  16. bev samsa

    I just want to recover a deleted e-mail.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      What type of email account is it in? if it's not in an exchange account, its hard to recover deleted items - a backup copy of the pst file is your best bet.
      See http://www.slipstick.com/outlook/config/recover-deleted-messages-pst-files/ for more information.

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