How to resolve search problems in Microsoft Outlook

You can try a few different methods to fix issues with the search feature in Outlook.

MIcrosoft Outlook icon
Image: dennizn/Adobe Stock

You’re searching for certain messages in Microsoft Outlook by specific criteria. You know there should be results for your search, but no messages are appearing. The search feature for Outlook does sometimes misbehave, causing it to fail to find the right results — or any results at all. Fortunately, there are ways to resolve this glitch.

You can check key search settings in Outlook. You can make sure Outlook is included in the search index. Finally, you can rebuild the search index. The steps I cover here apply to the desktop version of Outlook. I tested this with the version of Outlook that comes with Microsoft 365, but the steps should work the same or similarly with previous versions of the program.

SEE: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365: A side-by-side analysis w/checklist (TechRepublic Premium)

To start, let’s check the search options in Outlook. Click the File menu and select Options. At the Outlook Options window, click the Search item. In the Results section of the Outlook Options window, make sure that Include Results Only From is set to one of options for Current Folder if you wish to restrict the search to the current folder. Otherwise, you can try expanding your search by selecting Current Mailbox or All Mailboxes (Figure A).

Figure A

The option for Improve Search Speed By Limiting The Number Of Results Shown can be unchecked if some results are popping up in a search but not the ones you’re seeking, especially among older messages. The option for Highlight Search Terms in the results can be checked. And the option for Notify Me When Results Might Be Limited Because Search Indexing Is Not Complete should be checked. If all those options are set correctly, and you’re still bumping into search problems, let’s give Windows a shot at fixing the problem (assuming you’re running Windows).

In Windows 10 or 11, go to Settings and select Search. At the Search window, select the option for Searching Windows. Scroll down the screen and click the link for Run The Indexer Troubleshooter To Resolve Common Problems. The troubleshooter window asks what problems you notice. Check the box for Outlook Search Doesn’t Return Results and click Next (Figure B).

Figure B

Allow the indexer to troubleshoot the problem. If the indexer uncovers a possible culprit, select the suggested fix. Then try running your search again. If the troubleshooter didn’t fix the glitch, it’s time to look at the search index itself.

In Outlook, click the File menu, select Options, and then click the option for Search. At the Search option window, click the button for Indexing Options. At the Indexing Options window, confirm that Microsoft Outlook is listed among the Included Locations. If not, click the Modify button. At the next screen, select Microsoft Outlook from the list of Indexed Locations and then click OK (Figure C).

Figure C

Allow the Index some time to rebuild with Outlook included. Close the window. Now try running a search. Do you still not see the right results, or any results at all? The final step is to rebuild the search index. Return to the Indexing options window. This time, click the Advanced button. At the Index Settings tab, click the Rebuild button (Figure D).

Figure D

A message pops up to tell you that rebuilding the index might take a long time to complete. Click OK and then take a break from your work while the index rebuilds. You can also stick around and watch as the numbers climb, indicating that the rebuild is in progress. When the rebuild is finished, close the various options windows. Try running your search once more, and this time you should get the results you expect.

Source link