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How to Unsend Email

by on October 18, 2021
in Tips & How-Tos, Computers and Software, Software & Games, Productivity, Tech 101 :: 8 comments

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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) > See all 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.

Gmail Setting tab showing the General Tab highlighted. Below, after Language, Phone numbers, and Maximum page size, the Undo Send section is pointed out with: Send cancellation period 5 seconds. In the top right, the cog wheel for Settings is pointed out.

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 messages screenshot showing three colums. On the left, there is Compose, Inbox, Starred, Meet, Start a meeting, Join a meeting, Chat, Sign in and then a box with the words Message sent. Undo View Message and an X to close the box. The second column shows the subject line of three email message. The third column shows a preview of one of the messages.

"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 screenshot showing the Settings menu with Mal and Compose and reply selected. To the right is a Compose and reply box with Undo send, an explanation of what it is and slider showing a 10-second delay selected.

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 email main view with the first column of menu options: folders, inbox, junk email, drafts, sent items, archive, notes, birthday, conversation history, newsletters. to the right is a list of email messages. At the bottom of the message list if a dark gray box with the words sending and undo.

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 in a new window.
  4. Under Messages > Move > Actions select "Recall This Message."
    Screetshot of Outlook Message pop up window for a single message. At the top, Message is highlighted. To the right there are columns for Repond, Quick Steps and then Move. Pulled down from the Move option is a popup window with the options to Edit Message, Recall This Message, Resend This Message, View in Browser, Other Actions. Recall This Message is highlight with a pop up box that explains what happens when you Recall a message.
  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 pop up window with a window on top entitled Recall This Message. In the box there are the options to Delete unread copies of this message or Delete unread copies and replace with a new message. A box is checked next to the words Tell me if recall succeeds or fails for each recipient.

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 main window with a list of messages. At the top, Home is highlighted as well as Rules with a pulldown menu shown with the options: Always Move Messages from [sender], Always Move Messages to [recipient], Create Rule and Manages Rules & Alerts. The last is highlighted.
  2. Select “New Rule.”
    Outlook Rules and Alerts popup window. The Rules tab is selected. Below is the text Apply changes to this folder with the option to select an Outlook folder. Below, New Rule is highlighted from among New Rule, Change Rule, Copy Delete, Run Rules Now and Options. There's an empty box below entitled Rule. Below that is an empty box entitled Rule description.
  3. Select “Apply rule on messages I send.”
    Outlook Rules Wizard pop up windows. At the top is the text: Start form a temple or from a blank rule. Step 1: select a template. In the box below there are three sections: Stay Organized, Stay Up to Date, and Start from a blank rule. In the Start from a blank rule section, Apply rule on messages I send is highlighted. Below is a blank box entitled Step 2: Edit the rule description.
  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 Rules Wizard popup window with a Microsoft  Outlook alert box on top. Inside the box is the message: This rule will be applied to every message you send. Is this correct? Yes No.
  6. Select the action “defer delivery by a number of minutes.”
    Outlook Rules Delivery pop up window. In the box entitles What do you want to do with the message? Step 1: Select actions, there is a check mark next to defer delivery. The pop up window is obscured with a Deferred Delivery box with the workds Defer delivery by 1 minutes. The 1 is in a scroll box to select the number of minutes. Below on the main Rules Wizard window is a box entitles Step 2: Edit the rule description. In the box are the words: Apply this rule after I send the message. defer delivery by a number of minutes. Below are the options Cancel, Back, Next (highlighted), Finish.
  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 Rules Wizard window with the words finish rule setup at the top. Below is a box entitled Step 1: Specify a name for the rule. In the box are the words Undo Send. Below is a checkbox list entitled Step 2: Setup rule options. Options are Run this rule now on message already in Inbox, Turn on this rule, Create this rule on all accounts. Below is a box entitled Step 3: Review rule description. In the box are the words Apply this rule after I send the message. defer by 1 minutes. Below are  the options Cancel, Back, Next, and Finish (highlighted).
  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 your "Trash" folder to delete it.

If your email provider doesn't support 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

Updated on 10/18/2021 with changes to steps in unsending email.

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

For the past 20+ years, Techlicious founder Suzanne Kantra has been exploring and writing about the world’s most exciting and important science and technology issues. Prior to Techlicious, Suzanne was the Technology Editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the Senior Technology Editor for Popular Science. Suzanne has been featured on CNN, CBS, and NBC.



Discussion loading

Gmail iPad

From Tony Geraghty on June 11, 2020 :: 1:01 pm

How can you set that up on an iPad

Reply

If you use the Gmail

From Suzanne Kantra on June 11, 2020 :: 10:50 pm

If you use the Gmail app, the “Undo Send” feature is automatically turned on. Unfortunately, there is no way to adjust the length of time to “Undo Send.” It’s set at 5 seconds.

Reply

A GREAT ALTERNATIVE

From Gary on July 18, 2020 :: 6:35 am

I set up a”Rule” in Outlook that holds all sent emails in my Outbox for 5 minutes.  That provides me with time, if need be, to correct, add something that I may have omitted…an attachment…or that flashed into mind after I hit Send it to add or delete recipients (named, cc or bcc).  Most importantly, the automatic delay, avoids that dreadful feeling of knowing you just sent your email to the wrong individual who has the same first name as the intended recipient. Also, the delay allows me to stop an email that I suddenly decide would be best not to send.  I’m sure you can identify it’s other benefits. This feature has frequently proven to be useful.  The feature can be customized…you can pick the duration of the delay in sending and select an override if you want any email to be sent instantly.

Reply

Very misleading

From Michał on August 06, 2020 :: 3:27 am

Recalling a message via Outlook does not result in deleting the old message, but it sends another mail with information “I would like to recall this message”.

Reply

You should read the article first

From Josh Kirschner on August 06, 2020 :: 8:09 am

We state very clearly above that there is no “Undo Send” feature in Outlook. Instead, you need to set up a rule that delays sending all of your email. Then, when you want to unsend an email, look for it in your “Outbox” and drag it into your “Drafts” folder or delete it.

Reply

close

From close on May 02, 2021 :: 8:26 pm

close

Reply

The OUTLOOK NAME

From fox on October 20, 2021 :: 12:27 pm

I am so tired of people writing directions for Microsoft’s mail.

In the infinite wisdom that is Microsoft, they have two email systems using the same name.

Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Oulook Webap (OWA).

ALL writers, just like Microsoft, AUTOMATICALLY ASSUME that all readers are as intelligent as they are and therefore NEVER, EVER make the DISTINCTION, CLARIFICATION AND TRANSPARENCY of which one they are referring to because naturally, the readers SHOULD know the difference(s).

My Christ Almighty already…..........

Reply

We cover both above

From Josh Kirschner on October 21, 2021 :: 4:55 pm

In the story, we have separate sections for both Outlook.com and Microsoft Outlook (the program). I’m not clear whether you are referring to a third option or you just didn’t see those sections above.

Reply

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