What to do if Outlook search is not working on your Mac

Microsoft Outlook is one of the most popular email clients on the Mac, particularly for business users or those who have a Microsoft 365 subscription. It’s fast, has lots of great features, and, most of the time, works very well. However, some users have noticed an issue when they search for a message or task in Outlook, it says there are no results. And the same thing happens when they use Spotlight to search for Outlook messages. In this article, we’ll show you what to do if it happens to you.

What happens when Outlook search is not working

When you use Outlook and try to search for a message or apply a filter to a folder, you get a message that says ‘No results.’ In addition, when you search for Outlook items using Spotlight, it doesn’t return any results.

Why is Outlook search not working on my Mac?

There are several reasons why a search for Outlook items may not turn up any results. One is that Spotlight hasn’t finished indexing your Outlook profile. This could happen if you’ve recently created a new profile in Outlook, added a new account, or imported messages. It could also happen if your profile contains special characters like a ‘/‘ or if your profile is not in the correct folder in your user Library. If the problem occurs when you use Spotlight, it could be that you have added a folder containing your Outlook profile to the list of folders in the Spotlight Privacy section in System Settings. Or Spotlight could have become corrupted.

How to fix it when Outlook search is not working on your Mac

There are a number of things you can do when Outlook search is not working.

1. Check you’re running the most up-to-date version of Outlook

    Based on where you downloaded the app from, there are two different ways to check for updates:

    • If you downloaded Outlook from the Mac App Store, open the App Store app and click Updates. If there is an update for Outlook available, click Update.
    • If you downloaded Outlook from Microsoft, open Outlook, click the Help menu, and choose Check for Updates. If there is an update available, install it.

    2. Check your Outlook Profile name for special characters

      It is another quick fix that may work. Go to your Applications folder and right-click or Control-click on Microsoft Outlook. Choose Show Package Contents. Open the Contents folder and then go to the Shared Support folder. Double-click the Outlook Profile Manager. Check the names of the profiles and look for characters in any name like ‘/‘. If there is a special character in a profile name, you need to change the profile name. Follow the steps below to do that:

      1. Click the Finder icon in the Dock.
      2. Click the Go menu and choose Go to Folder.
      3. Paste this path in the text box:
        ~/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/Outlook/Outlook 15 Profiles/
      4. Press Return, and you’ll see folders with the names of your Outlook profiles.
      5. Change the name of the folder with the special character in it.
      6. Close the Finder window.
      7. Use the Outlook Profile Manager to check the name change has taken effect.

      3. Check Spotlight Privacy settings

      If the folder containing your Outlook profile is excluded from Spotlight, search won’t work. To check that, do the following.

      1. Click the Apple menu and choose System Settings.
      2. Go to Siri & Spotlight.
      3. Scroll to the bottom of the window and choose Spotlight Privacy.
      4. Look at the folders in the window if there are any. Do they include your user Library folder or any of the folders in the path: Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/Outlook/Outlook 15 Profiles/? If so, select the folder and click minus.
      5. Quit System Settings.

      4. Reindex Spotlight

      Removing your Outlook profile from the Spotlight Privacy list means that next time Spotlight reindexes, the profile will be included, and you should be able to successfully search in Outlook. If you don’t want to wait for Spotlight to reindex, you can force it to do so. There are a few ways to do that.

      Reindex Spotlight in System Settings

      1. Open System Settings and choose Siri & Spotlight.
      2. Click Spotlight Privacy.
      3. Drag your startup disk onto the window (if the Finder is configured not to display disks on your Desktop, go to Finder > Settings > Sidebar and change that).
      4. Quit System Settings.
      5. Wait for an hour or so, then open System Settings and go to Siri & Spotlight again.
      1. Click Spotlight Privacy.
      2. Choose your startup disk and click the ‘-’ button.
      3. Spotlight should now start reindexing your startup disk.

      Reindex Spotlight in Terminal

      1. Go to Applications > Utilities and open Terminal.
      2. Type: mdimport -L and press Return.
      3. The next step is to reindex the Outlook database.
      4. Type:
        mdimport -g “/Applications/Microsoft Outlook.app/Contents/Library/Spotlight/Microsoft Outlook Spotlight Importer.mdimporter” -d1 “~/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/Outlook/Outlook 15 Profiles/my_profile_name”
        (substitute my_profile_name with the name of your Outlook profile) and press Return.
      5. Wait for reindexing to complete and then quit Terminal.

      Reindex Spotlight the easy way and speed up your Mac at the same time

      As you can see, the process for reindexing Spotlight isn’t straightforward, but there is a much easier way. Even better, this method allows you to run maintenance tasks on your Mac at the same time. These maintenance tasks, which include running macOS maintenance scripts, freeing up RAM, and repairing disk permissions, can help keep your Mac running smoothly if you run them regularly. All you need is the Maintenance module in CleanMyMac X. You can download CleanMyMac X for free here. Once you’ve done that, all you need to do is select Maintenance in the sidebar, choose the tasks you want to run — say, reindex Spotlight — and click Run. Easy!

      Reindex Spotlight in Maintenance

      There are a few reasons why Outlook search is not working on your Mac. It could be that Spotlight hasn’t indexed your Outlook profile for some reason or there is a problem with your profile. Follow the steps above to identify the cause and fix the problem.

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