Search function in Outlook is terrible

Copper Contributor

I have a problem with the PA to the CEO. When she searches for emails in his mailbox (which she has full access to), it returns 997 mails. As an example, I chose a folder with 4 emails in it. I typed in the word I was looking for, and hit enter. Outlook reported that no mail could be found, so it searched the entire mailbox. 

I have recreated her profile, and switched off cached exchange mode. When cached exchange mode is switched off, Outlook finds the email. 

I also renamed the outlook folder under c:\user\app data\local\Microsoft\outlook, same problem. 

Searching for the mail in the portal works.

Any suggestions? 

8 Replies


Here are some suggestions to troubleshoot and improve the search functionality for the PA to the CEO:

  1. Rebuild the Search Index:
    • Close Outlook.
    • Go to Control Panel > Indexing Options (or use the Windows search bar to find it).
    • Click on "Modify" and ensure that Microsoft Outlook is selected for indexing.
    • Click on "Advanced" and then the "Rebuild" button to rebuild the search index.
    • This process may take some time, so be patient. Once it is done, restart your computer and open Outlook to check if the search issue is resolved.
  2. Check the Outlook Search Options:
    • In Outlook, go to File > Options.
    • In the Outlook Options window, click on the "Search" tab.
    • Make sure the "Include results only from" option is set to "Current Mailbox."
    • Also, ensure that "Improve search speed by limiting the number of results shown" is unchecked.
  3. Use Advanced Search Queries:
    • Encourage the PA to use more specific search terms and advanced search operators to narrow down search results. For example, using quotation marks to search for an exact phrase: "search term".
    • Teach her how to use keywords along with other search operators like "from:", "to:", "subject:", "received:", etc., to refine search results.
  4. Update Outlook:
    • Ensure that Outlook is up to date with the latest updates and patches. Sometimes, Microsoft releases updates that address search issues.
  5. Check for Add-Ins:
    • Third-party add-ins in Outlook can sometimes interfere with search functionality. Disable any unnecessary or suspicious add-ins and see if it improves search performance.
  6. Check for PST Files:
    • Ensure there are no PST files added to Outlook that are causing search issues. PST files are not indexed by default, and they can slow down searches.
  7. Check Exchange Server Configuration:
    • Ensure that the Exchange server is configured correctly and up to date. If there are issues on the server side, it can affect Outlook's search functionality.
  8. Check Windows Updates:
    • Ensure that Windows itself is up to date with the latest updates and patches. Sometimes, Windows updates can impact Outlook's performance.


By following these steps, you should be able to troubleshoot and resolve the search issue in Outlook and improve the PA's experience with email searches. The text and steps were edited with the help of various AI’s.


My answers are voluntary and without guarantee!


Hope this will help you.

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This will help all forum participants.

Seems like an awful lot of work for something that should just work. Good thing Google doesn't make me do this to search the internet.

It's so bad that it's laughable. I had to search for any and all e-mails referencing "referral" today but if the e-mail in question has "referrals" plural it won't show up in results. If there was an option to relax case or exact match I couldn't find it, but to say that's a "me" issue and not a "this search sucks" issue is a joke. Google had this solved over a decade ago.

@PMarohombsar1 This is the reason that so many of us use Outlook to manage task assignments (our own and delegated) but use Gmail for emails.  Outlook has never had a good search engine. It should have licensed Google Search way back when......

I agree. Thhat is the worst search engine I have ever seen and I worked with Texass Document Search under DR-Dos.. Microsoft has to make that working or eM Client, Mailbird and Linux will be a way better to work with.
I agree. I have used outlook since 1996. Outlook search has never worked. Even when I worked for Microsoft, they were aware of the issues. 20 years later, still bad. I use grep for windows. It searches all outlook psts/osts just fine. If anyone has any effective solutions, please let me know.

This is the ENTIRE problem with Microsoft. NOTHING works like it should. Search, in the year 2024, should be the most basic thing, and yet, it is not. It is not only Terrible, it sucks. @NikolinoDE while your suggestion might work, it also shows that Microsoft does not really care about the average user. The average user should not have to follow the lengthly and conveluted instructions you have provided to make a basic feature work. 


Search should just work. It works in GMail perfectly. Microsoft should take note. 


What is the point in displaying results that are close to what we searched for?

I have searched for email with specific phrase in the subject like AA-BB-123 - I had one single email received with that line in the subject.

The Outlook search result shows, along with the email I wanted, all emails with AA-BB-124 in the subject field.

Now if I wanted "close" results that would work, but now I have a problem. How do I find correct email among hundreds of wrong emails?

If this is AI at work we are in trouble.