Can I stop or ‘un-send’ an email I sent by mistake?

Once you hit that Send button, you must assume that there is no way to stop your email from being sent ... even if it's to the wrong person.

I wrote an email from my Yahoo email account and sent to the wrong email address in Europe. Is it any way that I can retrieve the email I sent from the wrong email address and delete it before the wrong recipient can read my email?


There are a couple of exceptions (one of which isn’t really an exception at all), but the answer you need to keep in mind and always remember is simply no.

Once email has been sent, it has been sent. It cannot be “unsent”.

I’ll describe why that is and what those so-called “exceptions” are all about.

When you hit Send…

When you hit the Send button, the following happens:

  • If you’re using a PC-based email program, like Outlook or Thunderbird, the email is sent from your machine to your email provider. (If you’re using a web-based email service, the message you were composing is already on their servers.)
  • The email is sent from your email provider to the email provider of your recipient.
  • The email is placed in the recipient’s online inbox1.
  • If the recipient is using a PC-based email program, it is downloaded to the recipient’s machine.

Once an email leaves your outbox, you lose all control over it.

Two things are important to realize about that scenario:

  • The first three steps – up to and including arrival in your recipients’ online inbox – can happen in seconds 2.
  • Regardless of which steps have or have not occurred, it’s all out of your control once the sequence begins.

Once an email leaves your outbox, you lose all control over it. And I do mean all control over it. You cannot stop it. You cannot change it. You cannot track whether it’s been read or not. You cannot tell if it’s been forwarded or deleted. You can’t even know whether it’s been received, unless you get some kind of response from the recipient.

Not really an exception: Gmail

Many people point to a feature in Gmail and tell me, “But, but … Gmail lets you unsend!”.

Gmail Undo Send

No. No, it does not.

What Gmail has called “Undo Send” should be called “Delay Send”.

When enabled, all this option does is delay sending your message for up to a maximum of 30 seconds. During that time, you can cancel or “undo” the send.

Once those few seconds has passed, the message is actually sent.

And once it’s actually been sent, it cannot be un-sent.

All this feature does is give you a few seconds to change your mind. After that, you’re out of luck.

An actual exception: some corporate systems

Undo“Corporate” here is really just a characterization, because of course, these email systems may be used elsewhere. It’s just more common to see them in large corporations.

Some of these email systems have a real, honest-to-goodness un-send option.

However, there are two requirements:

  1. The sender and the recipient both must be on the same corporate email system. I’m not talking about Gmail or Hotmail or whatever, here. I mean that both sender and recipient likely work for the same company and use the same email system as provided by that company.
  2. The email has not yet been read by the recipient.

It’s possible that an un-send function will actually remove your message from the inbox of the recipient(s).

Hopefully this is obvious, but once they’ve read the message, there’s no way to make them un-read it. Once seen, it cannot be unseen. You might be able to “remove the evidence”, in that the message may have disappeared from their inbox, but even then, they could have copied or printed it before that happened.

And again, this is not, not, NOT available with the email services available on the internet, and not something that would work between different email services, even if it was.

“Recall” can actually make the problem worse

Some email programs and systems offer a function called message recall.

The intent was to provide a semi-standard way to “recall”, or bring back, a message that had been sent: a way to un-send it.

The problem is that it’s not implemented (or it simply doesn’t work as intended) in most email programs. When I’ve seen this attempted, the cure seems much worse than the disease.

When recall is used, it sends another email message to all the recipients of the original message which says:

{Sender} would like to recall the message {Subject}

Now, I’m sure the idea is that the message would never be seen by the recipients, and the mail programs would just recognize some special headers and perform the recall function by deleting the original message from the recipient’s inbox.

In practice, that’s not what happens. What happens instead is that everyone who got your first message by mistake now gets this second message, drawing even more attention to your mistake.

I’m sure it works on some systems somewhere, but make darned sure you understand whether or not it will. Otherwise, it’ll just make people pay even more attention to your original mistake. Much like a politician attempting to delete evidence from the internet, there’s a very good chance that all it really will do is make people take even more notice of whatever it is you’re attempting to hide, and perhaps make copies that are even further out of your reach.

The moral of our story

There is no “undo send”.

