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    Repair PST File

    How to Fix Outlook 2016 Search Problems [Comprehensive Guide]

    Table of Content

      Summary: This blog outlines Microsoft Outlook search problems such as ‘Outlook search not working’ or when Outlook returns no or incomplete results. It discusses the reasons and solutions to fix Outlook 2016 search problems. However, these solutions and workarounds can also be applied to Microsoft Office 365, Outlook 2021, 2019, 2013, and earlier versions.

      Microsoft Outlook features a search option that helps you find mail items, such as emails or messages based on keywords. You may further add filters to your Outlook search function to locate specific email items from a specific person much more quickly and efficiently.

      However, sometimes, you encounter issues with Outlook search, such as the search couldn’t be completed, the search function may not find any matches, the search function won’t work, etc. You may also experience the following problems when the Outlook search stops working or has 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
      • The search tab is not working or turns grey (specific to Outlook 2016)

      Reasons for Outlook Search Problems

      There could be multiple reasons that may lead to the Outlook search problems. These include:

      1. Indexing issues
      2. Corrupt or damaged Outlook data file (PST)
      3. Outdated Outlook version
      4. Incompatible or faulty add-ins
      5. Corrupt Outlook profile
      6. Limited or insufficient system resources, such as low RAM, storage, or processing power

      Solutions to Fix ‘Outlook Search not Working’ Issue

      Following are some workarounds that you can try to resolve the Outlook search is not working issue:

      Note:  : In case the Outlook search bar isn’t visible, go to File > Options > Customize. Select All Tabs under the ‘Choose commands from section. From the list of tab selections, select ‘Search, click ‘Add, and then click ‘OK’.

      Go to File > Options > Customize. Select All Tabs under ‘Choose commands from’ section.
      Fig 1: Add Search bar to Outlook

      Method 1. Restart Outlook

      First, restart Outlook and then check if the search is working. If not, it is recommended to restart the system. These problems can be temporarily caused by some glitches in the system or software. Restarting the system may fix these glitches and resolve search-related problems in Outlook.

      Method 2. Check the Outlook Indexing Status

      You may encounter problems with Outlook search if the indexing is incomplete or in pending status. You can 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 on ‘Search’ bar>Click ‘Search Tools’ drop-down and choose ‘Indexing Status…’
      Fig 2: Search Tools
      • Indexing Option
      Indexing option
      Fig 3: Indexing option
      • If the indexing is pending, the Outlook will start indexing. After the indexing is complete, you will see the Outlook has finished indexing all of your items’ message. Click OK.
      Indexing Status’ dialog box
      Fig 4: Indexing Status Loading
      • Loading Outlook Index Status
      indexing Status
      Fig 5: Indexing Final Status

      Note: Allow indexing to complete before using search. Although you can use the search function, you may not find the desired mail or get incomplete results due to incomplete indexing status.

      Method 3. Rebuild the Outlook Index

      If the indexing does not finish or keeps showing a loading status or indexing status pending, try rebuilding the Outlook index. There are two ways to rebuild the Outlook index:

      • Repair Outlook (MS Office)
      • Manually rebuild using Outlook options

      a. Rebuild Outlook Index by Repairing MS Office

      If the indexing does not finish or keeps showing a loading status or indexing status pending, try rebuilding the Outlook index. There are two ways to rebuild the Outlook index:

      • Go to Control Panel>Programs>Programs and Features.
      • Click on Outlook 2016 or Microsoft Office and then click on the ‘Change’ button at the top.
      Control Panel>Programs>Programs and Features.
      Fig 6: Repair Outlook or MS Office Installation
      • From the available options, choose ‘Repair’ and then click ‘Continue’.
      Select ‘Repair’ and click ‘Continue
      Fig 7: Repair Outlook Installation
      • This will begin repairing MS Office or Outlook 2016 installation.

      b. Using Outlook Index Repair Option

      Follow these steps to rebuild the Outlook Index using the Indexing Options:

