Fix: Search Feature in Outlook is Not Working

If you encounter problems when searching for email items in different versions of Outlook (nothing is found, not all results are displayed, not all *.pst files are used for the search, etc.), the recommendations in this article will help you solve your Outlook search problems (these recommendations apply to all current versions of Outlook 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019 and Outlook 365).

Checking the indexing status of perspective Search

Outlook search performs the Windows indexing service. To perform a search, Windows Search must scan the contents of the mailbox and its PST files and create an index of all available Outlook items. So the first step is to check the status of the Outlook index.

To do so, click on the Search tab and select Indexing Status under Search Tools.

If the indexing is correct, you will see the following status in the next window:

Outlook has finished indexing all your articles.
0 items still need to be indexed.

However, if there are problems with the search, the status will be different:

Outlook is currently indexing your articles.
23817 items still need to be indexed.

The Outlook search index is reconstructed when you add a new Outlook mailbox or a new Outlook Personal Folder (PST) file, when you move emails from one folder to another, and so on. If you have recently performed these operations (up to 3-4 hours), you will have to wait until indexing is complete. If you haven’t made any major changes to your Outlook configuration for some time and indexing is still in progress, the Outlook index problem is obvious.

Enabling Outlook indexing via Windows search service

To solve the problem, you must temporarily exclude Outlook from items scanned by the Windows Indexing Service. To do this:

  1. In Perspective, open File -> Preferences ;
  2. Choose Search -> Indexing Options ;
  3. Click on Modify
  4. Disable indexing for Microsoft Outlook;
  5. Exit Outlook and use the Process Manager to check that the outlook.exe process is not running on your computer.

In the properties of the OST and PST files of Outlook, make sure that you activate the indexing (you should do this independent of the fact that the indexing is already activated in the parameters of the Windows search service). To do this:

  1. Open the file -> Account settings ;
  2. Click on the Data Files tab;
  3. Select the files one by one and click on Open file location;
  4. Right-click on the desired OST or PST file and select its properties;
  5. Click on Miscellaneous;
  6. Select the Allow contextual indexing of this file next to the file properties checkbox -> click OK. .

Open PowerShell’s mother console and restart the WSearch service:

Restart service Boat name search

You now need to enable Outlook indexing in the search options, which was previously disabled. Activate Microsoft Outlook in the indexing options and save the changes.

Give Outlook time to complete the full indexing (this depends on the number and size of connected mailboxes and PST files). Check the status of the Outlook index, as described above, and try to find something.

How can I restore/reset the lead search index?

If the search problem persists, it is advisable to completely reset and restore the Windows search service index. To do this:

  1. In perspective, go to File -> Preferences -> Search ;
  2. Click on Indexing Options -> Advanced;
  3. Click on Restore;
  4. Recovery of the index may take some time and computer performance may be temporarily affected.

Checking and restoring future PST files

In some cases, the indexing service Outlook Personal Folder (PST) cannot index files due to logical errors or corruption of their structure. It is recommended to scan a damaged pst file and repair it with scanpst.exe.

Lead generation and Cached Exchange

In this section we will see how Outlook search works when your mailbox is hosted on an Exchange server. When Cached Exchange is enabled in Outlook, the local index of your computer is used to search for items. When the Cached Exchange mode is disabled, a mailbox-side index (managed by Microsoft Exchange Search Indexer) is used to search mailboxes.

The MSExchangeSearch service indexes the e-mail message as soon as it reaches the mailbox database on the server. If Outlook can’t search the mailbox when using the Exchange search index the issue is probably related to the Exchange server. The Test-ExchangeSearch cmdlet is used to troubleshoot issues with the Exchange Search service.

The most common problem is that there is not enough disk space to increase the search index, or that the current index file is corrupted and needs to be recreated. You can use the built-in PowerShell script to reset the search index in Exchange %PROGRAMFILES%MicrosoftExchange ServerV14ScriptsResetSearchIndex.ps1.

To reset the search index for a specific mailbox database, use the command

ResetSearchIndex.ps1 mailboxname1

Also check if the indexing is enabled for the problematic mailbox database:

Get-MailboxDatabase mailbox name1 | Format-Table name,IndexEnabled

The search function in Outlook does not work: What are the alternatives?

What else can I check if my Outlook search does not work or produces incomplete results?

  1. From the Perspectives menu, select Search Tools -> Search Places. Make sure all mailboxes and PST files are selected for the search; .
  2. Make sure the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREPoliciesMicrosoftWindowsWindows Search does not have the parameter PreventIndexingOutlook = 1. This setting disables the indexing of Outlook by the Windows search service. This is in accordance with the Microsoft Office Outlook indexing policy in Computer configuration GPO -> Administrative templates -> Windows components -> Search ;
  3. In the Outlook settings (File -> Options -> Search), uncheck Improve search speed by restricting the number of results displayed; .
  4. Disable third-party Outlook Extensions (File -> Options -> Extensions) ;
  5. Reinstall Outlook using the MSI recovery function of the MS Office installation package (Office 365 has a convenient quick repair function);
  6. Use the built-in troubleshooter of Windows 10. To start the tool, execute the command: msdt.exe -ep SystemSettings_Troubleshoot_L2 -id SearchDiagnostic .
  7. An article like this can also be useful: How can I solve my search problems on Windows 10?

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