Even if you could undo a send you still run the risk of people reading the email before you hit Undo.

Once email is sent, you lose all control over it; all control.

Bottom line: make sure you really mean it when you hit Send.

This is an update to an article originally posted : August 7, 2004


Footnotes and references

1: We normally think of web-based email services like Hotmail or Gmail having online or web-based inboxes. In reality, almost all email services provide web-based interfaces, even if they are never used. Email can appear in these web-based inboxes almost immediately.

2: Even though the entire infrastructure of email is designed to tolerate delays measured in days, and we occasionally see that, more often than not email is delivered in a matter of seconds.


  1. Larry Osterman

    Actually I beg to differ with “You cannot track whether it’s been read or not. You cannot tell if it’s been forwarded or deleted. You can’t even know whether it’s been received at all”.

    The first and 3rd parts are false (the 2nd is true). You CAN tell if it’s been read, if you attach a read receipt to the message. Similarly, if you request a delivery receipt, you can have the receiving system tell you when the message has been delivered to the receivers mailbox.

    Now for the caveats: Read receipts are often optional. The receiver can choose whether or not their email program will send them, some don’t.

    And the delivery receipt fires when the email enters the users mailbox. It does NOT mean that the receiver has seen the email message, just that it’s entered the users mailbox.

    Think of it like postal delivery. You get notified that the mail you sent has entered the users mailbox but you don’t know if the user has walked down to the mailbox and collected the mail. They might not get to their mailbox for two or three weeks, but the mail’s been sitting there for all that time, and the next time they get to their mailbox they’ll get the mail.

  2. Leo

    Actually, I disagree. Sort of.

    Absolutely all those things are intended to do what you state. The problem is that they only work *sometimes*. ALL reciepts are “optional” based on the user’s email client, his or her preferences, and in many cases even the email server they’re using.

    What I’ve found is that reciepts are DISabled (or disallowed) a surprisingly high percentage of the time. So much so as to make them, effectively, useless, and as a result, pointless to recommend.

  3. Patty

    I respectfully disagree with your comment “You cannot track whether it’s been read or not. You cannot tell if it’s been forwarded or deleted. You can’t even know whether it’s been received at all”. I use the program called MSGTAG (free version available) which lets me know when an email I have sent has been opened (actually viewed) by it’s recipient. And I understand that the paid version can even tell you how long the person viewed the email, whether they forwarded it, and various other specifics. I highly recommend this program.

  4. Leo

    This program, and various so-called tracking mechanisms are also not guaranteed to work. They typically relay on HTML email and what are called “bugs” placed into the email. These bugs reference web URLS when the email is viewed. Recent versions of email programs such as Outlook Express and Outlook 2003 disable remote URL retrieval by default. While it can be turned on, it’s a step that people need to take, sometimes per email, sometimes per sender, and they often do not take that step. Email sent as plain text, and email read while disconnected from the internet will also cause these techniques to fail. But the bottom line is that these techniques are NOT reliable.

  5. LG

    A one chance in a million happened to me. I was Replying to a letter from a relative. In my reply I told about some problem I had with another relative .

    WELL…..After clicking on Send the person’s name I had wrote ABOUT appeared as well as to the one the email REPLY should have ONLY gone to. I was VERY VERY UPSET .

    I don’t know how in the World this could have happened!! The other persons name wasn’t on the original letter and I certainly didn’t click on it by mistake. I use Hotmail and this has never happened before……..and of ALL the names it could have put on it was the one I wrote about!

  6. Robert Mkwanda

    Hi. I’ve got an email in my Microsoft Outlook 2003 outbox and it has already begun transmitting the message. Is there anyway I can stop it from being delivered?

  7. Not cleanly, that I’m aware of. I’d disconnect from the network, let Outlook error, delete the mail from the outbox, and then reconnect.

  8. Marian Watson

    Please help!! I sent an e-mail to a friend, by mistake included another friend’s address!! can i stop that??? how do i do that? how do i prevent friend number two to read the mail????

    • Dan O

      Do a search on “self-destruct email” or “send email that deletes itself”. There are lots of services listed – I’ve never tried one, so I’d advise caution.

      • There’s still nothing that prevents people from saving a copy – even if it’s by taking a photograph of the computer screen with the message displayed.