      • In Outlook 2016, go to File > Options > Search.
      • Click on the Indexing Options… button.
      Go to File > Options > Search
      Fig 8: Rebuilding Outlook Index
      • Click ‘Microsoft Outlook and then click the Advanced button.
      Click ‘Microsoft Outlook’ and then click ‘Advanced
      Fig 8: MS Outlook Index status
      • Click Rebuild’ and then click OK’.
      Click ‘Rebuild’ and then click ‘OK’
      Fig 9: Rebuild MS Outlook 2016 Index
      • Click ‘OK’ to continue with Outlook Index Rebuild.
      Click Ok.
      Fig 10: Confirm Outlook Index Rebuild
      • Wait for the Indexing process to complete.
      Wait for the Indexing process to complete
      Fig 11: Indexing in progress

      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.

      open Indexing Options
      Fig 12: Access Indexing Options

      Method 4. Fix Incomplete Outlook 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.
      Open Outlook and go to File > Account Settings > Account Settings
      Fig 13: Access Outlook Account settings
      • Select your email account and then click Change’.
      • Drag the slider to All and then click Next’.
      Drag the slider to ‘All’ and then click ‘Next’
      Fig 14: Drag the slider to All and then click Next
      • Click OK when a prompt appears.
       Click ‘OK’ when a prompt appears
      Fig 15: Confirmation message
      • Click Finish to close the window and then restart Outlook.
      Click ‘Finish’ to close the window and then restart Outlook
      Fig 16: Finishing Offline setting wizard
      • After restarting, Outlook will index all the mail items. Once done, you can search for the desired emails.
      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 the 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.
      Go to File>Options>Search
      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 the ‘Include messages from Deleted items folder’ checkbox to improve search results.

      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 ‘Modify’ and then select ‘Repair’ option
      Fig 19: Modify MS Office Installation
      • Click Continue to repair the MS Office installation.
      Select Repair & press Continue
      Fig 20: Repair MS Office Installation

      Method 6. Repair 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 corrupt or damaged PST files. The tool comes integrated with all the versions of 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 on  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. The default PST file location in Windows is: C:\Users\YOURUSERNAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook.

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

      Click Browse to search Outlook Data File (PST) .
      Fig 22: Browse Outlook Data File (PST)
      • Click on the Start’ button to begin the Outlook data file scan process.
      Press Start to Scan the Outlook 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.’
      When scan completed, Press Repair
      Fig 24: Scan result displays errors in PST
      • After the repair, the following message is displayed. Click ‘OK’ to close it.
      PST repair complete, Now Press OK.
      Fig 25: PST repair complete

      Now, restart Outlook and check if the search not working in Outlook. The problem is resolved.

      Alternatively, you can use a PST repair tool, such as Stellar Repair for Outlook to repair the corrupt PST file. The software can also fix oversized, encrypted, or severely corrupt PST Outlook data files. It lets you save the repaired PST mail items to various file formats, such as MSG, PDF, HTML, RTF, and EML.

      Stellar Repair for Outlook Download button

      Method 7. Disable Add-ins

      Outlook add-ins help add features and improve productivity. However, sometimes, incompatible or outdated Outlook add-ins can lead to issues, such as Outlook crash, Outlook not responding, Outlook search problems, etc. Follow these steps to disable Outlook add-ins and fix the Outlook search issue:

      • In Outlook, go to File > Options > Add-ins.
      • In the Manage listselect COM Add-ins and click ‘Go’.
      Go to File > Options > Add-ins
      Fig 26: Disable Add-ins in Outlook
      • Clear the checkbox of the add-ins that you want to remove, and then click OK.
      Clear checkbox of all add-ins & Press Ok.
      Fig 27: Clear checkbox of add-ins
      • Restart the Microsoft Outlook.

      Method 8. Check System Resources

      Make sure your system has enough or sufficient resources to run Outlook and allow it to function properly. To check this,

      • Open the Task Manager. For this, right-click on the Task Bar and choose Open Task Manager. Alternatively, press CTRL+ALT+DEL key and then click Task Manager option to launch Task Manager.
      Task Manager
      Fig 28: Task Manager
      • Here, check the CPU and Memory usage while Outlook is running.
      • If you see high CPU usage and low RAM in the Task Manager, close the other apps to free up resources.
      • You may also add more RAM or upgrade to a better system.

