Outlook not searching all emails [Full Fix]

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
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  • With thousands of emails in your mailbox, using the search function in Outlook becomes second nature. But what happens when the search feature is not working properly?
  • This complete guide will show you exactly how to add all mailboxes for indexing and restore the search functionality. 
  • Take a look at the Outlook Errors section if you need to look up specific error codes or messages. 
  • Fix any problems with this email client with any one of our guides from the Troubleshoot Outlook Hub
Fix Outlook not searching all mailboxes

Outlook is an email client used frequently across the world, especially by businesses and other corporate entities, and like any other frequently used program, it can develop issues over time that require fixing and maintenance so it can continue working properly.

When using Outlook, there are times when you want to find some old mail from your folders, whether it is the Inbox or Sent folders. However, if the search doesn’t yield the results you’re expecting, it could be that your Outlook data file isn’t checked for indexing, so you need to check that the search index works correctly.

One of the most common reasons for Outlook not searching all emails is the indexing function in Windows operating system. This is a common issue across all Outlook versions as each version uses a similar base to function, called the Outlook Search Index.

This and other issues can be resolved through a few solutions as outlined below.

Fix Outlook not searching all mailboxes

  1. Preliminary fixes
  2. Repair PST file
  3. Perform an SFC scan
  4. Run Outlook in Safe Mode
  5. Perform a System Restore
  6. Disable and re-enable Outlook
  7. Rebuild the Index
  8. Modify indexing
  9. Check computer’s sleep time
  10. Perform a Quick Repair
  11. Check Cached Exchange mode
  12. Upgrade your RAM
  13. Reinstall Windows Search feature
  14. Include Outlook data in indexing
  15. Check the search scope
  16. Increase server timeout
  17. Check that indexing is complete
  18. Configure indexing options
  19. Rebuild the search catalog

1. Preliminary fixes

  • Check for Windows and Office updates as sometimes Microsoft releases updates that can break searching
  • Ensure you have a stable internet connection, and check that your modem and other network cables are working
  • Restart Outlook
  • Search via Start menu instead of searching via Outlook
  • Delete any suspicious-looking emails, which can block receiving of messages in Outlook
  • Check your antivirus software’s email scanning feature and configure it to make both programs work together.

2. Repair PST file

Sometimes Outlook not searching all emails is related to file corruption, especially the .pst file which is the program’s database file. To repair it, run the scanpst.exe file and follow the instructions therein. This file is found in the Microsoft Office installation file. To find the file:

  • Open File Explorer
  • Click This PC
  • Type scanpst.exe in the address bar
  • Run the file

repair outlook

If you can’t find the file, you can download it from Microsoft’s Support page.

A more powerful tool is called Stellar Repair for Outlook.

Fix pst with Stellar Repair for Outlook

If the scanpst.exe could perform the operation, it’s time to take out the big guns.

Stellar Repair for Outlook will effectively solve .pst file corruptions or damage. With a repaired .pst file you will not only have access to all the emails and contacts that may have been lost, but the indexing process will complete successfully.

This means that future email searches will return the correct results. Basically Outlook search will work once again as it should.

Stellar Repair for Outlook

Stellar Repair for Outlook

Automatically find and repair your damaged .pst file to restore search functionality and more.

3. Perform an SFC scan

  • Click Start and type CMD in the search box
  • Right-click Command Prompt and select Run as Administrator
  • Type sfc/scannowSFC scan
  • Press Enter
  • Restart your computer and try to install updates again.

4. Run Outlook in Safe Mode

  • Click on Start and select Settings
  • Click Update & Security
  • Select Recovery from the left pane
  • Go to Advanced startup
  • Click Restart nowadvanced startup windows 10
  • Select Troubleshoot from the choose an option screen, then click Advanced options
  • Go to Startup Settings and click Restart
  • Once your computer restarts, a list of options will come up.
  • Choose 4 or F4 to start your computer in Safe Mode

If Outlook not searching emails doesn’t happen in Safe Mode, then the issue isn’t with your basic drivers, but if it does, then check your drivers and/or update or reinstall them.


Outlook not opening at all in Windows 10? That’s a serious problem but fixed with our guide.


5. Perform a System Restore

  • Click Start and type System Restore in the search box
  • Click System Restore in the list of search results
  • Enter your administrator account password or grant permissions if prompted to
  • In the System Restore dialog box, click Choose a different restore point
  • Click Next
  • Click a restore point created before you experienced the problem
  • Click Next
  • Click Finish

6. Disable and re-enable Outlook

Check that Outlook is marked for indexing then do the following:

  • Deselect Outlook from indexing
  • Close the program and wait for about five to ten minutes
  • Go to Task Manager by pressing CTRL+ALT+DELETE
  • In Task Manager, check that Outlook.exe is not in the Processes tab. If Outlook is listed, right-click on it > select End Task.microsoft outlook task manager
  • Open Outlook again
  • Select Outlook for indexing.

7. Rebuild the Index

  • Open Outlook
  • Go to File and select Options
  • On the right pane, find Sources
  • Click Indexing Options
  • Click Advanced
  • Go to Troubleshooting and click Rebuild. This will set off the indexing process, it may take time depending on the size of your system files

Following the steps above will rebuild the index.

