Microsoft Outlook Hyperlinks Fail to Work

Sometimes you don’t realize how much you appreciate a feature until it breaks. One example is Outlook hyperlinks in an email. It’s so convenient to click the link in the email and have the correct web page open. What I dislike is when a hyperlink in Outlook doesn’t work and I get some error or no action. Below, I’ve listed 4 solutions to this link problem.

Why Do Hyperlinks Stop Working in Outlook?

Over the years, I’ve not found what process causes Microsoft Outlook links to break. The last time, the URL links broke after I did a Windows update and installed the Internet Explorer 8 beta. Because I didn’t test Outlook email in between the downloads, I couldn’t tell you which activity contributed to the problem.

I have noticed certain activities may break my Outlook hyperlinks such as:

  • Installing Windows updates
  • Installing or uninstalling browsers
  • Installing browser add-ons
  • Installing various Outlook plugins or addins
  • Using aggressive Windows Registry cleaners

Note: Microsoft also has a global setting that disables hyperlinks by default for email items classified as junk. The setting is under Actions | Junk E-mail | Junk E-mail Options… This setting is designed to protect you from phishing attempts and malware. If you click an email, you should get a security warning message telling you the message has been converted to plain text and links are disabled. To resolve this issue, drag the email from your junk email folder to your inbox.

Fix 1: Use Microsoft’s Fix It For Me

Since I wrote this article, Microsoft has added a “Fix It For Me” page for this problem. I like these solutions as they tend to make it easy to fix these annoyance. One caveat is you need to use this page from the computer with the problem. Just go to http://support.microsoft.com/kb/310049

(Note: thanks Alison for the suggestion.)

Fix 2: Start by Resetting Your Default Browser

Most times, I can fix my Outlook hyperlink problem by resetting my default browser to Internet Explorer. I start with this step even if I plan to use Firefox as my browser. The reason I choose this path is I’ve had better success and it takes me closer to my end goal.

To make IE your default browser,

  1. Open Internet Explorer
  2. Click Tools from the menu
  3. Select Internet Options.
  4. Click the Programs tab
  5. Click the button labeled Make Default.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Test a hyperlink in Outlook to see if the web page opens in Internet Explorer.

Fix 3: Reregister Windows DLL Files

Even after resetting your default browser you still can’t open hyperlink in Outlook, it could be one or more registry keys is damaged. The solution is to reregister some of your DLL files. The process may sound intimidating, but it’s easy. There are 6 files to register based on your system. Some configurations use shdocvw.dll and others use shdoc401.dll.

To reregister the DLL files,

  1. Close all open programs.
  2. Click the Start button.
  3. Select the Run… command. Vista users can type “run” in the Start Search textbox.
  4. In the Open: textbox, type regsvr32 followed by a space and the file name.
  5. In the screen snap below, I’ve used the first file Shdocvw.dll.

    Using Run to reregister a DLL

  6. Click the OK button. You should see a message showing the process succeeded.
  7. Click OK to dismiss the message.
  8. Repeat the procedure for the other DLL files.
    • regsvr32 Shdocvw.dll (Some system use Shdoc401.dll instead)
    • regsvr32 Oleaut32.dll
    • regsvr32 Actxprxy.dll
    • regsvr32 Mshtml.dll
    • regsvr32 Urlmon.dll
    • regsvr32 Shell32.dll
  9. As before, test to see if your Outlook hyperlink problem has been resolved.

Fix 4: Reset the (NONE) URL File Types

If you’ve gotten to this part, I have to figure your Outlook hyperlinks are still broken. Don’t fret as I have another fix to try. My guess is someplace along the line your file associations broke. This is the mapping Windows uses to a file type to program. A common mapping might be .XLS files with Microsoft Excel. In this case, we need to check URL mappings.

To set URL file associations,

  1. Open My Computer.
  2. From the Tools menu, select Folder Options…
  3. Click the File Types tab. A long list of Extensions and File Types appears.
  4. Scroll down till you get to (NONE) URL:HyperText Transfer Protocol
  5. Successful registration of DLL

  6. Click the Advanced button.
  7. Editing Folder Options file types

  8. Select the bold open item. *
  9. Click Edit…
  10. Click the Browse… button
  11. Navigate to where Internet Explorer is located. (For most PC, it’s at C:Program FilesInternet Exploreriexplore.exe)
  12. Add a space and %1 to the end of the file name. (e.g. “C:Program FilesInternet Exploreriexplore.exe” %1)
  13. Click OK.
  14. Click Close.
  15. Repeat the process for (NONE) URL:HyperText Transfer Protocol with Privacy.

* If open doesn’t show, click New and type open in the action box.

Back to Firefox (Optional)

Once you get the Outlook links to open in Internet Explorer, you can change your default browser to Firefox. This should roll down to Outlook so any embedded hyperlinks will open in the correct browser.

To set Firefox as your default browser,

  1. Open Firefox
  2. Select Tools from the menu
  3. Select Options…
  4. Click Advanced
  5. Click the Make Firefox the default browser button

If this step doesn’t work, you might check the Mozilla Knowledgebase article, “Setting Firefox as the default browser does not work”.