Can I unsend an email?
By Leo Notenboom
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.
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.
- •The email is then send from your email provider to the email provider of your recipient.
- •The email is then placed in the recipient’s online inbox.
- •If the recipient is using a PC-based email program, he downloads it to his machine.
Two things are important to realize about that scenario:
- •The first three steps – up to and including your recipients’ online inbox – can often happen in seconds.
- •Regardless of which steps have and 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 at all unless you get some kind of response from the recipient.
This post is excerpted with permission from Leo Notenboom.
About Leo Notenboom
Leo A. Notenboom is the owner of Puget Sound Software, LLC and the Leo in Ask Leo!. Leo has been in the personal computer and software industry since 1979, as a software engineer, a manager of software engineers, and as a consultant. In 1983 Leo joined what was then a medium sized local company called Microsoft and spent the next 18 years in a wide variety of groups working on a wide variety of software. If you're running Microsoft Windows, if you've used a Microsoft development tool or Microsoft Money, or if you've ever purchased a ticket through Expedia, there's a good chance you've been touched by some of his work. And of course, since 2003, Leo has been answering your tech questions on Ask Leo!