How to Fix Outlook 2016 Search Problems [Comprehensive Guide]

Summary: Outlook features a search option that helps find email items based on keywords. You may further add filters to your search query and locate specific email items much more quickly. However, if your Outlook 2016 search is not working properly or not displaying all results, it indicates Microsoft Outlook search problem. This comprehensive guide helps you troubleshoot and resolve Outlook 2016 search issues in a Windows PC.

When Outlook search does not work properly, you may experience the following issues—

  • Outlook fails to return any search results
  • Outlook 2016 search not showing all results
  • Outlook fails to find older or recent emails
  • Outlook search does not find any matches
  • Search tab not working, turns grey (specific to Outlook 2016)
Note: If you find that problem is due to damage in MS Outlook PST database file then, try PST file recovery software to make Outlook error-free and to fix “outlook 2016 search not working” related problems.

In case, the search bar isn’t visible, follow these steps:

  • Go to File>Options>Customize
  • Select All Tabs under ‘Choose commands from’ section.
  • From the list of tab selections, select ‘Search’, click ‘Add’, and then click ‘OK’.
outlook search not working
Fig 1: Add Search bar to Outlook

Solutions to Fix Outlook 2016 Search Problems

Based on different issues in Outlook 2016 search, there could be several solutions which are as follows:

  • Fix Outlook Indexing Status
  • Fix Incomplete Search Results Problem
  • Fix Greyed Out Search bar in Outlook 2016
  • Fix Personal Folder Outlook Data File (.PST)
  • Disable Add-ins
  • Inspect Windows Search Service
  • Fix Outlook 2016 Search issue via Windows Registry

1. Fix Outlook Indexing Status

When the Outlook indexing tool is not working or not functioning properly, it may not show recent emails in search results. Further, it may display results up to a particular like outlook search by date or may show that there are items based on search criteria waiting to be indexed in the output panel. In such cases, there could be a problem with the Outlook Indexing services.

To check the indexing status in Outlook 2016, follow these steps:

  • Open Outlook 2016 and click on ‘Search’ bar.
  • Click ‘Search Tools drop-down and choose ‘Indexing Status…’
Outlook Indexing status
Fig 2: Search Tools
Loading Outlook Index Status
Fig 3: Loading Outlook Index Status

This displays the number of mailboxes awaiting index. You can use the search function but may not find the desired mails or get incomplete results due to incomplete indexing status.

Steps to Rebuild the Outlook Index

There are two different ways to rebuild the Outlook index and resolve the Outlook 2016 search issue.

a.      Repair MS Office Installation

  • Go to Control Panel>Programs>Programs and Features.
  • Click on Outlook 2016 or Microsoft Office [VERSION].
  • Click ‘Change’ button at the top.
Repair Outlook or MS Office Installation
Fig 4: Repair Outlook or MS Office Installation
  • Select ‘Repair’ and click ‘Continue’.
Repair Outlook Installation to fix Outlook Search issue
Fig 5: Repair Outlook Installation
  • This will begin repairing MS Office or Outlook 2016 installation that may fix the Outlook 2016 search issue.

b.     Using Outlook Index Repair Option

Outlook 2016 also features ‘Indexing options…’ to fix Outlook index related issues. Follow these steps to rebuild the Outlook Index and fix the Outlook search problem,

  • In Outlook 2016, go to File>Options>Search.
  • Click on the Indexing Options… button.
Rebuilding Outlook Index
Fig 6: Rebuilding Outlook Index
  • Click ‘Microsoft Outlook and then click Advanced button.
MS Outlook Index status
Fig 7: MS Outlook Index status
  • Click Rebuild’ and then click OK’.
Option to Rebuild MS Outlook 2016 Index
Fig 8: Rebuild MS Outlook 2016 Index
Confirm Outlook Index Rebuild
Fig 9: Confirm Outlook Index Rebuild
Outlook Indexing in progress
Fig 10: Indexing in progress

TIP: You may also search and open ‘Indexing Options’ from the Control Panel.

Access Indexing Options via Control Panel
Fig 11: Access Indexing Options

2. Fix Incomplete Search Results Problem

If the search results are incomplete or missing older email items, apply the following methods:

a.      Increase Email Sync Slider

This will enable Outlook to sync and index the older emails that may be missing in the Outlook 2016 search results.

  • Open Outlook 2016 and go to File > Account Settings > Account Settings.
Access Outlook Account settings
Fig 12: Access Outlook Account settings
  • Select your email account and then click Change’.
Change the Offline Settings in MS Outlook
Fig 13: Change the Offline Settings
  • Drag the slider to All and then click Next’.
Move Slider to ALL to enable search of older mails
Fig 14: Move Slider to ALL
  • Click OK when a prompt appears.
 Confirmation message for slider setting
Fig 15: Confirmation message
  • Click Finish to close the window and then restart Outlook.
Finishing Outlook Offline setting wizard
Fig 16: Finishing Offline setting wizard
  • After restarting, Outlook will index all the mail items. Once done, you can search for the desired mails.
Outlook syncing older emails (Status Bar)
Fig 17: Outlook syncing older emails

b.      Allow Search to Display All Results

When you enter a search query in Outlook, it displays 250 search results by default. To show all results, follow these steps:

NOTE: This will show you all results but the search will be slower.

  • Open Outlook and go to File>Options>Search.
Clear Improve search speed
Fig 18: Clear Improve search speed … checkbox
  • Unselect the Improve search speed by limiting the number of results shown’ checkbox.
  • Click OK and restart the Outlook.

TIP: You may click ‘Include messages from Deleted items folder …’ checkbox to improve search results.

3. Fix Greyed Out Search bar in Outlook 2016

To fix the greyed out search bar, you need to repair the MS Office or Outlook 2016 installation.

