Microsoft Outlook is the most popular and widely used email client. Earlier you can purchase the app separately and now it comes as part of Microsoft 365 subscription. Though popular, Outlook app has limitations especially with its search functions. If you are stuck with Outlook search not working properly in Windows Desktop app, here are some of the fixes you can try.
Note: Outlooks comes in different versions for Windows Desktop, Mac, iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. In this article, we primarily focus on Windows 11 Desktop version and do not confuse if you are using other versions.
Outlook Email Search Issues
Outlook Microsoft 365 version has a search box on top the app. You can simply start typing in the search box to see the suggested results and press enter to open the complete list of search results.
Here are some of the problems you may face while using the search box in Outlook Windows Desktop app.
- Emails showing in the results are not accurate or incorrect.
- Latest emails are not showing in the search results.
- No emails are showing in the results.
These issues can easily annoy you as you cannot find the correct emails affecting your productivity and wasting time. Note that Outlook also offers contact or people search option. In this article, we will focus on email searching and not contact searching feature.
1. Select Correct Search Scope
By default, Outlook app will search only within the current mailbox. This will restrict the results when you have multiple emails accounts added in the app. So, when the search is not showing emails from multiple accounts, search scope is the first thing you should check.
- Click inside the search box and click the small down arrow appears.
- This will open search scope or filter options.
- Click “Search In” dropdown and select “All Mailboxes” or “All Outlook Items” option.
- Remove any other filters you have applied like keywords or dates.
Now check the search shows expected results including the items from all mailboxes. Remember, the settings will be applied to single search and if you want to permanently change the settings to include all email inboxes, check the option 5.
2. Update Outlook to Latest Version
Sometimes Outlook has bugs that could prevent from showing correct results. There are two possible ways the updates could cause problems in Outlook search.
- One is that you have disabled Office app updates and using outdated version for long time. This could cause conflict with Windows Search service and potentially affect the searching function in Outlook. Remember, Outlook uses the default Windows Search indexing feature. Hence, there are lot of possibilities the build versions of Outlook and Windows could result in conflicts.
- Second is that the latest Outlook update might have caused some problem. In this case, you need to simply check if Microsoft released any patch for fixing the issue and update the latest available build.
For both cases, go to “File” menu in Outlook app and select “Office Account” option. If you have disabled the updates, the “Update Options” section will show in yellow color with the message, “The product will not be updated”. Click on that “Update Options” button and select “Enable updates” to start receiving automatic updates for your Office products. Remember, changing this option will affect all Office apps inducing Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.
After enabling the update, click on “Update Now” option to launch the Office update assistant and install the latest build of Outlook.
When you have the latest Outlook app version, check whether this resolved your search issue. If required, you can check the Microsoft Outlook version history page to understand content of the latest releases.
3. Include Outlook in Search Index
As mentioned, Outlook uses Windows Search feature for indexing the emails. If you have mistakenly excluded Outlook app in the Windows Search, then the function will not work at all.
- Click “File” menu in Outlook and go to “Options”.
- This will open “Outlook Options” dialog box and go to “Search” section.
- Click on “Indexing Options…” button under “Sources” section.
- This will open Windows Search indexing settings box and check whether Microsoft Outlook is showing under “Index these locations” section. Also make sure the app or any Outlook relevant folder is not excluded.
- If there is an exclusion or the app is not showing in the list, click on “Modify” button.
- Select Microsoft Outlook under “Change selected locations” section and make sure the app is showing under “Summary of selected locations” section.
- Click “OK” button to apply the changes and follow the next step to rebuild the search index.
4. Rebuild Outlook Search Index
Regardless of the above step, the problems in Windows Search index can cause issues with Outlook email search. You can rebuild the index to delete previously indexed files and locations to start with a new data.
- When you are in “Indexing Options” dialog box, click on “Advanced” button.
- Make sure you are in “Index Settings” tab and click on “Rebuild” button under “Troubleshooting” section.
- Windows will show you a warning that rebuilding index will take longer time and you will see incorrect search results till the tie indexing is completed.
- Click “OK” button and wait for the status to complete. You can view the indexing status on top of the “Indexing Options” dialog box. Alternatively, press “Control + E” to focus the search box which will show “Search” menu in Outlook. Click on the “More Commands” option and select “Search Tools > Indexing Status…” option. This will show a pop-up and make sure the status is showing Outlook has finished indexing all your items”.
