Outlook Email Searches Broken by Indexing

Against any sort of logic, running email searches in Outlook on one of my development machines no longer returns any results for even the simplest searches.

I am running Windows 7 and Office 2007 on my development machine. On another, older development machine I am running Windows XP with Office 2007.

Now the strange thing is the inconsistency in how both versions of Office run. I’m not sure if it is the OS or some other factor, but the completely mystifying problem of Outlook on my Windows 7 machine not searching emails correctly appeared that I could not duplicate on my XP machine.

What was the problem?

To recap – when I would try to run a either an advanced or an instant search on my Windows 7 Outlook it would not return any results no matter how much I tried.

For example, I would be staring at an email in my Inbox with the word ‘test’ as a subject. It should be pretty straightforward to run a search for this. However any search I would try for the word ‘test’ would result in ‘no records found’.

I was pretty stumped and trying to duplicate this on my other machine was impossible because the identical search works just fine there.

How I did I fix this?

I kept reading about this problem and it appears that throughout the years many people have experienced it. Each time the official response seems to be that it’s a problem with a specific version of Windows. This does not seem correct at all since I have the exact same problem on Win7 that people were experiencing on Vista or XP.

There were many solutions given by various Microsoft support people and other helpful souls. None of these worked to fix my Outlook email search problems.

Until I tried one solution. This was to turn off email indexing on my Mailbox folder. Once I did this my email searches ran wonderfully.

In case anyone has a similar problem with their email searches, you can turn off indexing as follows:

  1. In outlook click on tools
  2. Then select Options
  3. In the Options popup look for an Indexing section (called Search) on the first tab (the tab is called Preferences)
  4. Click on the Search Options button
  5. You will see a Search Options popup
  6. In this popup the first section is called Indexing
  7. Uncheck the checkboxes in the Indexing section (or at least uncheck the Mailbox option… I unchecked everything just to make sure)
  8. Then click ‘Ok’ and ‘Apply’
  9. You will need to stop and start Outlook

Once you have finished these steps you should be able to search for emails in Outlook again. I found this problem to be quite random and other than removing indexing entirely, I cannot find a reason for the odd behavior.

In some cases people have been able to track down strange Outlook behaviors by enabling logging and then by analyzing their log files. To enable logging in Outlook do the following steps:

  1. In Outlook click on the Tools menu
  2. Then select Options
  3. Then select the Other tab
  4. Under the General section of the Other tab, click the Advanced Options button
  5. You will see the Advanced Options popup
  6. In the Advanced Options popup check the Enable Logging checkbox
  7. Then click Ok and Apply and restart Outlook
  8. These steps will  enable logging in Outlook. You will be able go to %temp%\outlook logging and check the log file store.pst.log for problems.

If you have enabled logging, don’t forget to turn it off when you are done troubleshooting Outlook. Having logging turned on has a significant performance impact.

If you want to read more about the subject, I found one forum on the Microsoft Support site to be especially helpful.

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