  9. Greg

    There is a service I heard on the radio called that claims to allow you to change emails or delete them after they have been sent. Anyone know if it works?

  10. valerie |price

    If e-mails are held by the server for a while cannot they be returned to the original sender if they have been sent in error to the wrong address?

    I have notified support that I did this today 26 September 2005. I hoped the message (sent to the wrong person) could therefore be aborted.

  11. Leo

    The mail is typically held until the recipient downloads their email. Theoretically, yes, one could remove the mail before they do so, BUT … I know of NO ISP that will actually take the time to do so. It it labor intensive, and most ISPs are simply too busy with other things.

  12. harry

    Hi Leo,

    what if the email is still in the outbox, but it is sending / transmitting? Is there a way to stop it, delete it….it’s 15MB and I don’t want it to go out? Help….

  13. Jen

    I’m using Outlook 2002 (not an exchange client). Is a message sent if you delete it from the sent items folder before the send/receive operation begins?

  14. Leo

    No, once it’s in sent items, it’s been sent. If you can delete it from the *outbox* you may be able to prevent the send.

  15. jANE


  16. Anonymous

    You can only retrieve an email sent by mistake if you have Outlook 2003 with Exchange server on both ends, sender and destination. Go to “Sent ” folder, open the email, go to Actions or Options, click on “Retrieve this message”. Then you can delete or replace the involved message, provided the destination HAS NOT read the email yet.


  17. Kyle

    Hi, For all on this crazy ride we call cyber space. Please be careful what you write and then WHO you send it to. I sent a very harsh and revealing email regarding someone I JUST broke up with to a friend ….I thought, but SHE got it ! It has been the most horrible and heart renching experiance. ….You just CANT take back what you say !! Be Aware

  18. Mark

    The answer to this one is fairly obvious, but there is a way out…..if you live reasonably close to the
    sendee and they are not on broadband. Send them a huge file, 12-15 mb and then when they call you up with the download problem that they will be having nip round to their place and take over the download. Once it’s done, quickly delete the email sent by mistake and all is well. This of course is highly unlikely in a lot of situations but it worked for me.

  19. ellie

    I sent an e-mail to a few people at one time, i just realized that, 1 of the people i sent it to was the “wrong” person. However when i go to delete it, i get a message saying that i can not delete the message because one of them is an internet recipient. I really need to UNSEND THIS MESSAGE TO THIS 1 PERSON THAT IS NOT THE INTERNET RECIPIENT. PLEASE HELP THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU ELLIE

  20. Debi

    I do a lot of long emails and so often they are saved as a draft, over & over. I accidently hit the send on a junky draft that I was using to cut, paste, copy, etc. I was and still am quite embarrassed over it. I quickly sent them an email pleading with them to delete it without reading it. From now on, I will NEVER start composing an email with their name/address on it. The TO: line will be left blank until I am absolutely ready to send it. It was a horrible way to learn a lesson. Why can’t there be a verification window pop up like when you are deleting something? It should have the name on it to verify that you have even put in the right recipient, such as poor Kyle who thought he was sending an email to a friend but instead it went to the ex-girlfriend, who will probably always be an EX since she was the one to get the email. Placing these 2 questions in the window: Are you positive you are REALLY ready to send, and is this REALLY the contact you are sending to, both of those questions could really help the sender who is rushed or preoccupied to come back to earth and turn their porch light on. Isn’t that a possibilty for “PATCHES” to make happen? I am 100% the opposite of geek, and had to have a name for the dude/alien “inside my computer” who corrects/updates/fixes/ and sometimes turns my computer off when I’m not looking.

    I have just spent well over an hour that I don’t have anymore, trying to find a way to transfer my small list of address from one email account to one of my other email accounts without copying them down with the old-fashion method of pen & paper, and then individually, retyping the contacts into each mail account. Spent forever scrolling down this one info site thru hundreds of questions, mostly how do I find an email address, or I’m trying to find Uncle Joe, and even how can I get my boyfriend’s password, because I think he’s cheating on me, and then there was one that should have gone to Dear Abby such as, how can I get this boy to notice me?! Doesn’t even have anything to do with computers! Just thought of something, maybe there is a computer out in cyber space that is attracted to Patches.

