Outlook Search is not Working- How to Fix

It was one of those days when you think everything’s running smoothly, then suddenly you’re hit with an unexpected roadblock. A last-minute project had popped up, and I needed to locate a critical email amongst the sea of messages stashed in my Outlook account. I knew exactly what I was looking for; it was an email I had stashed away months ago, holding key information I needed now. But just when I needed it the most, I found myself staring at my screen in disbelief, with the dreaded words flashing before me – Outlook search not working.

Having your email search function go down can feel like losing your car keys when you’re already late for work. You know they’re here somewhere, but the more you rummage around, the harder they seem to find. In the world of technology, we’re fortunate to have solutions at our fingertips, and a glitch in Outlook’s search function is no exception.

Outlook Search is not Working

So, whether you’re preparing for an important meeting, tackling a last-minute project, or simply trying to declutter your inbox, an uncooperative search function should never stand in your way. Don’t let “Outlook search not working” become your next stressor. Let’s dive into some practical steps you can take to navigate through this hiccup and reclaim your productivity.

Reasons the outlook search functionality might not be working

in windows

Your Outlook’s search function might cease to function for several reasons. Identifying the cause is the first step towards an effective solution.

Outdated Software: Often, outdated software is the culprit behind an unresponsive search function. Microsoft continually updates Outlook to enhance user experience and fix glitches. If you haven’t updated your Outlook in a while, it might be time to do so.

Indexing Issues: Sometimes, the problem lies within Outlook’s indexing system. Indexing involves cataloging data to facilitate quicker searches. If this system encounters an issue, your search function might stop working.

Large PST Files: Having large PST (Personal Storage Table) files can also affect the search function. These files store your emails, calendar events, and other Outlook data. If they become too large, it can hinder the search operation.

 in MAC OS

When the familiar “Outlook search not working” message appears on your Mac, it can halt your workflow and lead to frustration. There could be several reasons why this issue crops up, and knowing what they are can help you troubleshoot more effectively.

Firstly, one primary culprit is outdated software. If you’re running an older version of Outlook on your Mac, you may face this problem. Keeping your Outlook and Mac OS updated can significantly minimize such issues.

Secondly, problems with the Outlook Profile may also lead to dysfunctional search. The Profile might be corrupted or have incorrect settings. In this case, creating a new profile could resolve the issue.

Next, it could be a matter of Indexing. Outlook relies on Mac’s Spotlight feature to search your emails. If Outlook data is not correctly indexed by Spotlight, your search might not work. Checking your Spotlight preferences to ensure that Outlook data is being indexed is a necessary step.

Lastly, large mailbox can also be an issue. An overstuffed mailbox might slow down or even halt your search functionality. Regularly cleaning and managing your mailbox can help keep search performance optimal.

How to fix outlook search is not working

1. Close and restart Outlook

Ever find yourself exasperated with an unresponsive Outlook search function? Don’t fret. Before delving into complex solutions, an often overlooked yet surprisingly effective approach is simply to close and restart Outlook.

Closing and restarting an application is a classic troubleshooting step that works more often than you’d think. If your Outlook search stops working, this quick action can help reset the application and clear minor glitches causing the hiccup. Here’s how you do it: navigate to the ‘File’ menu, select ‘Exit’, then restart Outlook from your computer’s program list.

However, remember that restarting Outlook is just the first step in a series of troubleshooting actions. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, it might be due to outdated software, indexing issues, or large PST files. In such cases, consider software updates, rebuilding the index, or managing your PST files.

2. Restart your computer

Restarting your computer might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a powerful tool often underestimated in resolving tech issues. If “Outlook search not working” is your current concern, a system restart could be the lifesaver you need. When your PC runs for an extended period, it’s likely to accumulate temporary files and programs running in the background, eating up resources. A simple restart clears this clutter, freeing up system resources and potentially rectifying minor glitches affecting your Outlook search function.

Here’s what you need to do: Click the ‘Start’ button, choose ‘Power’, and then select ‘Restart’. This straightforward procedure could restore your Outlook search to its regular functionality.

3. Make sure Outlook is up to date

Dealing with the “Outlook search not working” issue? Here’s a simple yet impactful measure to take – make sure your Outlook is up to date. Having the latest version of Outlook can easily resolve this frustrating problem.

Updating your software ensures that you’re equipped with the latest bug fixes and improvements. To check for updates in Outlook, go to File > Office Account > Update Options > Update Now. Regularly updating your software can prevent many issues, including search problems.