      Method 9. Update Outlook and Windows

      Outdated Outlook or Windows may have bugs or glitches that may lead to search-related issues in Outlook or indexing problems. To resolve this, you can check and apply latest updates to Outlook and Windows OS. Below are the steps to update Outlook:

      1. Open Outlook.
      2. Go to File > Office Account (or Account in some versions).
      3. Under Product Information, select Update Options and then click Update Now.

      If the Update Now option is not available in your Outlook client, you can download and install Windows Updates to get the latest bug fixes and updates for MS Office, including Outlook.

      To update Windows OS,

      • Open Settings > Windows Updates or Settings > System and click Windows Updates.
      • Then, click the Check for Updates button.
      • If new updates are available, download and install them.
      • Then, restart the system and see if the search problem is resolved in Outlook.

      Method 10. Inspect Windows Search Service Status

      To inspect Windows Search Service status, follow the given steps:

      • Press Windows + R, type services.msc, and click ‘OK’.
      Press Windows+R, type services.msc, and click ‘OK’
      Fig 29: Access Services.msc
      • Scroll down and find ‘Windows Search’.
      Scroll down and find ‘Windows Search
      Fig 30: Check Windows Search status
      • Check if its ‘Status’ is ‘Running’. If not, right-click on ‘Windows Search’ and select ‘Start.
      Check if its ‘Status’ is ‘Running’. If not, right-click on ‘Windows Search’ and select ‘Start
      Fig 31: Starting Windows Search service
      • Then double click on ‘Windows Search and select ‘Automatic (Delayed Start)’ in ‘Startup Type drop-down.
      double click on ‘Windows Search’ and select ‘Automatic (Delayed Start)’ in ‘Startup Type’ drop-down
      Fig 32: 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.

      Method 11. Fix Outlook Search Issue via Windows Registry

      You can also try to resolve the Outlook search issue via Registry Editor in Windows. Here are the steps:

      • 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.
      Right-click on ‘Windows Search’ and select New>Dword (32-bit) Value
      Fig 33: Adding new registry- Outlook Search
      • Name the Dword as ‘PreventIndexingOutlook’.
      Name the Dword as ‘PreventIndexingOutlook’
      Fig 34: PreventIndexingOutlook registry entry
      • Double-click on PreventIndexingOutlook. Enter 0 in Value data: field and click ‘OK’.
      Double-click on PreventIndexingOutlook. Enter 0 in Value data: field and click ‘OK
      Fig 35: Changing Registry value
      • Reboot your system.
      For Troubleshooting Outlook search issues here is the Manual Guide


      You may face the ‘Outlook search not working’ issue due to incomplete Outlook indexing or corrupt PST file. You can follow the solutions mentioned above to resolve the issue. If the cause of the Outlook search problem is corrupt PST file, you can repair the 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 Outlook is a recommended solution for repairing 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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      MVP Recommendation for Stellar Repair for outlook
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      About The Author

      Eric Simson linkdin

      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.


      1. First of all, thank you for your article Eric.

        I had this issue with Outlook 2016 and tried everything you explained without success. I think the problem relies upon the Outlook PST file.

        When I click on it, in advanced properties, I check the “allow index” square and then apply, then I open outlook, but search still doesn’t work. Then I go back to my pst file and find that the index option is not checked.

      2. Hi,

        I am having a problem like this.

        Apart from the search function, some emails are missing from Outlook Mailbox. Due to the busy schedule, I haven’t taken backup of Outlook data file since last 15 days. So, it seems impossible to recover missing emails from Outlook 2016 folder.

        Please help me as soon possible!

        Alan Moore
        Denver, USA

        1. Follow the procedures as we have discussed in this tutorial for eliminating search issue. I hope, you would be successful to resolve this one ongoing issue.

          But, Recovery of missing emails is possible through repairing damaged Outlook PST file.

          1. That does not work on office 365 upgrade, only rebuilding the windows profile does the trick, tedious but other than that no go.

            We have a ticket into Microsoft about this issue with no fix thus far.

      3. Hi Eric,

        I did entire work in the following steps:

        1. Via ‘online mode’ Outlook 2016 is working fine for the search
        2. index rebuild three times.
        3. Remove unnecessary add-ins from MS Outlook menu bar
        4. Now, I am enjoying the adequate search result.

