I’m frequently asked about message recall, specifically, they want to know why it doesn’t seem to work at all.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 mailbox, recall is disabled, even if you have Send as permission on the mailbox.
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.