How to Fix It When Outlook Rules Are Not Working

Run actions and sort messages automatically

Outlook rules are automatic actions performed on incoming email messages. For example, a rule filters all messages from a certain sender into a folder for you to review later.

Setting up these rules can streamline your inbox and help you become more efficient. Troubleshooting common errors helps you fix broken rules so you can get back to a clean inbox.

Instructions in this article apply to Outlook 2019, Outlook 2016, Outlook 2013, Outlook 2010, and Outlook for Microsoft 365.

Causes for Outlook Rules Not Working

Several different and unrelated problems prevent Outlook rules from running automatically or even disabling rules altogether. Any of these may be the culprit:

  • Rules exceed the rules quota established for your mailbox.
  • Corruption in send/receive settings file.
  • Rules set to run on one computer only.
  • Corruption using a POP3 or IMAP account.
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 Lost Co. / Unsplash

How to Fix Outlook Rules Not Working

Because several glitches affect whether Outlook rules run automatically, troubleshooting the problem is the best way to get them working again. Here are some of the things you can try:

Size matters in Outlook rules. In many cases, the size available for all your Outlook Rules will be limited to 64 KB or less. It's not a problem if you have several simple rules to run automatically, but if you have many rules, or very complicated rules, size could be your problem. Several of the troubleshooting steps included here will help you reduce the size of your Outlook rules.

  1. Rename rules. If your rules have lengthy names, editing them to have shorter names could decrease the size of your existing rules.

  2. Delete old rules. Another way to reduce the overall size of your existing rules is to get rid of those you no longer need.

  3. Clear the client only or on this machine only checkbox. It's possible that when the rule was created, this setting was selected, which will prevent the rule from working when you access your Outlook account on a different device.

  4. Combine similar rules. Turning several similar rules into a single rule is another way to reduce the overall size of your rules. After you've combined similar rules, delete the unnecessary rules.

  5. Rename or reset the SRS file in Outlook. The SRS file contains the settings you set through the Send/Receive dialog in Outlook.

  6. Reset your rules and test your mailbox for corruptions if you're using a POP3 or IMAP account in Outlook. Start by deleting the rule that's not working, then run the Inbox Repair Tool.

  7. Fix corruption using an Exchange account. Exchange Cache Mode could give you a smoother experience when you connect to your email account because a copy of your mailbox saves to your computer. This local copy offers quicker access to your email messages and other items.

If you're using an Exchange account, deleting the rule, disabling Exchange Cache Mode, then recreating the rule could resolve the glitch. After it's fixed, try enabling Exchange Cache Mode again.