How to Fix Outlook Search When It's Not Working

Fix Outlook when its search function stops working

What to Know

  • Outlook search not working may be caused by an outdated program, an indexing error, of some other problem.
  • Updating or tweaking index locations and features may fix it when Outlook search isn't working.
  • Outlook also has a built-in repair tool that might help solve the issue.

The Outlook email client's search function is a helpful tool, allowing users to search for specific information in an email message, such as the sender, date, folder where it's saved, or keywords using Outlook-specific search operators. If the Outlook search function isn't working, there may be several reasons why.

Outlook search troubleshooting procedures in this article pertain to Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, and Outlook for Microsoft 365; and Outlook 2016 for Mac and Outlook for Mac 2011.

Update Microsoft Office

Out-of-date software can cause all sorts of glitches. Updating Outlook may solve the problem of an unresponsive search function.

Check for Available Updates in Outlook 2019, 2016, or 2013

  1. Start Outlook.

  2. Select File.

  3. Select Office Account.

  4. Select Update Options under Product Information.

    Office Updates
  5. Select Enable Updates if the option is available.

  6. Select Update Now.

Check for Available Updates in Outlook 2010

  1. Start Outlook and select File.

  2. Select Help in the left pane.

  3. Select Check for Updates.

  4. Choose Install Updates or Check for Updates.

Check for Updates in Outlook 2016 for Mac or Outlook for Mac 2011

  1. Start Outlook.

  2. Select Help.

  3. Select Check for Updates.

  4. Select Automatically Download and Install under "How would you like updates to be installed?"

  5. Select Check for Updates.

Troubleshoot Outlook Indexing

If you perform a search and receive a message stating No matches found or Search results may be incomplete because items are still being indexed, troubleshoot the indexing function.

Fix Indexing Errors in Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, or 2010

  1. Start Outlook.

  2. Click inside the Search box to activate the Search Tools tab.

  3. Select the Search Tools drop-down in the Options group and select Indexing Status.

  4. You should see a message stating, Outlook has finished indexing all of your items. 0 items remaining to be indexed.

    Indexing status dialog box in Office
  5. If there are items to be indexed remaining, wait five minutes and try again. If the problem persists, move on to the next troubleshooting technique.

Configure Indexing Options in Windows 10, 8, or 7

  1. Type Indexing Options in the Start Search box or on the Start screen.

  2. Select Advanced in the Indexing Options dialog box.

  3. Go to the File Types tab.

  4. Scroll down in the Extension column to msg.

  5. Select msg.

  6. Make sure Index Properties and File Contents is enabled.

  7. Select OK.

  8. Select Close.

Index Outlook Data Files in Windows 10, 8, or 7

  1. Type Indexing Options in the Start Search box or on the Start screen.

  2. Verify that Microsoft Outlook appears in the Included Locations column of the Indexing Options dialog box.

    Indexing Options
  3. Select Modify if Microsoft Outlook is not listed.

  4. Select the checkbox next to Microsoft Outlook to select it.

  5. Select OK.

  6. Select Close.

Rebuild the Search Catalog if Indexing Remains Stuck in Windows 10, 8, or 7

  1. Type Indexing Options in the Start Search box or on the Start screen.

  2. Select Modify in the Indexing Options dialog box.

  3. Clear the checkbox next to Outlook and select OK.

  4. Select Advanced to open the Advanced Options dialog box.

  5. Select Rebuild.

  6. Select OK.

  7. Select Close.

How to Repair Outlook

Built-in repair utilities can often fix the problem of an unresponsive Outlook search function.

Repair Outlook 2016 for Mac or Outlook for Mac 2011

If you perform a search in Outlook 2016 for Mac or Outlook for Mac 2011 and receive a No Results message, or your search is unsuccessful using Mac OS built-in Spotlight Search, download and run Outlook Search Repair. This Mac Outlook utility checks for duplicate installations and reindexes Outlook files.

  1. Download and open the Outlook Search Repair Utility.

  2. Remove any duplicate Outlook installations, if prompted.

  3. Restart your system at the prompt.

  4. Select the Reindex button.

  5. Allow the utility to complete. This can take an hour or longer.

  6. Close Outlook Search Repair when a message stating, “Reindexing has completed!” appears.

How to Repair Other Versions of Outlook

The built-in Office repair utility can often solve the problem of an unresponsive search function.

Repair Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, or 2010 in Windows 10

  1. Close all Microsoft Office applications.

  2. Type Apps & Features into the Windows search box.

  3. Select Apps & Features.

  4. Find and click on Microsoft Office in the list of installed apps and features.

  5. Select Modify.

  6. Select Quick Repair or Online Repair and then select the Repair button.

    Office repair
  7. Restart Outlook when the repair process is complete.

Repair Outlook 2016, 2013, or 2010 in Windows 8

  1. Close all Microsoft Office applications.

  2. Right-click the Start button.

  3. Select Control Panel.

  4. Make sure Category is selected in the View By list.

  5. Select Uninstall a Program under Programs.

  6. Right-click Microsoft Office and choose Change.

  7. Select Online Repair if it is available (this depends on the type of Microsoft Office you have installed).

  8. Select Repair.

  9. Select Yes if a user account control window appears.

  10. Restart Outlook when the repair process is complete.

Repair Outlook 2016, 2013, or 2010 in Windows 7

  1. Close all Microsoft Office applications.

  2. Select the Start button.

  3. Select Control Panel.

  4. Make sure Category is selected in the View By list.

  5. Select Uninstall a Program under Programs.

  6. Select Microsoft Office from your list of programs.

  7. Select Change.

  8. Select Online Repair if it is available (this depends on the type of Microsoft Office you have installed).

  9. Select Repair.

  10. Select Yes if a user account control window appears.

  11. Restart Outlook when the repair process is complete.

Rebuild the Office Database: Mac Only

Use this utility to rebuild a corrupted database and possibly solve Outlook search not working on Mac. These steps apply only to Outlook 2016 for Mac or Outlook for Mac 2011.

  1. Quit all Microsoft Office applications.

  2. Hold down the Option key and then click the Outlook icon in the Dock to open the Microsoft Database Utility.

  3. Select the identity of the database you want to rebuild.

  4. Select Rebuild.

  5. Restart Outlook when the process is complete.

If you continue to experience issues with the Outlook search function not working, consider uninstalling and reinstalling Microsoft Office.