4. Reinstall Outlook

When it comes to the “Outlook search not working” issue, one final measure to consider, often a last resort, is to reinstall Outlook. This action can resolve a variety of deep-seated issues that lesser measures might not address. Reinstalling essentially gives you a fresh start, eliminating any lingering glitches that might impede your Outlook search functionality.

Before you proceed with reinstallation, it’s crucial to back up your data. Whether it’s important emails, contacts, or calendar events, ensure that you have safely stored these elsewhere. Once your data is secure, you can uninstall Outlook via the Control Panel. After this, a fresh install from the official Microsoft Office website should equip you with a clean version of Outlook.

How to fix Outlook Search not working


1. Run the Windows Search Troubleshooter

When dealing with the notorious “Outlook search not working” issue, running the Windows Search Troubleshooter is a vital step. It’s a built-in Windows tool designed to identify and fix common problems, including Outlook’s search function glitches.

When your Outlook search feature stops cooperating, the Windows Search Troubleshooter can be your knight in shining armor. It scans your system, identifies issues with the search and indexing services, and attempts to fix them automatically. To use it, head over to your Windows Settings, select ‘Update & Security’, then ‘Troubleshoot’, and finally, run the ‘Search and Indexing’ troubleshooter.

2. Ensure that Outlook is being indexed for search

Indexing in Outlook plays a crucial role in the functionality of the search feature.

Indexing is the process where Outlook catalogues your emails and other data, making it readily searchable. If Outlook isn’t correctly indexed, your search function may fail to deliver the results you need. You can ensure that Outlook is properly indexed by navigating to Outlook’s Search Options under File > Options > Search > Indexing Options. Confirm that Outlook is listed in the indexed locations.

3. Make sure Outlook messages are indexed

When you’re facing the vexing issue of “Outlook search not working,” verifying that your Outlook messages are being indexed correctly can provide a vital solution. Indexing your emails is crucial for an effective search function, as it catalogs your messages, allowing them to be swiftly located.

In essence, indexing is like a library’s catalog system. It organizes your emails so that when you use the search function, Outlook can quickly find what you’re looking for. You can ensure that your messages are being indexed by going to File > Options > Search > Indexing Options in Outlook, then verifying that ‘Microsoft Outlook’ is selected.

4. Rebuild the Outlook Index

The index is a catalog of your data, pivotal for Outlook’s search functionality. If this index is corrupted or outdated, it might lead to search hiccups.

To restore your search capability, rebuilding the index is a straightforward task. Navigate to Outlook’s Search Options via File > Options > Search. Click on “Indexing Options”, then “Advanced”, and finally, “Rebuild”. This process might take some time, but patience here is crucial.

5. Managing PST Files

When you’re battling the stubborn “Outlook search not working” issue, one of the substantial and effective solutions to consider is repairing your Outlook Personal Folder File (PST). These files are key data containers for your Outlook, housing your emails, contacts, and more. If corrupted, they can directly contribute to search issues.

To repair your PST file, Microsoft provides a valuable tool known as the ‘Inbox Repair Tool’ or ‘scanpst.exe’. You can find this tool in your Office installation folder. Run the tool, select your PST file (you can find the file location from within Outlook by checking File > Account Settings > Data Files), and let the tool do its magic. It’ll scan and repair any issues within your PST file.

6. Fix Outlook Search Using the Registry

If you’re still facing the “Outlook search not working” issue after exploring all other solutions, there’s another method to consider – fixing Outlook Search using the registry. However, bear in mind, this should be your last resort as editing the registry can be risky.

Before proceeding, ensure you have a full backup of your data. In case of any errors, this will allow you to restore your system to its previous state. To use this method, open the Registry Editor, navigate to the ‘Search’ registry key, and modify specific values as per the guidance provided by Microsoft.

Nonetheless, remember that modifying the registry is an advanced solution and should only be considered when other methods like managing PST files, rebuilding the Outlook index, and checking Outlook index locations have failed.

Read more: 5xx error duolingo

7. Check the Outlook Indexing Group Policy Setting

If you’re tackling the “Outlook search not working” issue, another technical, yet important, aspect to consider is checking the Outlook Indexing Group Policy setting. It’s a crucial part of the system that governs how Outlook interacts with the Windows search index.

You can verify this setting via the Group Policy Editor. Navigate to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Microsoft Outlook > Search. Ensure that the ‘Prevent Indexing Microsoft Office Items’ setting is not enabled. If it is, your Outlook items will be excluded from the index, hindering your search functionality.


