Using Microsoft Outlook’s search function makes finding those long-lost emails easy, right? Right, so long as your Outlook search function is working. At times, Outlook search seems to give up, becoming unresponsive and returning no results.
An unresponsive search tool is useless. With that in mind, check out these seven ways to coax your Outlook search into working once more.
1. Rebuild the Outlook Index
To get you started, jump straight into this Outlook search fix that usually resolves the issue straight out of the gate. There are two ways of doing this. Both are quick and usually work.
Method 1: Use Programs and Features
Type control into the Windows 10 search bar and select the best match to open the Control Panel. Now, head to Programs > Programs & Features. Scroll down and select Outlook 2016 or Microsoft Office [your version].
Now, select Change from the top menu, as highlighted in the image below. You can now choose Quick Repair or Online Repair. Choose Quick Repair, then Repair, to fix the Outlook indexing issue without using your internet connection.
Let the process complete then restart your system.
Method 2: Use the Outlook Index Repair Menu Option
There is a second Outlook index repair menu option—you just need to know where to find it.
Open Outlook, then select File > Options > Search. Now, select Indexing Options, followed by Advanced.
Finally, select Rebuild, and click OK. This might well take a moment. After the rebuild is complete, restart your system.
Also: Double Check the Indexing Status
There is a quick way to check the Outlook indexing status.
Within Outlook, select the search bar. Then, select the Search tab from the menu bar. Now, select Search tools > Indexing status and see how many items are awaiting index. You can still use Outlook search while the remaining items get indexed, but you will encounter some omissions.
2. Check Outlook Index Locations
Next up, double-check that Outlook is on the list of indexed locations.
Open Outlook and head to File > Options > Search > Indexing Options. Select Modify from the Indexing Options panel. Make sure there is a check alongside Microsoft Outlook, then press OK.
Now, restart your system.
3. Fix Outlook Search Using the Registry
It is possible to repair Outlook search using the Windows Registry.
Press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog. Then, type regedit and press Enter to open the Registry Editor. Next, press Ctrl + F to open the search menu, then copy and paste the following registry key:
Once found, select the right-hand panel, then right-click and select New Dword (32-bit). Name the new Dword PreventIndexingOutlook and assign it the value 0.
Press OK, then restart your system.
4. Update Microsoft Office 2016
When was the last time your Office version updated? Your Outlook search issues might resolve by updating Office to the latest version.
Open Outlook. Head to File > Office Account (just Account for other Office programs). Check under Product Information for the Update Options drop-down menu. Select Update Now if available and let the process complete.
If you do not see any update options at all and there is only an About button, consider the following:
- Are you running a volume license issued by your workplace or similar?
- Have you made changes to your system Group Policy?
- Is your workplace or similar using a Group Policy to stop manual updates?
- Has someone else installed a pirate version of Office on your system?
You can always manually install a Microsoft Office update via their Office Updates download page.
5. Repair Your Outlook Personal Folder File (.PST)
Another option is to repair your Outlook personal folder file (.PST) using the Inbox Repair tool. Outlook search may encounter issues if your Outlook personal folder file is corrupt.
First, you need to find the repair tool. Its location is dependent on your Outlook version. You’re looking for scanpst.exe in one of the following locations:
- 32-bit Office 2016: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office16\
- 64-bit Office 2016: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office16\
- 64-bit Outlook 2016: 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\
You also need to know the location of your .pst file. Outlook 2010, 2013, and 2016 users should find their personal folder file at:
Now, right-click scanpst.exe and select Run as administrator. Hit Browse, then copy and paste your personal folder file location into the address bar. Select the relevant account, press Open, then Start. This process can take a few minutes but should fix your Outlook search problems.
6. Check the Outlook Indexing Group Policy Setting
This option is a slight long shot; if something has specifically changed this setting, you have other issues. But it is worth exploring every Outlook search-fix 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 panel.
Type gpedit in the Start menu search bar and select the best match.
Now, browse to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Search. Check Default excluded paths and Prevent indexing certain paths for alterations regarding Microsoft Outlook.
If the policy state is set to Not configured, you know this isn’t where your Outlook search problems stem from.
7. Reinstall Outlook
As a last resort, you can uninstall then reinstall Microsoft Outlook. Of course, this is time-consuming and not an ideal solution. But some users report that this last resort finally fixed their Outlook search issues.
The Outlook Search Continues…
These seven fixes should take care of every Outlook search failure. If your Outlook search isn’t working, don’t panic. Just work your way through the list.
In my experience, rebuilding and refreshing the Outlook search index usually gets things moving again. But if not, repairing the Outlook personal file is another reliable option.