    Anyway, between all that time spent looking for my answer I could have done it manually ten times over, and another 10 times with the time I’ve spent writing to a stranger! I’m suppose to be packing, and I’ve done 4 boxes with a closing taking place in 8 days. Eight days for and after living in this house for ten years with 2000 sq ft filled completely, along with a garage and 2 outdoor sheds. I’m the one that should be writing to Dear Abby, or for as chatty as this has become I should re-route to a chat room where I’ve never gone. I’ve never even spoken to a stranger on the computer, this is kind of like being on a an airplane giving the story of my life to the person sitting next to me! I have got to pack, time is still rushing by and here I sit, writing nonsence. God should have given us a pause button. I bet you would like me to click on delete. I’m sorry, I would delete, but its too long and I’m out of time. Did I ever ask my question? Whoops, I see a preview button, but I’m oout of time…

    Please forgive the lie, because I haven’t previewed it. If I delete I’ll never find out how to transfer an address(es), and now I don’t even have time to do it manually. I bet you think I’m sending this from the Looney Bin in Tim-buc-two! I forgot to put my name and email address down so this all came back, and as soon as I send it I’m thinking, WAIT, STOP, don’t go anywhere, COME BACK! And it did. So, what do I do, I write some more! But, hey, I found out I wasn’t lying afterall, because it wasn’t my comment (book) I was suppose to preview, so yes, I did read the article in full. I also looked around your site for a bit, and I will send you a cup of coffee, in fact I owe you a big bag of beans for having to read my bag of beans! I’ve not used PayPal for a couple of years, and I know my CC number is different, and I really don’t have time, so when I get moved… I really will, and I will even be able to afford the big bag of beans then because escrow check will be in hand. There is a story that goes along with the escrow check, but I’ll send that to Abby, nah – I’ve never cared to ask a newspaper for help, and certainly don’t understand how a newspaper can help. It’s probably one of Patches’ relatives that answer anyway, and most likely one of the nuts that everyone has in their family tree.

    Yes, I probably am writing this from the looney bin, since I think in this case its THE STATE OF MIND!

  21. Mel

    What if you sent an email from a hotmail address to another hotmail address and you need to unsend it before recipiant reads it,can you? I know I can on AOL. Just as long as it was sent to another AOL account.

  22. Jeff

    So how do you propose people go about fixing this? I mean, what should you do if say, you sent an e-mail detailing explicitly what you would like to do with your girlfriend sexually if she was in New Zealand with you, TO THE WRONG PERSON?! Not even just the wrong person, but someone who would not even appreciate the humour in the situation. This is bad. This person is not in New Zealand. Not even in the same hemisphere, so running over to their house and deleting the e-mail is NOT an option. How do I fix this? Beg the reciever to disregard the e-mail? Any tips on a good way to go about this? Does this even work? Wouldn’t the reciever be too curious when they recieve an e-mail begging them to delete another e-mail you sent them? I need help. Damn hotmail Favourite Contacts sidebar.

  23. Leo

    There is no technical solution. It’s been sent and you can’t unsend it. All you can do is send a follow up email explaining and appologizing, if that’s appropriate.

    Been there, done that. Though not with the kind of content you’re talking about :-).

  24. Joan

    Oh goodness, I rec. an email from a lady that lives in my bldg.& brags about her lifesytle. I thought I was sending it off to my brother; instead, I sent it back to her w/some nasty comments about her! (must have hit reply) Of course, I emailed her back & apologized. Needless to say, she deleted me from her add. book & was unforgiving. All this technology, & we can’t stop an email once it’s sent! Too bad :( I sure learned a valuable lesson!

  25. Colby

    WE WISH!!!!!!!!!! Yup, I just sent a nasty email about my professor to my friend in the class BUT I accidentally sent it to my professor!!!! So much for getting an A in his class!!!! : ( I now know how all you feel right now. I felt like a even bigger dumb*** writing an apology note. Stupid technology.

    • Ronny

      I’m a professor. I can assure you that even the harshest email would not affect your grade in the class if you professor is remotely professional.

  26. Baskar

    In my office one of my Colleague sent out an eamil to a worng person and ask me to retrive the mail. I said cant, because microsft doesnt have the feature.

