Sunday, January 1, 2006

What to do when Outlook rules don’t run


By Francine Otterson

Reader Robin Sapiro asks:

I am using Outlook 2003 with SP2.
I have a whole bunch of rules to route my incoming mail to specific folders (mostly based on sender). Every now and then, some of the rules do not trigger and the email remains in my Inbox. If I go to Tools, Rules and select the rule under Run Now, it works.
Any suggestions on how to get the rules to ALWAYS run by themselves.

Outlook reminders do not always run automatically as our reader Robin indicates above, especially if it's a client-based as opposed to a server-based rule. Slipstick has a great article that discusses the determining factors between whether a rule is client or server at

Client-side rules do not always run automatically due to how they are processed. Rules should first be checked for possible corruption, however if the rules are functional, but do not run automatically, then one work-around is to change the rule from a client rule to a server rule (assuming you have a server that allows this) based on the criteria above.

For example, if a rule is moving received email to a personal folder, then this would be a client rule. Changing the rule to move the emails to a sub-folder of your mailbox inbox would make it a server-side rule (again, assuming you're using Exchange). Making this change results in rules running automatically, as it is based on server side.

A caveat to this however is that if you have mailbox size limits these subfolders would be counted against those limits.

Microsoft also has some very interesting knowledge base articles that explain:

  • Rules might become corrupted if you upgrade Outlook versions. See
  • Rules might be disabled after an upgrade or if your rule size is greater than 32K. See
  • Rules might not run because Outlook tends to be optimized to work with Exchange processing rules. See