8. Modify indexing

  • Open Outlook
  • Go to File and select Options
  • Click Search
  • Select Indexing Options
  • Select Modify
  • Deselect Outlook radio button and click OK
  • Exit Outlook and restart again then select it from the indexing locations

9. Check computer’s sleep time

  • Click Start and select Settings
  • Select System
  • Select Power and sleep

advanced startup windows 10

  • Choose the screen and sleep settings you want

This helps rebuild the indexing files after which you can return the sleep time to normal.

10. Perform a Quick Repair

  • Click Start and select Control Panel
  • Select Programs
  • Select Programs and Features

repair outlook control panel

 

  • Highlight Microsoft Office (Outlook is part of the Office Suite)

repair office 2016

  • Click Change
  • Click Quick Repair

quick repair outlook windows 10

This fixes indexing from Outlook not searching all emails.

11. Check Cached Exchange mode

  • Open Outlook and click File
  • Select Info
  • Select Account Settings
  • Select Email Tab
  • Select your accounts one by one
  • Click Change
  • Check the Use Cached Exchange mode box
  • Move the Mail to keep Offline slider to the right until it displays ALL
  • Restart Outlook and wait for all your emails to be downloaded

After this, your searches should be done faster and should show all of them.

12. Upgrade your RAM

Sometimes Outlook not searching all emails happens because your OST is too large, and your RAM is less than 6GB. In this case, upgrade your RAM to 6GB or more and see if your emails are now all searched by Outlook. Large contact lists can also cause Outlook not to search emails as well as contacts. Keep them under 8,000 as a single folder has a hard limit of about 5,000, so anything beyond this will not be searchable.


5 best RAM optimizers for Windows 10 to make your computer run faster


13. Reinstall Windows Search feature

  • Click Start and select Control Panel
  • Select Programs
  • Click Turn Windows features on or off
  • Deselect Windows Search and click OK, then wait for the installer to complete
  • Restart your computer and repeat these steps to enable the Windows search feature again
  • Exit Outlook.
  • Open the Indexing Options by clicking Start, type Indexing Options, select Settings under Search, and click Indexing Options
  • In the Indexing Options box, ensure Microsoft Outlook is listed in the Included Locations.

index outlook search

  • If not, select Modify, and then click to enable the checkbox next to Outlook.
  • Select OK.
  • Select Close.

To make sure that Outlook is configured to return results from the expected data files, follow these steps:

  • Start Outlook.
  • Click in the Search
  • Select the Search tab
  • Click Search Tools 
  • Click Locations to Search.
  • Select to add or remove data files.

15. Check the search scope

  • In Outlook, click in the Search
  • Select the Search
  • The Scope group shows the current scope including All Mail Items, Current Folder

To change the default scope in Outlook 2013, follow these steps:

  • Click File, and then click Options.
  • In the Outlook Options dialog box, click Search.
  • Under Results, set the Include results only from: to one of the following:
    Current folder
    Current folder. Current mailbox when searching from the inbox
    Current mailbox
    All mailboxes

outlook search settings

16. Increase server timeout

  • Open Outlook and go to File
  • Click Info
  • Click Account settings and select Account settings again
  • Click the target POP3 account
  • Click Change
  • Click More settings
  • Under the Advanced tab, increase the server timeout setting

17. Check that indexing is complete

  • Open Outlook and select Search
  • Select Search Tools
  • Click Indexing Status. When the dialog appears, check if it shows: Outlook has finished indexing all your items; 0 items remaining to be indexed

If the indexing isn’t complete, check the remaining items and wait for about five minutes and check again. If they don’t reduce, try the next solution.

18. Configure indexing options

  • Exit Outlook
  • Open the Indexing Options by clicking Start, type Indexing options in search, then select Settings under Search and click Indexing Options
  • Under the Indexing Options, select Advanced
  • Select File Types tab
  • Scroll down until you find msg in the Extension column and select msg.
  • Ensure that the Index Properties and File Contents option is enabled.

  • Select OK.
  • Select Close.

Note: Make sure the Filter Description column shows Office Outlook MSG IFilter. If not, either the Windows Search service is not working correctly or Outlook could not install the filters correctly. Check with Microsoft support for this issue.

19. Rebuild the search catalog

  • Exit Outlook.
  • Open the Indexing Options by clicking Start, type Indexing Options, select Settings under Search, and click Indexing Options
  • In the Indexing Options box, ensure Microsoft Outlook is listed in the Included Locations If not, select Modify, and then click to enable the checkbox next to Outlook.
  • In the Advanced Options dialog box, select Rebuild.
  • Select OK.
  • Select Close.

If indexing finishes without including Outlook data files, or doesn’t finish, contact Microsoft support for help.

Did any of these solutions help resolve Outlook not searching all emails? Let us know in the comments section below.

The solutions presented above should also apply in these scenarios:

  • Outlook not searching recent emails – Setting the correct search scope might do the trick here.
  • Outlook search not finding recent emails – Make sure to check if the indexing operation is complete as instructed. Then try any of the other options available.

FAQ: Learn more about Outlook not searching all emails

  • Why is my Outlook not searching recent emails?

There could be a number of reasons. See the guide for fixing the Outlook not searching all emails problem.

  • Why is Outlook indexing taking so long?

One possible reason is your Outlook profile is damaged. Learn how to fix corrupt Outlook profile.

  • How do I fix Outlook search problems?

The fix Outlook search guide includes all the details you are looking for.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2018 and has been since revamped and updated in July 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.