  27. Kay

    Close to the topic, I spent an hour writing just exactly how I felt about someone (REALLY letting them have it!), then chickened out and went straight to closing the window, rather than cancel. The email was addressed already …. is it possible it was sent anyway, even though I didn’t actually click send? The guy in question is not talking to me, though I might just be paranoid :-

  28. justjoys

    like others, I made this very big mistake few minutes ago. I and my boyfriend is exchanging sweet sexy nothings and I use HOtmail while he used his office add. I incidentally copied in another address from the contacts side toolbar which makes me really really upset.Of course he is worried as it is his work email. the only thing i did is I sent follow up email to the other person, asked for humble request to destroy the email that was unintentionally sent. Im still up waiting for reply as i cant really sleep. Stupid of me!

  29. Juan Valdez

    Yes, there is a way to get an email back after it’s sent. I have found a new web service called YankBack — Since the rule is no physical addresses, I suggest you google yankback. I use it all the time. Not that I make damaging email mistakes often, but it’s handy for the little stuff, like not looking stupid when forgetting to attach something. You can recall or stop the email and just send it again with the attachment in place.

  30. john Booke

    How can i find out if a hotmail addess to which a message was inadvertently sent is valid? I made a typo and I do not know if the name exists.

  31. Leo A. Notenboom

    Hash: SHA1

    To the best of my knowledge, you cannot. If you don’t get a bounce back there’s
    still no way to tell if an address is valid.


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


  32. Jake

    This is crap how you can not unsend/retrack and email sent from hotmail. Why is it than if I write the email in MS Office Outlook, I can unsend the email which is configured thru my hotmail account? This doesnt make any sense. Can you shed some light on this.

  33. maximumbody

    this is the biggest bunch of crap technology to date in this world.. there always should have been parameters set in place where an email can be pulled back if necesarry..with all of the services..

    I accidentally sent a note talking about how ghetto fabulous my gym was to a private client of mine and sent it to my sister by mistake and to a black girl oh crap!!!

    emails can be good but overall the fact that you cant pull it back is total crap…

    hopefully people can have a heart and understand!!! we make mistakes

  34. detydfg

    If you use a software you can track your email but not recall it. Except if you are using the same exchange server.

    No. You cannot reliably track email.


  35. Melissa

    if its in the outbox because it failed to send will automatically resend? or can i stop it if i deleted it first?

  36. K

    Actually if you use AOL mail, you can UNSEND an email at ANY TIME, so long as they reciever has not opened the email yet.

    So, YES you can stop an email from being sent, if you sign up with AOL. (They’re free)

    That might be true only for email sent to another AOL account. For email sent to other services it is most certainly not true.


  37. Roldan

    I have also experience that kind of case this week and I read my sent that someone did sent a message with advertisement to all my contact on my email and I suspect it was HACKER and I change my password at once. I advise you to change your password every 3 months do not leave e mails on your contact, copy all messages and delete all in box and sent messages and even trash delete all spam and that will give you the best of the best.

    The message of the HACKER can not be stop using you email once it is sent so I want you to help me spread this message to disable the HACKERS.

  38. R

    One more do not save emails on your contacts because it is not safe once a HACKERS enters your email they will use your email to send fake advertisement to your contacts by selling fake products to your contacts and once your contacts HACK by the HACKER then it is a big credit card problem to you and your contacts.

  39. Lyle Lexier

    Actually you can stop an email from reaching the wrong person by deleting the sent email. First you go to your SENT Folder. Then you check mark the box next to the message you sent by mistake. Then lastly you delete the message from the SENT Folder, then it wont go to the receiver of the message after all.

    This is incorrect. It works only on some very specific email systems that 99% of average users do not use.


  40. thomas maguire

    I want to retrieve an email i sent through my hotmai account. how do i do this?

    If by “retrieve” you mean recall/unsend, please read the article you just commented on. It answers this question.


  41. Margaret Stewart

    I tried to unsend an email from my AOL account to another AOL account holder. It had not yet been read. Got a message saying “Sorry, this feature no longer available.” How can I unsend it?

    Looks like you cannot.


