The search function in Microsoft Outlook is a powerful tool. Fortunately, if it breaks, it's easy to fix. Just follow our eight ways to get Outlook Search working again. They will be going through your emails again in no time.
1. Run the Windows search troubleshooter
Before we dive into Outlook-specific fixes, let's use one of the many Windows bug fixes. You can find the Windows search troubleshooter at Start> Settings> Update & Security.
Choose from here Troubleshooting, go to Additional bug fixes, then search and select the Search and indexing Option and click Run the troubleshooter.
2. Does the Outlook search not work? Rebuild the Outlook index
To get started, jump straight into this Outlook search fix, which often fixes the problem right away. There are two ways to do this. Both are quick and usually work.
Method 1: use programs and features
To rebuild the Outlook index if Outlook search doesn't work:
Type "control" in the Windows search bar and select the best match to open the Control Panel.
Go to Programs> Programs & Features.
Scroll down and select Outlook 2019, Microsoft Office (your version), or Microsoft 365.
Now choose Change from the top menu. You can choose now Fast repairs or Online repairsas highlighted in the picture below.
Choose Fast repairs, then repairto fix Outlook indexing problem without using your internet connection.
Let the process complete and then restart your system.
There is a second option in the Outlook index repair menu, you just need to know where to find it.
Open Outlook and then select File> Options> Find. Now choose Indexing options, followed by Progressive.
Finally choose reconstruction, and click OK. This can take a moment. After the rebuild is complete, restart your system.
Also: Check the indexing status again
There's a quick way to check Outlook's indexing status.
In Outlook, type "search" into the tell me Toolbar. Now choose Search Tools> Indexing Status and see how many items are waiting for the index. You can still use Outlook Search while the remaining items are indexed, but you will see some omissions.
3. Check the Outlook index positions
Next, check if Outlook is on the list of indexed locations.
Open Outlook and go to File> Options> Search> Indexing Options. Choose Change from the Indexing Options panel. Make sure there is a check mark next to it Microsoft Outlook, then press OK.
Now restart your system.
4. Use the registry to fix Outlook Search
It is possible to repair Outlook Search using the Windows registry.
Press Windows Key + R to open the run dialog. Then enter regedit and press Enter to open Registry Editor. Next, press Ctrl + F To open the search menu, copy and paste the following registry key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE Policies Microsoft Windows Windows Search
When you find it, select the right box, then right click and choose New Dword (32-bit). Name the new Dword Prevent Outlook from indexing and assign the value to it 0.
Press OK, then restart your system.
5. Update Microsoft Office 2019
When was the last time your version of Office was updated? Updating Office to the latest version can fix your Outlook search problems.
Open Outlook. Go to File> Office Account (only account for other Office programs). Under Product Information, check the Update options Drop down menu. Choose Update now if available and let it finish.
If you don't see any update options at all and there is only one Above consider the following:
Do you operate a volume license issued by your workplace or something similar?
Did you make changes to your system group policy?
Does your workplace or something similar use a group policy to stop manual updates?
Has someone else installed a pirated copy of Office on your system?
You can manually install a Microsoft Office update at any time from the Office updates download page.
6. Repair your Outlook Personal Folders (.PST) file
Another option is to use the Inbox Repair Tool to repair your Outlook Personal Folders (.PST) file. Outlook Search can have problems if your Outlook personal folder file is corrupted.
First you need to find the repair tool. The location depends on your version of Outlook. You look it up scanpst.exe in one of the following locations:
- 32-bit Office 2016 and newer: C: Program Files Microsoft Office Office16
- 64-bit Office 2016 and newer: C: Program Files (x86) Microsoft Office Office16
- 64-bit Outlook 2016 and newer: C: Program Files Microsoft Office Office16
- Office 365 (2016 package): C: Program Files Microsoft Office root office16
- 32-bit Office 2013: C: Program Files Microsoft Office Office15
- 64-bit Office 2013: C: Program Files (x86) Microsoft Office Office15
- 64-bit Outlook 2013: C: Program Files Microsoft Office Office15
- Office 365 (2013 package): C: Program Files Microsoft Office root office15
If you haven't set up a POP3 email account but are using IMAP to check your email, you may not be able to find the file.
You also need to know the location of your PST file. Outlook 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019 and newer version users should find their personal folder file at:
C: Users YOURUSERNAME AppData Local Microsoft Outlook
If you can only see one OST file in the above location, it is a sign that you are using IMAP, not POP3, to check your email.
Found everything? Big! Now click with the right mouse button scanpst.exe and choose Execute as administrator. Blow Search, then copy the location of your personal folder file and paste it into the address bar. Select the appropriate account, press Open minded, then begin. This process may take a few minutes, but it should fix your Outlook search problems.
7. Check the group policy setting for Outlook indexing
This option is a bit of a stretch; If this setting has been specifically changed, you will have other problems. However, it is worth exploring each Outlook search correction option. Unfortunately, this option is only available to Windows 10 Pro users as home users do not have access to the Windows 10 Local Group Policy Editor window.
Type gpedit in the Start menu search bar and select the best match.
Now navigate to User Configuration> Administrative Templates> Search. Check Paths excluded by default and Prevent indexing of certain paths for changes regarding Microsoft Outlook.
When the policy status is set to Not configured, you know your Outlook search problems are not coming here.
8. Reinstall Outlook
As a last resort, you can uninstall Microsoft Outlook and then reinstall it. This is of course time consuming and not an ideal solution. However, some users report that this last resort finally fixed their Outlook search problems.
The Outlook search continues …
These seven fixes should fix any Outlook search error. If your Outlook search isn't working, don't panic. Just work your way through the list.
In my experience, rebuilding and updating the Outlook search index usually brings some movement back. If not, then repairing Outlook Personal File is another reliable option.
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About the author
(984 published articles)
Gavin is the Junior Editor for Windows and Technology Explained, is a regular contributor to the Really Useful Podcast, and is a regular product reviewer. He has a BA (Hons) Contemporary Writing with Digital Art Practices Looted from the Devon Hills, as well as over a decade of professional writing experience. He enjoys plenty of tea, board games, and soccer.
By Gavin Phillips
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