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Can I Recall an Email From Gmail or

Yes — but no.

You may have heard of a feature called "message recall". For all intents and purposes, it's not real.
A photorealistic image representing the concept of the irreversibility of sending an email. The scene is set in an office environment, where a person is sitting in front of a computer, their expression a mix of surprise and regret. The computer screen displays a generic email interface, with a sent message confirmation visible. The atmosphere conveys a moment of realization that once an email is sent, it's out of one's control. The room is well-lit, showcasing the office setting with modern furniture and technology, emphasizing the professional context in which email communication often takes place.
(Image: Midjourney)
Question: I keep hearing that people are able to “recall” emails, meaning bring them back before anyone reads them. How do I do that in Gmail?

You don’t.

Ditto for and almost all email providers.

There is one scenario where recall might be possible, but it’s not a situation that exists for many people.

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Recalling an email

Email recall as commonly understood doesn’t work in Gmail or True recall is only possible within certain corporate email systems under specific conditions. Generally, once an email is sent, it’s out of your control. Gmail’s “Undo Send” feature isn’t a true recall but a delay in sending.

Once email is sent, it’s sent

I think the most important takeaway from this topic is this: Once an email is actually sent, it’s completely out of your control.


You cannot un-send it, call it back (aka “recall”), or force it to magically disappear.

But, but, but! I hear you exclaiming.

OK, let’s look at the various things that might lead you to believe you could recall or un-send.

It’s in the protocol, kind of

There’s an RFC regarding message recall. (An RFC, or “Request For Comment”, is a formal document recording the specifications that create standards across the internet.)

Lots of people are in favor of it; it just doesn’t work, mostly due to privacy issues. So even though there’s something defined to do exactly what you’re asking for, it doesn’t work.

Except in one case.

It sometimes works in corporate systems

If all the factors below are true, email recall is possible.

  • You’re using a large, typically corporate, email system.
  • You send a message to another user of that same system.
  • That email system has a recall feature available.
  • Your corporate IT department has enabled the feature.
  • Your recipient hasn’t yet opened the message.

Then a recall might work. But all those things have to be true.

I think this is what leads some people to believe it works more universally: they probably saw it in the workplace.

Sadly, that’s not the case. In fact, the truth is even worse.

The Streisand effect

Sometimes even within closed corporate systems, and occasionally when a recall attempt is made that tries to reach other systems, an interesting thing happens.

When you attempt to recall a message you’ve sent, you may end up actually sending a message to the effect of “<your name> would like to recall the message <subject line>”.

This only serves to bring more attention to the message. It’s particularly entertaining when sent to a mailing list, because most recipients then proceed to open the message-to-be-recalled to see what they’re missing.

It’s the Streisand effect at work.

Do this

Make sure you want to send that email message before you hit Send, because once you send it, that’s it.

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1 thought on “Can I Recall an Email From Gmail or”

  1. “Your corporate IT department has enabled the feature.” Even if this is the case, the email is not truly gone from the system. It’s similar to how deleting a file sets a flag indicating it’s deleted, but it’s still there. And if it’s finally purged, it’s somewhere in a backup. Things never disappear from a well-maintained system.


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