  42. erl

    i was emailing back and forth a person from a service that i was using and then after i transferred money to them my email thread from them got erased on my computer. only the computer that i was using and my cell phone that had retrieved those messages and only from that person. is there software that hackers can use to do that or was this the product of a virsus and just coincidental?

    Outside of malware I’m not aware of a way to do it on purpose. A lot depends on what email program and service you’re using.

  43. sai

    are there no tools or techniques on internet that can undo the sent message from gmail to yahoo to be particular

  44. wabbit

    I know of one way to “unsend” an email. You obviously know the persons email address, just guess their password to log into their mail server and delete it before they open it. Note that some obstinate prosecutors and judges may dream up some silly reason to throw you in jail for this, but theoretically this would work.

  45. Ken B

    I love the very first commenter, who says you’re wrong about tracking and reading verification, because you can use delivery receipts and return receipts for this, and then immediately goes on to say that they’re optional and are usually turned off. :-)

  46. John

    Actually, I think email providers and developers should rename their Send buttons, to read “Think first, then Send”…

    You know … it wouldn’t help. You may have noticed that the button to post a comment here says “I’ve Read the Article – Post My Comment”. You simply would not believe the number of people who post a comment who CLEARLY have not read the article. People who are intent on doing something will find a way to do it, no matter how much we try to steer them to safety.

  47. grump3

    I use a method that allows a 2nd chance when hitting Send without thinking.
    I have my OE set to not “send immediately.”
    The message is moved to my outbox & sits there until I hit Send again from the main page.

  48. Anonymous

    Re: recalling a sent item – this is why I invented the onosec (like the nanosec, etc.). This is where, having pushed the send key, you say “OH NO!” —
    Rob Stuart-Vail [email address removed]

    • Dan O

      Gmail beat you to it. As Leo mentioned, it has an option for up to 30 ‘onoseconds’ of delay to send, though it’s called ‘undo send’. I’ve actually found it most useful.

  49. Ron

    When I write a new email I leave the “To” box empty until I have finished typing and checked the contents. Less chance of accidentally sending it by mistake.

    That’s actually what I do as well. I’ll even go so far as to remove it from a Reply.

  50. sVen

    My ex-fiance and I had an arguement over the phone years ago. Apparently, she sent me a scathing email, which she was sure would end our relationship. The next time I called her (from the road), she apologized, saying that she had gone into my account and deleted it. I immediately went in and changed my password. Since then I’ve never been dim enough to give someone my password.

  51. Gabe

    @John wrote: “Actually, I think email providers and developers should rename their Send buttons, to read “Think first, then Send”…”

    I second that! Also, it wouldn’t hurt to have a pop-up that said “Review the TO”.

  52. Joe F.

    So why haven’t the other email providers implemented an unsend feature? If the corporate systems can do it, so can the others. It seems like a desirable thing to have.

    Corporate systems can do be because they control both ends of the conversation – sender and receiver. For it to work elsewhere would require cooperation between all possible email systems and clients, and that’s just not going to happen. Besides, the very concept is flawed – someone could read it before you unsend it, leaving you with a false sense of security.

  53. mac

    There are email tracking services that tell you when email has been sent, received, opened, and can also be deleted.
    Available to anybody to use for a minor annual fee.

    And these services do not work reliably. Period. Email cannot be reliably tracked or traced, and there is no way to reliably tell if an email has been read or opened. More here: Do email tracking services work?

  54. Wafa Waheeda. S

    Sir,Iam an engineering student and i have done a paper on this topic i.e the Undo Sent Mail .It would be really great if you could correct and verify it.Thanks in advance.

  55. Ken Harman

    One of the first e-mail providers I had, from what I can remember, had a feature that, when you SENT it, it actually went first into a “cache” which gave you a chance to reconsider before you finally sent it. That I liked! It meant two strokes instead of one, mind you, but it also gave you another “kick at the cat”, and a measure of “peace of mind. I remember a number of times of being REALLY thankful for that feature! Why not bring that feature back??

  56. les

    I placed an order with Amazon received email confirming order which was wrong,checked order then went back to email and the details had changed to the right ones wondered how they could do this according to this article they can’t..

  57. mac

    “There are email tracking services that tell you when email has been sent, received, opened, and can also be deleted.
    Available to anybody to use for a minor annual fee.”

