When Microsoft Outlook Links Fail to Open

Sometimes you don’t realize how much you appreciate a feature until it breaks. One example is when you’re no longer able to open links in Outlook. It’s frustrating because you know you could before. In this tutorial, I’ll explain some reasons why your Outlook hyperlinks are not working and suggestions.

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 Microsoft Windows update and installed some beta software. Because I didn’t test my Outlook email in between the downloads, I couldn’t tell you which activity contributed to the problem. Fortunately, my Outlook auto reply emails still worked.

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

  • Installing Microsoft Windows updates
  • Installing or uninstalling web browsers
  • Installing browser add-ons or extensions
  • Installing various Outlook plugins or addins
  • Using aggressive Windows Registry cleaners
  • Installing beta software
  • Your organization’s policies
  • Your browser has been hijacked.

Microsoft also has a global setting that disables hyperlinks by default for email items classified as junk. The setting is under Home | Junk | 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

This fix-it works if you use Outlook in an organization. If you’re not part of an organization, you will get redirected to a different help page.

When you click a hyperlink, you’ll get one of the following error messages:

  • This operation has been canceled due to restrictions in effect on this computer. Please contact your system administrator.
  • Your organization’s policies are preventing us from completing this action for you. For more info, please contact your help desk.

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 this annoyance. One caveat is you need to use this page from the computer with the problem. Just go to https://support.microsoft.com/kb/310049.

Fix 2: Start by Resetting Your Default Browser

I can often fix my Outlook hyperlink problem by resetting my default browser to Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer. I start with this step, even if I plan to use Firefox or Chrome as my browser. I choose this path because I’ve had better success, which takes me closer to my end goal. And if I call Microsoft, they will suggest I change to Microsoft Edge anyway.

To make Microsoft Edge your default browser,

  1. Open Microsoft Edge.
  2. Press Alt + f to open the browser menu options.
  3. Select Settings from the drop-down menu.
  4. From the left navigation, select Default browser.
Selecting Default browser on Edge Settings panel.
  1. If Microsoft Edge is not your default browser, click the Make default button at the top.
  2. Close Settings tab.
  3. Test a hyperlink in Outlook to see if the web page opens in Microsoft Edge.

Note: After you’ve tested your hyperlinks, you might want to go back and change your default browser if you used something other than Microsoft Edge.

Fix 3: Reregister Windows DLL Files

Even after resetting your default browser, you still can’t open the hyperlink in Outlook. It could be one or more registry keys are 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 Outlook version. Some configurations use shdocvw.dll, and others use shdoc401.dll.

To reregister the DLL files,

  1. Close all open programs.
  2. Press your Windows key + r.
  3. In the Open: textbox, type regsvr32 followed by a space and the file name.
run command and reregistering DLL
Reregistering DLL files
  1. Click the OK button. You should see a message showing the process succeeded.
  2. Click OK to dismiss the message.
  3. 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
  4. As before, test to see if your Microsoft Outlook hyperlink problem has been resolved.

Fix 4: Reset the 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 associate a file type to a program. A common mapping might be .XLSX files with Microsoft Excel. In this case, we need to check HTTP mappings.

To Check HTTP file associations,

  1. Press your Windows key + i. This will open your Settings panel.
  2. In the Find a setting textbox type protocol.
  3. In the search results, click Choose a default app for each protocol.
  4. Under Choose default apps by protocol, scroll down to HTTP and HTTPS.
Microsoft Windows protocol mapping.
  1. Make sure your app is set to Microsoft Edge.
  2. Test your Outlook hyperlink.

Back to Your Previous Browser (Optional)

Once you get the Outlook links to open in Microsoft Edge, you can change your default browser to Firefox or Chrome if desired. 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. Under the Startup section, click Make Default.

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

Hopefully, the suggestions above fixed your problem. I think as Microsoft retires Internet Explorer and makes Microsoft Edge the default browser, this problem will diminish. That’s not to say you won’t encounter hyperlinks not working in Outlook. It just means you can’t blame IE.