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6 Ways to Fix Outlook Search Not Working

Outlook has a robust search feature that lets you define the search criteria fairly well, but it doesn’t always work. When Outlook’s search is not working, you might struggle to locate old emails. Below are all the best fixes we’ve used to fix Outlook search problems in Windows and macOS.

Outlook Search Not Working

Quick Summary

Knowing why Outlook search isn’t working is the first step in figuring out what to do. Even if you’re not sure what broke Outlook search, here are the solutions we recommend for the various causes of this problem:

  • Repair Outlook
  • Check the indexing settings
  • Update Outlook
  • Repair some data files

Tip: Before getting started with these tips, close and reopen Outlook. Whether you’re on a Mac or Windows computer, this is the easiest possible solution to fix Outlook search. Sometimes things like a search function quits working for no apparent reason, and a simple cycling of the app is the best solution. Give it a try!

Methods to Try When Outlook Search is Not Working

1. Repair Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 apps are prone to errors like any other app. If Outlook search isn’t working, try repairing Microsoft 365. It won’t reset the apps and none of your files will be deleted, but it can reverse issues with search.

1. Open Control Panel.

2. Go to Programs > Uninstall a program.

Windows 11 Control Panel

3. Look for and select Microsoft 365.

4. Click the Change button.

The Change option for Microsoft 365 in Windows 11 Control Panel

5. Select Quick Repair > Repair. The Microsoft 365 installer will attempt to fix the search issue in Outlook.

The repair option for Microsoft 365 in Windows 11

6. Restart your computer to see if the Outlook search function works.

2. Allow system indexing

Outlook indexes new messages so that you can easily search through them. But, if you tend to get a lot of messages, Outlook may pause indexing until the system is idle and has access to more system resources. The only problem is that a computer normally goes to sleep after a few minutes of no activity. This prevents Outlook from indexing items. Change the sleep time on the system so that it stays awake longer.

1. Open Control Panel to Hardware and Sound > Power Options.

The Hardware and Sound screen in Windows 11 Control Panel

2. Select Change plan settings next to the current power plan.

Power Options in Windows 11 Control Panel

3. Change the sleep setting to a few hours or pick Never.

Sleep timer options in Windows 11 Control Panel

3. Update Microsoft 365

If the Outlook client is not up to date, it may cause the search index to stop working. This in turn will prevent Outlook search from working. In addition to installing updates from Windows Update, check for updates to Microsoft 365 and install them.

1. In Outlook, go to File > Office Account.

The File menu in Outlook

2. Choose Update Options > Update Now.

The update option in Outlook

3. Let any updates install, and then close and reopen Outlook to test if searches work.

4. Check indexing settings

Make sure Outlook is set to index everything. You can change the indexing settings to fix this.

1. Open Outlook’s File menu and then click OptionsSearch.

2. Select Indexing Options.

Outlook's search options

3. Click Modify and then Show all locations.

4. Select them all and click OK.

Windows 11 Indexing Options and Indexing Locations windows

5. Rebuild search index

Outlook’s search index can break or become corrupted. A simple way to fix it is to rebuild it. It will take time, but it will solve problems with Outlook’s search.

1. Return to the File > OptionsSearchIndexing Options screen, as shown above.

2. Select Advanced.

3. From the Index Settings tab, select Rebuild, and then confirm with OK.

Building the search index in Windows 11

If you’re on a Mac, you might need to go here instead: Preferences > Search > Indexing > Rebuild.

6. Repair Outlook data files

Outlook comes with a built-in tool for repairing data files. A corrupt data file could be why Outlook search is not working.

1. Open File Explorer.

2. Navigate to the Outlook folder for your version of Outlook.

Outlook 2016 & newer: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Office16
Outlook 2013: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office15
Outlook 2010: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14
Outlook 2007: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office12

3. Open SCANPST.EXE.

4. Select the PST file for your Outlook profile.

5. Click Start to begin scanning.

The SCANPST file open in Windows 11

6. If problems are found, select Repair to fix them, and then restart Outlook.

Conclusion

Email is hard to keep track off and no matter how many labels you apply, or special inboxes you create, you will still find yourself using the search feature to find a lost message now and then. If Outlook can find both older messages and newer ones, but you still can’t find the one you’re looking for, the problem may not lie with Outlook’s search. Expand your search criteria, and you will be able to find the message that isn’t showing up in the search results.

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