    “And these services do not work reliably. Period. Email cannot be reliably tracked or traced, and there is no way to reliably tell if an email has been read or opened. More here: Do email tracking services work?”


    Well i have used their services and found no fault with them at all, their services acted exactly as they advertised they would.
    It is a concern that if someone disagrees you just say they are wrong,lol.
    These email services are used by corporations, and small end users alike, and have been around a long time, and i dont think they are going anywhere.
    You tried them all???, that is why you stated they arent reliable???
    I have personally used the services of two and stuck with one, and have had no problem, at all.

  58. David Lewis

    I’ve created an Outlook Rule which delays the sending of my emails for 25 minutes. This only applies if the email is marked “Normal”, so I can avoid the delay by marking it “High Importance” or “Low Importance”. Also, by scheduling a Send/Receive every (say) 30 minutes, you can also give yourself a chance to retrieve an email before it leaves your Outbox.

    I use this method not just to allow “second thoughts”, but also to correct errors, e.g. if I’m working my way through a big Inbox I might come across a later email which requires a change to what I just wrote.

  59. Kevin

    Hi Leo
    Ya certainly got a lot of comments on this article
    However to me ya are 100% correct again..the answer is lack of discipline, something that at my age was drilled into us at school.
    Did try to activate the g-mail labs thing, and although it does work, ya gotta be very fast, faster than is normally possible following an error in sending, so virtually useless.

    • Dan O

      Have you tried it lately? Undo Send is out of labs and is available under ‘Settings’ – you can set it for up to 30 seconds delay.

  60. Joe

    One “solution” when writing important/sensitive email is to remove the addressee/s first. Once sure, you then add the addressees. More work, but safer. Another “solution”, try to keep your email for a day first when writing angry email; you may amend quite a bit of the email…

  61. Dale Cockle


    You missed a great opportunity to suggest disabling the ‘immediate send’ feature that’s in all-mail client programs I’ve used (maybe under a different name). This allows all e-mails to ‘cool off’ until the next ‘check mail’ is invoked. It can even avoid embarrassing situations by allowing the sender to see succeeding e-mails viewed in a session before any of the responses are actually sent. I preach this feature in my classes.

    Thanks for all the high quality info you provide your readers.


  62. Kevin

    In case anyone is really worried by this and to amend my earlier post I have found that Yuzo F’s contribution in G-mail can indeed be lengthened to 30 seconds. This of course is still just a sending delay and not really an UNDO. Is done simply (after first enabling in Lab’s) by scrolling Settings/general and increasing the time to a maximum of 30 sec’s. This to me seems a rather long time to wait to send an e-mail. Still to each his/her own.

  63. Alf

    From all these comments you would think people are mis-sending emails each and every day! When this happens, wouldn’t it be better to be honest and admit the mistake with an apologising email? For people sending lots of messages (and making lots of mistakes!) perhaps it would be best to disconnect from the internet and review the addressees before reconnecting and sending.

  64. John R

    I mention this only as a point of interest, but I’m sure it was possible to cancel an email between AOL subscribers. This would have been similar to the corporate email system described in your article as AOL used a proprietary email system. It wasn’t possible to cancel an AOL email sent to a non-AOL address. I haven’t had an AOL account for several years so I have no idea if this is still the case.

  65. reller2001

    There is a tracking program called ReadNotify that allows you to retract an email if it has not been opened. However it will only retract the message, not who it is from.

  66. jimmyvan

    i remember back in day, windows 95 or earlier, that we were able to tell if it was received, read, and maybe more. thanks

  67. Ajay

    Yes, u can delete or recall your mail before receiver read it.

    when your email configure in Microsoft outlook 2007

    Go sent item which mail you want to recall or delete from receiver email.

    then click on other action button ,

    then click recall massage,

    then appear one dialog box now click ok.

    As outlined in the article “Recall” is notoriously unreliable – it almost never works. In fact, it can actually draw MORE attention to the message you’re attempting to recall.

