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Grayed out rules

There are some rules that I want to remove but when I go to Tools-> Rules and Alerts (or File-> Manage Rules & Alerts in Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013), these rules are grayed out and cannot be removed.

How can I get rid of these “ghost rules”?

Manage Rules & Alerts buttonSome rules are version specific or only compatible with a specific version of Outlook. Also, while rules might be upgraded when you also upgraded your version of Outlook, they can’t get downgraded anymore.

So, when you are looking at your rules with an earlier version of Outlook than the version of Outlook the rules have been created in or upgraded by, Outlook will display them as grayed out as it cannot change them.

Removing grayed out rules

The easy answer as to how to get rid of them is to use a later version of Outlook to delete or modify them, but this might not always be convenient or available to you.

Another easy solution is to forcefully delete all rules by starting Outlook with the /cleanrules switch:

  • Windows XP
    Start-> Run: outlook.exe /cleanrules
  • Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8
    Start-> type: outlook.exe /cleanrules

This last method might be inconvenient if you still have some proper rules left which you wish to keep. In those cases, there is a little workaround that you may want to try first before going drastic;

  1. Export your rules first.
    You may get an error that not all rules were able to be exported.
    If you get an error that none of your rules could be exported this workaround won’t work for you.
  2. Use the /cleanrules switch to forcefully delete all your rules.
  3. Import your rules again.

If you’re lucky, either all your rules are now editable or the grayed out rules are missing completely. If the grayed out rules are back as well, then you still need to resort to the /cleanrules method.