I have a number of rules that filter mail to my deleted items folder. Sometimes it seems a rule applies to a message which I did not intend it to apply to. How can you "debug" which rule applied to a given message?

  • If these are client side rules, you could have each flag the messages with a different comment. Not ideal, and doesn't work retroactively, but might help going forward? Other than that I don't think Outlook records which rules triggered against which messages. – DMA57361 Sep 8 '10 at 13:03
  • These are server side rules I believe (they apply even if my Outlook isn't running..) – Marcus Leon Sep 8 '10 at 13:15

Move the email back into the inbox. Open up the the rules manager and run the rules one by one which is easy to do in the 'Run Rules Now' dialog. You'll see it immediately disappear.

  • This was really helpful, but in my case (Outlook 2013) I had to close the Manage Rules dialog to see the message move out of the Inbox, so it was more tedious for me to run each rule since I couldn't see the changes quickly, but this totally solved my issue! – QuickDanger Oct 23 '17 at 16:12
  • where does it disappear to? – TamusJRoyce Jun 16 '20 at 16:20
  • You can open up two instances of Outlook side-by-side, and have one showing the Inbox, and use the other to run the rules via the Manage Rules dialog. – Cooper Nov 12 '20 at 17:53

One fairly low impact way might be to change the rule actions to do it's usual thing to the messages (such as move them to a folder) and add a category to them.

Create a category for each rule you might need to debug (or all of them), then for any given email you can quickly see which rule(s) have been applied to it by checking the categories. I would suggest setting the colour of all the categories used for this purpose to the same thing, such as a very neutral pale grey.

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    This does help. But is inconvenient for large number of rules, I have about 40-45 rules. And, this exercise is doable but requires lot of time. I think this should have been a feature in outlook itself. They could just add a notification below the message that showed which rule was matched. The notification area as in where you see the vote button/follow up options etc. – mtk Feb 17 '15 at 7:20

I am not sure exactly how much infomation you can pick out of outlook's logging feature, but it might help. I just enabled this on one of my machines and going to see if it shows me my rules in action. To enable the logging:

  1. Under the Tools menu, click Options.

  2. On the Other tab, click Advanced Options.

  3. Check (enable) or uncheck (disable) the Enable logging (troubleshooting) box.

  4. Click OK twice and restart Outlook. Logging Enabled should appear in the title bar.

This applies to outlook 2007. The log file is created at C:\Users\user name\AppData\Local\Temp\Outlook Logging\OPMLog.log in Windows Vista. For Windows XP users, it will be created at C:\Documents and Settings\user name\Local Settings\Temp\Outlook Logging\OPMLog.log

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    These instructions are valid for Outlook 2003 as well. – Bobson Feb 9 '12 at 14:47
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    They're close in Outlook 2010, go to Advanced > Other > logging. Unfortunately, no information on applying rules appears in the logs (when I tried). – lmat - Reinstate Monica Apr 15 '13 at 13:27

You can try disabling all the rules, moving a message that was affected back to the Inbox, then running one of the possibly-problematic rules on the Inbox to see if it does anything to the message. If not, then try again with one of the other rules. Kind of a clunky debug, but it should help to identify while rule is the culprit.


I had 20 rules all sending email to the Deleted folder. Some important email was getting nuked.

I created 7 Deleted folders (deleted1 ... deleted7), modified all rules that deleted emails, assigning them randomly to one of the seven folders, with between2-4 rules per folder.

Then I cleaned up the deleted folder, deleting email I knew I didn't need, leaving email that I might refer back to and restoring good email to Inbox. Then I selected all rules and ran them against my Inbox, checked which folder got the emails I didn't want deleted and that narrows it to 4 rules, then move other rules back to Deleted folder, spread the four rules across folders, re-run. Bam, done.

I like the coloring idea (move to deleted folder AND assign it to this category / color), I just didn't take the time to learn to implement it.


This happened to me and i couldn't resolve it checking the rules in the rules manager one by one, Instead I just created a new rule to transfer all the mails that where placed incorrectly in the Junk E-mail back to the Inbox folder. Hope it Helps.

  • 2
    This does not answer the question that was asked. Please avoid posting information as an answer which does not actually answer or attempt to answer that was asked. – music2myear Jun 21 '19 at 23:16

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