Summary: This blog outlines Microsoft Outlook search problems such as ‘Outlook search not working’ and ‘returns no or incomplete results’. It also describes workarounds on ‘how to fix Outlook problems’. These workarounds apply to Microsoft Office 365, Outlook 2019, 2016, and 2013.
MicrosoftOutlook features a search option that helps you find email items based on keywords. You may further add filters to your Outlook search function to locate specific email items much more quickly. Sometimes, you encounter problems with the Outlook search function such as Outlook search does not find any matches and won’t work.
When Outlook search does not work properly, you may experience any of these issues:
Outlook fails to return any search results
Outlook search not showing all results
Outlook search not showing recent emails or can’t find older emails
Outlook search does not find any matches
Search tab not working, turns grey (specific to Outlook 2016)
How to Fix ‘Outlook Search not Working?’
Following are some workarounds that you can try to resolve Outlook 2016 search not working issues:
Fix Outlook Indexing Status
Fix Incomplete Search Results Problem
Fix Greyed Out Search Bar in Outlook 2016
Fix Personal Folder Outlook Data File (.PST)
Inspect Windows Search Service
Fix Outlook 2016 Search Issue via Windows Registry
Note: In case, the Outlook search bar isn’t visible, perform the below steps or else proceed with the following workarounds.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’ (refer to Fig 1 below).
Note: If you find that problem is due to damage in an Outlook PST file then, try PST file recovery softwareto make Outlook error-free and to fix “outlook 2016 search not working” related problems.
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 like Outlook search by date or may show that items based on search criteria waiting to be indexed in the output panel. This indicates 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…’
Click ‘OK’ when the ‘Outlook has finished indexing all of your items‘ message is displayed within the ‘Indexing Status’ dialog box.
When the indexing is complete, Outlook will display mailboxes awaiting to be indexed. You can use the search function but may not find the desired mails or get incomplete results due to incomplete indexing status. So, if the indexing does not finish, try rebuilding the Outlook index.
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 the ‘Change’ button at the top.
Select ‘Repair’ and click ‘Continue’.
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.
Click ‘Microsoft Outlook’ and then click ‘Advanced’ button.
Click ‘Rebuild’ and then click ‘OK’.
Click ‘OK’ to continue with Outlook Index Rebuild.
Wait for the Indexing process to complete.
Once the Indexing process is complete, check if the ‘Microsoft Outlook search not working’ issue is resolved. Once the Indexing process is complete, check if the ‘Microsoft Outlook search not working’ issue is resolved.
TIP:You may also search and open ‘Indexing Options’ from the Control Panel (as shown in the image below).
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 search results. Follow these steps:
Open Outlook and go to File > Account Settings > Account Settings.
Select your email account and then click ‘Change’.
Drag the slider to ‘All’ and then click ‘Next’.
Click ‘OK’ when a prompt appears.
Click ‘Finish’ to close the window and then restart Outlook.
After restarting, Outlook will index all the mail items. Once done, you can search for the desired mails.
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.
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. To do so, follow these steps:
In Windows 10 PC, go to Settings > Apps.
Search and click on Microsoft Office.
Click ‘Modify’ and then select ‘Repair’ option.
Click ‘Continue’ to repair the MS Office installation which may fix the greyed out search bar issue in Outlook 2016.
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\
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.
Click on the ‘Start’ button to begin the Outlook data file scan process.
After the scan, if the Inbox Repair Tooldetects any error, it displays the following screen. Click ‘Repair.’
After the repair, the following message is displayed. Click ‘OK’ to close it.
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 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, Outlook not responding, or Outlook search problems.
Follow these steps to disable Outlook add-ins and fix the Outlook search issue:
In Outlook, and go to File > Options > Add-ins.
In Managelist, select COM Add-ins and click ‘Go’.
Clear the checkbox of the add-ins that you want to remove, and then click ‘OK’.
6. Inspect Windows Search Service Status
To inspect Windows Search Service status, follow the given steps:
Press Windows+R, type services.msc, and click ‘OK’.
Scroll down and find ‘Windows Search’.
Check if its ‘Status’ is ‘Running’. If not, right-click on ‘Windows Search’ and select ‘Start’.
Then double click on ‘Windows Search’ and select ‘Automatic (Delayed Start)’ in ‘Startup Type’ drop-down.
Click ‘OK’ and close all windows.
Restart Windows PC and Outlook to check if the Outlook search problem is resolved.
7. Fix Outlook 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’.
Right-click on ‘Windows Search’ and select New>Dword (32-bit) Value.
Name the Dword as ‘PreventIndexingOutlook’.
Double-click on PreventIndexingOutlook. Enter 0 in Value data: field and click ‘OK’.
You may face ‘Outlook search not working’ issue due to incomplete Outlook indexing or corrupt PST file. This blog helps you understand various Outlook 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). These utilities can repair PST file and recover the entire mailbox data. After the damaged PST file is repaired, the ‘Search’ feature in Outlook should work properly.
Stellar Repair for Outlookis 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.
Eric Simson is an Email Platform Consultant and is associated with Stellar Data Recovery from last 6 years. He writes about the latest technology tips and provides custom solutions related to MS Outlook, MS Exchange Server, Office 365, and many other Email Clients & Servers.