Follow these steps:

  • In Windows 10 PC, go to Settings>Apps. 
  • Search and click on Microsoft Office.
  • Click ‘Modify’ and then select ‘Repair’ option.
Modify MS Office Installation
Fig 19: Modify MS Office Installation
  • Click Continue to repair the MS Office installation which may fix the greyed out search bar issue in Outlook 2016.
Repair MS Office Installation to fix Outlook issues
Fig 20: Repair MS Office Installation

4. Fix Personal Folder Outlook Data File (.PST)

A corrupt Outlook data file (.pst) can cause severe issues including Outlook search problems. However, Outlook provides an Inbox Repair Tool or SCANPST.EXE to analyze and repair a corrupt or damaged PST file. The tool comes integrated with all the versions of Microsoft Outlook email client.

The default PST file location in Windows is C:\Users\YOURUSERNAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook

To access and use the SCANPST.EXE tool, follow these steps:

  • Open File Explorer and go to C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office16\

Or C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office16\

Access SCANPST.EXE tool
Fig 21: Access SCANPST.EXE tool
  • Find and double-click on SCANPST.EXE
  • Click Browse to choose the corrupt Outlook PST file.

NOTE: SCANPST.EXE supports the PST file of size up to 2GB. It doesn’t support an encrypted PST file.

Browse Outlook Data File (PST)
Fig 22: Browse Outlook Data File (PST)
  • Click on the Start’ button to begin the Outlook data file scan process.
SCANPST.EXE scanning the PST file
Fig 23: SCANPST.EXE scanning the PST file
  • After the scan, if the Inbox Repair Tool detects any error, it displays the following screen. Click ‘Repair.’
Scan result displays errors in PST
Fig 24: Scan result displays errors in PST
  • After the repair, the following message is displayed. Click ‘OK’ to close it.
PST repair complete
Fig 25: PST repair complete

Now you may restart Outlook and check if the Outlook search problem is resolved.

Alternatively, you can use a PST repair tool such as Stellar Repair for Outlook to fix a corrupt PST file. The software can also fix oversized, encrypted, or severely corrupt PST Outlook data file.

It not only helps resolve Outlook 2016 search problems by fixing corrupt PST files but also lets you save the repaired PST mail items to various file formats such as MSG, PDF, HTML, RTF, and EML.

5. Disable Add-ins

Outlook add-ins help add features and improve productivity. However, sometimes an incompatible or outdated Outlook add-in can cause chaos and lead to issues such as Outlook crash or Outlook search problems.

Follow these steps to disable Outlook add-ins and fix the Outlook search issue:

  • Open Outlook 2016 and go to File > Options > Add-ins.
  • In Manage list, select COM Add-ins and click ‘Go’.
Steps to disable Add-ins in Outlook
Fig 26: Disable Add-ins in Outlook
  • Clear the check for add-ins and click OK.
Clear checkbox of all add-ins
Fig 27: Clear checkbox of add-ins
  • Restart Outlook 2016.

6. Inspect Windows Search Service Status

  • Press Windows+R, type services.msc, and click ‘OK’.
Access Services.msc
Fig 28: Access Services.msc
  • Scroll down and find ‘Windows Search’.
Check Windows Search status
Fig 29: Check Windows Search status
  • Check if its ‘Status’ is ‘Running’. If not, right-click on ‘Windows Search’ and select ‘Start.
Starting Windows Search service
Fig 30: Starting Windows Search service
  • Then double click on ‘Windows Search and select ‘Automatic (Delayed Start)’ in ‘Startup Type drop-down.
Changing Startup Type of Windows Search Properties
Fig 31: Startup Type of Windows Search
  • Click OK and close all windows.
  • Restart Windows PC and Outlook to check if the Outlook search problem is resolved.

7. Fix Outlook 2016 Search Issue via Windows Registry

  • Press Windows+R, type Regedit and click ‘OK’. This opens the Registry Editor.
  • Paste the following registry key location in the address bar and press ‘Enter’.

Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Search

  • Right-click on ‘Windows Search’ and select New>Dword (32-bit) Value.
Adding new registry to enable Outlook Search
Fig 32: Adding new registry- Outlook Search
  • Name the Dword as ‘PreventIndexingOutlook’.
PreventIndexingOutlook registry entry
Fig 33: PreventIndexingOutlook registry entry
  • Double-click on PreventIndexingOutlook. Enter 0 in Value data: field and click ‘OK’.
Changing Registry value to fix Outlook 2016 Search Problem
Fig 34: Changing Registry value
  • Reboot system.
Fix Outlook 2016 Search Problems

Conclusion

In Outlook 2016 search not working issue is one of the several problems that you may face while using the software. Most probably, the cause behind search-related issues is incomplete Outlook indexing or corrupt PST file. This guide helps you understand various Outlook 2016 search problems and details several troubleshooting methods to fix these problems.

For instance, if the cause of the Outlook search problem is a corrupt Outlook data file, you can repair the PST file by using Stellar Repair for Outlook or  Inbox Repair Tool (scanpst.exe). Both of these utilities can repair PST file and recover the entire mailbox data. After the damaged PST file is repaired, the ‘Search’ feature in Outlook 2016 should work properly.

Stellar Repair for Outlook is a recommended solution for fixing such issues caused by corrupt PST files as it provides several advantages over the SCANPST.EXE tool. The software supports encrypted Outlook data files, shows a preview of recovered mailbox data before saving, saves the recovered Outlook data file in multiple file formats, and more.

It works in almost all situations when the Inbox repair tool fails to resolve the issue. Check what the other MVPs and other experts have to say about this software: Click Here.

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