How to Unsend Email

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Have you ever regretted an email immediately after you’ve sent it and wish you could grab it back from the ether before it gets to your recipients? We all have. And here’s the good news: you can.

Both Gmail and Outlook let you unsend an email for a short period of time, but the trick is you need to have the feature enabled first. Once enabled, “Undo Send” will allow you a brief window when you can successfully retract your message before it reaches its end destination. The “Undo Send” feature doesn’t retrieve your email from other people’s inbox; it merely delays sending your email, giving you the chance to change your mind before it’s too late.

How to unsend an email in Gmail

Gmail’s “Undo Send” feature is automatically turned on, but you can adjust the period of time that emails are held from the default of five seconds (too short, IMHO) up to 30 seconds. I have mine set for 10 seconds – pick whatever feels best for you.

To adjust your timeframe, go to:

  1. Gmail Settings (cogwheel icon) > Settings > and choose the General tab.
  2. Scroll down to “Undo Send.”
  3. Set the “Send cancellation period” to whatever is most works best for you – 5, 10, 20, or 30 seconds.

When you want to unsend an email, look for “Undo” in the “Message Sent” box and click it. The email you just sent will open back up and it will be saved to your “Drafts” folder.

Gmail Undo Send

“Undo Send” also works in the Android and iOS Gmail app. Look for the “Cancel” button at the bottom of the screen and click it.

How to unsend an email on Outlook.com

Like Gmail, Outlook.com holds email for a period of time before sending them, giving you the opportunity to unsend an email you’ve sent. For Outlook.com, though, “Undo Send” isn’t automatically turned on. Here’s how to turn on “Undo Send.”

  1. Click on “Settings” (the cogwheel icon).
  2. Click “View all Outlook Settings.”
  3. Click “Mail.”
  4. Scroll to “Undo send.”
  5. Move the slider from 0 up to 10 seconds.

Outlook.com settings for Undo Send

When you want to unsend an email, look for the “Undo” box in the “Sending” box at the bottom of the Outlook.com window and click it. The email you just sent will open back up and it will be saved to your “Drafts” folder.

Outlook.com Undo button

How to recall a message in Outlook

Outlook has a “Recall Message” feature that can delete an email sitting in the recipient’s email inbox. However, it only works if you are sending a message to someone using the same Microsoft Exchange server (i.e. someone within your company) or to another person with a Microsoft 365 account. So you’ll still want to set up “Undo Send” for all of your other email. You’ll find the directions in the next section, “How to set up Outlook to unsend emails.”

To recall a message in Outlook: 

  1. First, check to see if your message is still in your “Outbox.” If you have just hit send, it’s likely that the message is still in your “Outbox.” If it is, you can drag the message into your “Drafts” folder or delete it.
  2. If your email has been sent, you’ll find it in your “Sent” folder. 
  3. Double click on the message you want to recall to open the message.
  4. Under Messages > Move > Actions select “Recall This Message.”
    Oulook
  5. Select either “Delete unread copies of this message” or “Delete unread copies and replace with new message” and click OK. If you choose to replace the message, your original message will open for you to edit and resend. 
    Outlook message recall

How to set up Outlook to unsend emails

If you use the desktop version of Outlook, unsending an email works in a different way from Gmail and Outlook.com. There is no “Undo Send” feature. Instead, you need to set up a rule that delays sending all of your email so you can move email you want to unsend from your “Outbox” to your “Drafts” folder. Here’s how to set up deferred delivery:

  1. Open the Rules & Alerts dialog. For Outlook 2007, got to Tools > Rules & Alerts. For Outlook 2010 and later, go to File > Manage Rules & Alerts
    Outlook Manage Rules and Alerts
  2. Select “New Rule.”
    Outlook New Rule
  3. Select “Apply rule on messages I send.”
    Outlook Rules Wizard
  4. Click “Next.”
  5. Click “Next” again and then click “Yes” to accept the warning about the rule being applied to every message you send.
    Outlook accept rule applied to every message
  6. Select the action “defer delivery by a number of minutes.”
    Outlook Deferred Delivery
  7. Click on “a number of minutes” and choose a delay of 1 to 120 minutes (yes minutes, not seconds).
  8. Click “Next.”
  9. You can choose to add exceptions to delaying delivery or just choose “Next.”
  10. Name your rule, verify that the “Turn on this rule” box is checked, and click “Finish.”
    Outlook finish rule
  11. Click on “Finish”

When you want to unsend an email, look for it in your “Outbox” and drag it into your “Drafts” folder or delete it.

If your email provider doesn’t support and the ability to unsend email, it may be time to move to Gmail or Outlook.com (both are free). Check out our tips on how to switch email accounts without losing email. And, if you’re unsatisfied with your current email address, find out how to change your email address. 

[Image credit: sending email on laptop concept via BigStockPhoto, screenshots via Techlicious]

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