You can try some different ways to fix problems with the search feature in Outlook.
You are looking for certain messages in Microsoft Outlook by certain standards. You know your search should have results, but no messages are visible. The search feature for Outlook sometimes behaves incorrectly, failing to find the right results – or any results. Fortunately, there are ways to fix this bug.
You can check key search settings in Outlook. You can make sure Outlook is included in the search index. Finally, you can rebuild the search index. The steps I cover here apply to the desktop version of Outlook. I tested this with the Outlook version that comes with Microsoft 365, but the steps should work the same or similar with previous versions of the program.
See: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365: Side-by-side analysis w / checklist (Tech Republic Premium)
To get started, let’s review the search options in Outlook. Click the File menu and select Options. In the Outlook options window, click the Search item. In the results section of the Outlook Options window, make sure you only add results to one of the options for the current folder if you want to restrict the search to the current folder. If not, you can try to expand your search by selecting the current mailbox or all mailboxes (Figure A)
The option to improve the search speed by limiting the number of results shown can uncheck the results you are looking for, especially if some results pop up in the search. You can check the selection of the search terms highlighted in the results. And the notify me when the results are limited should check the option because the search indexing is not complete. If all of those options are set up correctly, and you’re still getting into search issues, let’s give Windows a shot at fixing the problem (assuming you’re running Windows).
On Windows 10 or 11, go to Settings and select Search. In the Search window, select the option to find Windows. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and click the link to run the Indexer Troubleshooter to resolve common problems. The Troubleshooter window asks what problems have you noticed. Check the box that Outlook Search does not return results and click Next (Image b)
Allow the index to solve the problem. If the index exposes a potential offender, select the suggested solution. Then try to run your search again. If the troubleshooter does not fix the error, it is time to look at the search index.
In Outlook, click the File menu, select Options, and then click the Search option. In the Search Option window, click the button for indexing options. In the Indexing Options window, make sure that Microsoft Outlook is listed in the locations it contains. If not, click the Modify button. On the next screen, select Microsoft Outlook from the Indexed Places list and then click OK (Figure c)
Allow the index some time to rebuild with the addition of Outlook. Close the window. Try running the search now. Do you still see the right results or do you see no results? The final step is to rebuild the search index. Return to the Indexing Options window. This time, click the Advanced button. On the Index Settings tab, click the Rebuild button (Figure D)
The message pops up to let you know that rebuilding the index can take a long time to complete. Click OK and then take a break from your work while rebuilding the index. You can stick around and watch as the numbers rise, indicating that the rebuild is in progress. When the reconstruction is complete, close the various options windows. Try running your search again, and this time you will get the results you expected.