Lets see some fixes in addition to regular restart of the system, uninstalling and installing the application and updates as in any other OS : 

1. Create a New Outlook Profile

Sometimes, the “Outlook search not working on Mac” issue can be traced back to problems with your Outlook profile. A corrupted profile could be the hidden culprit causing this problem. Creating a new Outlook profile is an effective solution to tackle this.

How to Create a New Outlook Profile on Mac:
  1. Quit Microsoft Outlook if it’s currently open.
  2. Go to the “Finder,” click on “Go” in the menu bar, hold down the Option key and select “Library.”
  3. Open the “Group Containers” folder, find the folder with a name ending in “.Office,” and rename it (for example, add “.old” at the end). This step is crucial as it helps you preserve your old data.
  4. Restart Outlook. It will automatically create a new profile for you.

Remember to add your email account to this new profile. Here’s how:

  1. Open Outlook and click on “Outlook” in the menu bar.
  2. Select “Preferences.”
  3. Under “Personal Settings,” click on “Accounts.”
  4. Click on the “+” symbol at the bottom to add your account and follow the instructions.

Creating a new profile often fixes the search function. However, bear in mind that this solution may result in loss of certain settings and data, which is why we recommend renaming the old profile rather than deleting it. If the problem persists, there are still other solutions to explore.

2. Check Your Spotlight Preferences

Spotlight is an integral part of search functionality on your Mac, and it includes Outlook in its purview. If you’re experiencing issues with your Outlook search on Mac, it’s worth taking a moment to check your Spotlight preferences. It might just be that your Outlook isn’t selected for indexing in Spotlight.

How to Check and Adjust Spotlight Preferences on Mac:
  1. Go to the Apple menu in the top-left corner of your screen and select “System Preferences.”
  2. Next, select “Spotlight” from the System Preferences menu.
  3. You’ll see a list under the “Search Results” tab. This list determines which categories Spotlight uses when performing searches. Ensure “Mail & Messages” is checked. If it’s unchecked, Spotlight won’t index or search your Outlook data.

If you can’t see any improvements even after adjusting your Spotlight preferences, you might have to rebuild the Spotlight index. However, this should be your last resort, as it can be time-consuming.

Keep in mind that adjusting your Spotlight preferences will not only affect your Outlook search but will also influence how searches are conducted on your Mac overall. You may want to consider this before making any significant changes to your Spotlight preferences.

3. Manage Your Mailbox

One crucial aspect that may affect your Outlook search functionality on Mac is the state of your mailbox. An overloaded, unorganized mailbox can result in poor search results and slow response times. It’s advisable to declutter and manage your mailbox effectively to keep your search function running smoothly.

How to Manage Your Outlook Mailbox on Mac:
  1. Reduce Email Clutter: Regularly delete unnecessary emails and empty your “Deleted Items” folder to prevent your mailbox from getting overwhelmed.
  2. Organize with Folders: Use folders to categorize your emails. It not only keeps your mailbox tidy but also simplifies the search process.
  3. Archiving: Archive old emails that you don’t actively need but don’t want to delete either. This keeps your primary mailbox leaner and quicker.
  4. Limit the Sync: You can change the amount of mail that is synced to your computer. Go to Account settings, then under “Mail to keep offline,” select a shorter timeframe.

Remember, a well-organized mailbox is not just conducive for a smooth search operation, but it also helps you manage your professional commitments more efficiently. If managing your mailbox doesn’t resolve the “Outlook search not working on Mac” problem, proceed with other solutions.


To wrap up, issues with Outlook search not working can be a thorn in the side of any user. However, with the practical steps we’ve outlined, from checking software updates to managing your mailbox, and from indexing adjustments to profile management, you can navigate this challenge efficiently. These strategies offer you a robust toolbox to counter and resolve Outlook’s search hiccups, keeping your workflow seamless. Always remember, if issues persist, Microsoft Support is ready to assist. Now, you’re well-equipped to conquer any Outlook search challenge. Happy emailing!

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes the “Outlook search not working on Mac” issue?

Multiple factors, such as outdated software, incorrect Spotlight preferences, or an overloaded mailbox, can cause this issue.

How can I fix the “Outlook search not working” issue?

Updates, re-indexing, adjusting Spotlight preferences, managing your mailbox, or creating a new Outlook profile are common solutions.

What is Spotlight Preferences on Mac?

Spotlight is the Mac search system, indexing all files for quick searches. Its preferences control what gets indexed.

How do I manage my Outlook mailbox?

Declutter regularly, organize emails into folders, archive old emails, and limit email sync to manage your mailbox.

Leave a Comment