      4. Hi Eric,
        I am at a total loss. i have run the scanpst on my main .ost folder, as well as the other folders and for a while it seems that the search indexes and then it just seems to reset and omit all Outlook results / indexing. it gets stuck at 53 297 item indexed, but i another some 140000 items in mail that are not indexed.
        something odd is going on. i have checked the correct setting in the file / contents setting in indexing as well as rebuilt and restarted the PC numerous times. I have even recovered office on line (reinstall effectively) but this hasn’t helped either. please please can you help.

        1. Hi Andrew,

          Could you please let us the Outlook version you are working upon as solution varies from version to version.

          1. Hi Eric,

            It is version 16.0.6965.2058

            I have now completely uninstalled and reinstalled and it is still unable to search in outlook 2016.

            Looking forward to your assistance.


          2. Hello Andrew,

            A majority of Outlook users are getting the same experience with this version. To fix this issue adequately, we need to work on the compatibility of file contents as well as indexing in Outlook 2016.

            To solve this problem completely, go through set of instructions as follows:

            1. Open the File –> Options
            2. Now Click on ‘Search‘.
            3. Select “Indexing Options”.
            4. Then, click on “Advanced”.
            5. Now Go through “File Types” Tab
            6. Scroll down till you didn’t find ‘PST’ and check the box
            7. Now, Trick the radio button along “Index Properties and File Contents”.
            8. Repeat the same procedure for ‘OST’ file.
            9. Set “Plain Text Filter” and click on ‘OK’.
            10. Close the application

            In case, if you face any technical barrier then feel free to share with us.

          3. Hi Eric,

            It was the only solution that worked for me, then about a week later, Outlook 2016 search as back to not working again with the error “Search results may be incomplete”.

            It works, but it doesn’t access the index, and you have to wait. I’m convinced there’s a bug because Outlook 2013 search works fine on Windows 10 PC and doesn’t crap out like this.

          4. I have observed that the problem is related to damage in Outlook file. Can you help me on this one issue?

      5. I am getting the same i.e. Outlook search not working in Outlook 2013. From last few days, I encountered this problem whenever fired search query for any item in Outlook mailbox.
        During search over the internet, I came through this post but it is targeted to Outlook 2016 mail.

        Please help me!

        1. To fix the search not working issue in Outlook 2013, please follow the steps given below:

          1. Go to the File menu
          2. Click on the options.
          3. Go to the search setting
          4. Click on the Indexing Option
          5. In the indexing option Click on Advanced.
          6. Click on ‘Rebuild’
          7. Click ‘Ok’ and Close the Tab

          Above steps are effective to rebuild the search index again and you would be able for searching recent emails in Outlook.

          1. Still, Outlook 2016 instant search not working for me. I have tried this three times, going back to Outlook 10 because search is a critical function for me.

          2. If possible, please share the screenshot of the error. Then, we will try to fix this problem efficiently.

      6. Hi Eric,

        My Outlook 2016 becomes nightmare for me. Its search functionality has stopped working since 1st may. I have tried all methods mentioned above but didn’t get the expected result.

        However, I didn’t check PST corruption issue yet. I have no idea about ScanPST.exe file location.
        Can you provide the location of Scanpst.exe as I want to try the last solution provided by you in this post?

        Thanks in advance!

        1. Hello Daniel,
          In MS Outlook 2016, predefined location of ScanPST.exe is mentioned below:

          For 32-bit Windows PC:
          C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office16\

          For 64-bit Windows PC:
          C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office16\

          Do let us know if the problem still persist.

          1. Hi Eric,

            My searching is still not working, and it’s too slow. It first shows the result of 2015, 2016 and it takes ages to show the latest one.

            My outlook 2016 is already updated to the latest version(7870.2031) it says when I try to update it.

            Tried modifying indexing, rebuilding everything but nothing fruitful.

            Any suggestion would be really helpful.


        2. How about outlook 2013 shared mailbox that my inbox emails will go missing and then returned after I restarted my Outlook.

          Thank you.

          1. Somehow Outlook users accidentally move the location of ‘outlook data file’. In this situation, you should restart Outlook again.

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