Once rebuilding index is completed, you should see the correct search results in Outlook if that was the root cause.
5. Customizing Search Settings
Outlook will restrict the search results to 250 emails to avoid slow performance. You can customize few Outlooks search settings including results limit to make sure those limitations are not your problem. Go to “File > Options”, navigate to “Search” tab and check under “Results” section.
You have the following settings to change:
- Set the search scope to include current folder, current mailbox or all mailboxes. Select “All mailboxes” option for permanently including emails from all your accounts when use the top search box.
- Include or exclude items from “Deleted Items” folders.
- Disable or enable the search results limit. We recommend enabling the search limit to avoid Outlook app crashing when you have lot of emails.
- Enable highlighting the search keywords in the result and choose the highlighter color.
- Allow showing notification when the search result is restricted when indexing is not completed. Make sure to check this box to understand the issue is due to indexing problem.
- Enable showing more relevant results on top which will help to find the correct emails easily.
6. Update Windows OS
The next solution is to update the Windows OS version to the latest available build. There are lot of history that Windows updates affect the Outlook search function. It could be a release update or upgrading from older to newer version like Windows 10 to Windows 11. Your Windows version may affect the Outlook app in two ways similar to Outlook app update as explained above in option 2.
- If your previous Windows update caused the problem, then check out our guide on how to revert back Windows update.
- If you have paused or disabled Windows update, then we strongly recommend updating to latest version. Press “Win + I” keys to open Settings app and go to “Windows Updates” section. There you can check for the latest available updates to download and install on your computer.
7. Troubleshoot Outlook Windows Desktop App
There are two option to troubleshoot Outlook app in Windows Desktop version. First option is to use Microsoft Support Recovery Assistant tools to automatically troubleshoot your Outlook issues and fix them. Though the purpose of these tools is to fix starting, sending and connection problems, you can also check they help fixing your searching issue. Second option is to use the default Windows 11 app repair function to launch Office repairing wizard and fix the problem.
- Go to Settings app and then navigate to “Apps > Apps & features” section.
- Search for Outlook of Office or 365 in the “App list” search box to filter the Office installation in your computer.
- Click the three vertical dots icon and select “Modify” option from the list.
- This will launch Office repairing assistant offering quick and online repair options. First try quick repair option and if that did not fix your issue then go to online repair.
Note: This is for repairing your entire Office programs including other apps like Word and Excel. Therefore, do this only after trying all the other options explained above.
8. Disable Windows Search Service
As mentioned, Outlook uses Windows Search service and you can try to disable that to allow Outlook to use its own search function. However, you need to edit the registry for this purpose. Make sure to take a backup of your registry entries before you try this though you can easily revert the changes.
- Press “Win + R” key to open Run prompt.
- Type regedit in the box and press “OK” button to open Registry Editor.
- Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows section. You can copy paste this path in registry editor’s address bar and press enter key to reach the location.
- Right click on the empty area, select “New > Key” and name the key as Windows Search.
- Now, select the Windows Search key and right-click on the empty area. Select “New > DWORD (32-bit) Value” and name the DWORD as PreventIndexingOutlook.
- Double click on the PreventIndexingOutlook and enter 1 for “Value Data”.
- Click “OK” button apply your changes and enable Outlook to use its own search function instead of Windows Search service.
- Close the Registry Editor and restart the computer.
Now check if that helps to resolve your search problems in Outlook. You can anytime go back to Registry Editor and delete the key and DWORD you have created or set the value data as 0 to revert back the settings.
Note: Disabling Windows Search service will show a warning notification in Outlook. It will read as “Search performance will be impacted because a group policy has turned off the Windows Search service”.
9. Check Filters When Using Advanced Find
You can open “Advanced Find” option in Outlook by pressing “Control + Shift + F” shortcut keys. This dialog box has different tabs and allows you to select any field used in Outlook to build your custom query. Though this is useful to find emails and other items in Outlook like a pro, make sure your selection criteria are correct under all the tabs.
We hope one of the above listed options helped to fix Outlook Search now working issues in Windows Desktop app. If none of the options worked for you then you may need to uninstall the app and reinstall from your Microsoft account. Also note that Outlook search will work only if you are using a single language. The search will show inconsistent results when your emails and search keywords are in different languages.