  68. Glenn P.

    From time to time, there have been (and may still be!) the occasional encrypted user-to-user, web-based E-Mail service (usually fee-based) which allows one to cancel (“unsend”) messages which have been sent but which have not yet been retrieved (decrypted) by the recipient; this usually works by deleting (usually, securely deleting, although since the message is encrypted this is surely redundant) the message from the recipient’s inbox. However, in all such cases that I’ve ever encountered, the message cannot yet have been decrypted/retrieved by the recipient.

    This is however exceptional and requires both the sender and recipient to be using the same specialized messaging system. I quite agree that in general “unsend” is simply not possible. Indeed, I recall that there was at least one television commercial which made ridicule of this fact, since the unwary sender was left muttering “Unsend… unsend… unsend…” and hunting for the “unsend” key on his keyboard! (To the utter dismay of the advertiser, I haven’t God’s own notion what product was being advertised!)

  69. Christina Garabedian

    Leo, I have just made the same mistake many of your commenters have made; sending an email in error or haste. Though I am disappointed there is no way for me to undo what I’ve done, I can’t tell you much I am heartened by the fact that so many others have made this mistake as well. Even as my hopes were dissolving, I chuckled and laughed out loud as I read your responses to the insistent queries that there MUST be something that can be done! Thanks for the information and the smiles.

  70. Kathy B.

    I did the opposite! ..and unfortunately, not for the first time. I use Thunderbird, and I sent an email, and while it was sending I accidentally hit “Cancel.” The cancel window stayed there for a little bit, I didn’t get the usual message that the email had been sent successfully, then Thunderbird closed down. The email does appear in my “sent” folder; does that mean it actually did go? I would re-send except then I would feel even more like an idiot than I do now.

    • Mark Jacobs

      The best I can say is that if the email is in your sent folder, it was probably sent, but there’s no sure way of knowing.

  71. Ahmed

    I want to know and re read a message that i have sent to a person in my gmail and i want to resend that email to the same person so how can i get in my gmail? brother i want to get sent messages

  72. bill

    Apparently, a lot of people read the heading and proceeded to ask the identical question as replies instead of reading the article. If this is their normal mode, I can understand why they are accidently sending emails to people that they do not want to send them to.

  73. Shanker

    It’s clear by now that one cannot stop a sent message!

    So, the only option we have is to create a safety net while writing sensitive messages. If it is done afresh, let the send address be the last one to fill before clicking ‘Send’. Yes, keep it empty to the last moment. If one is replying, either remove the ‘To’ address or add a dummy character to the mail id to get it rejected if ‘Send’ is clicked mechanically.

  74. StgCoach

    Amazing that this article has been in circulation, in one form or another, for over ten years!
    A long time ago, I saw a suggestion (from the late Jim Seymour, I think) that we NOT read our email continuously during the day: with its constant interruptions of other work, we’d never get anything done except email. So I set Outlook to do a send-and-receive at a convenient interval; I’ve used 60 minutes as the interval, and now I’m experimenting with every 45. Most of the time, this gives me a buffer between the time I hit “send” and the time Outlook sends the queued messages.
    I know it’s not the same as recalling the message: specifically, if I queue a message just moments before the computer is scheduled to do a send-and-receive, then it will be sent anyway. But building in that delay has saved my bacon many times, and on the occasions where someone has just sent me an email I need to read RIGHT NOW, I can always manually send-and-receive.
    If I were really cautious, I might have Outlook queue ALL messages and do a send-and-receive only when I tell it to; I could review all the outgoing messages before doing that. But that’s caused me to forget outgoing messages and leave them on my PC for hours, and that turns out to be a bigger problem.
    I think part of the problem here is a matter of discipline. Many, many users send poorly written (and even more poorly proofread) emails, as if email were subject to a different set of rules from other business communications. Although we’ve all developed a certain tolerance for that, badly written emails still project a bad image. So slowing down and taking a moment to review before the final sending of the message can be an important part of reputation management.

  75. Peter Wall

    Have been writing letters (snail mail) to various persons and today I realized I may have put two of them in the wrong envelope. I should have been more careful, but I dropped them off at the post office this morning. Leo – How do I get them back?

    Leo – I commend you for your patience, especially responding to those who keep thinking there is some magic “recall” function out there. Like snail mail, you better be on a first name basis with the local post master to have any chance of getting it back, and even then, at least in Canada, it is illegal! Why should electronic mail be any different?


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