Microsoft Outlook for Mac (version 16.21) is frequently unable to find email messages using the search feature, even in the case of emails that were sent relatively recently. I presume that the search index is broken.

Solutions are available for PC, and I have even installed a Mac-specific tool called "OutlookSearchRepair.app", but this doesn't ameliorate the problem.

Are any other solutions available?

Edit: There is little else to say (to increase the detail of this question), save that the emails that aren't found are seemingly at random, and are not found on subsequent searches either. I have not limited my search results in any way.

  • I'm using Outlook 16.23, and the Search feature seems to work fine. Have you set the scope of the search in your "ribbon"?
    – Seamus
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 0:11
  • 2
    Yes, I have been using Outlook for over a decade. The emails that are not found are seemingly at random. I see that my question has been put on hold as it does not have 'enough detail', and I appreciate the brevity, but there really is little else to say. There is no apparent pattern to which emails are not found, and I certainly know how to use Outlook. Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 10:16
  • 1
    Out of 300 people, we typically have 2-3 where Spotlight and Outlook can't find reasonable messages. Mail from the pervious week, people that know how to search and have been using outlook for decades. The new design has some instability or we're just getting more crap attachments. We are still chasing this down, but it's been a thing in our organization and clearly Microsoft made a tool to help people reset their indexes. That's like calling a tow truck, at some point you get tired of being rescued from the ditch and want a car that doesn't drive there so often.
    – bmike
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 11:25

7 Answers 7


Outlook and macOS's Spotlight (the indexing app) have notorious problems working together. With previous version I had success with the Repair tool that you mention. With Mojave & Outlook 2019, however, I had to try many other methods. This website seems to have the most comprehensive guides for troubleshooting this.

In my case, I finally found that "alternative method 6" from that guide worked. That means:

  • Backup!
  • Quit Outlook
  • Go to the folder ~/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/Outlook/Outlook 15 Profiles/Main Profile/Data (in Finder you can press cmd+shift+G to get there)
  • Move the Outlook.sqllite file e.g. to the Desktop (to keep it around until the restore is successful)
  • Launch Outlook.
  • Outlook will prompt you to repair your database. Click "Repair". Outlook is now forced to restore its database and rebuild the index, etc. In my case this took about 2–3 hours on a speedy MacBook Pro.
  • ~/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/Outlook/Outlook 15 Profiles/ will contain backups of your previous database. To free some disk space you may want to archive or delete this.
  • I will try this +1 for the research and links and experience.
    – bmike
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 21:08
  • I ran this too but it didn't work for me: Friday completed, today missing lots of messages again. I didn't do a thorough check on Friday and can't testify to the short term benefits. But it also took several hours for my 6GB box.
    – Georg
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 11:02
  • So I got a new MacBook Pro and the IT technician copied all the data (re-imaged) in the old laptop to the new one. But now when I search for things in the Outlook - it only displays results after the date of moving to the new laptop. Looks like Outlook has not indexed all the past messages. How to do that?
    – R11G
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 18:31

Most answer here are rather heavy-handed. The link provided by OP has apparently been updated and now suggests to reset the Spotlight index for the Outlook folder. This is a much less intrusive solution, takes about 20 minutes of rebuild time, and often works. Therefore, I would recommend to everybody to first try this method.

Quote from the Microsoft support article [with additions by myself]:

  1. Choose Apple menu, then System Preferences, and then Spotlight.

  2. Select the Privacy tab.

  3. In Finder:

    a. On the Go menu, select Go to Folder...

    b. Copy and paste the following location into the "Go to the folder:" dialog box and select Go:

    ~/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/Outlook/Outlook 15 Profiles/

  4. Drag the "Main Profile" folder to the Privacy tab. Once added, remove the folder [from the Spotlight privacy tab], and Spotlight will re-index the folder.

You must perform this step for any additional profile folders you have.

See the following article from Apple to learn more: How to rebuild the Spotlight index on your Mac.

After that macOS will rebuild the index for that folder, which will take a while (up to an hour approximately) depending on your Mac's speed and the size of your Outlook database.

If you suspect that there is a more severe issue with Spotlight, have a look at this answer on how to reset Spotlight completely. Again this is a rather drastic measure and may take a few hours to rebuild.


We do two things when this happens:

  1. Validate that search works for us in the online version of outlook (we use O365 for our exchange servers so YMMV if you don't). If you can't find it on Micsosoft's servers - then the mailbox content itself has issues.
  2. Validate that the search fails in Outlook and in spotlight and then works in both immediately (or after 5 minutes if your outlook store is large and indexing into spotlight takes more than a minute to complete).

When you're sure the online search works and the local search is failing, you can be sure of one of four things:

  1. The importer that Outlook adds to the system so that spotlight knows how to index mails is broken / crashy / and needs an update. Contact Microsoft for assistance.
  2. The mail that user has (some attachment, some calendar invite, some mail) is corrupt and if you find and delete those specific data files - the indexer will stop crashing or being corrupt or incomplete.
  3. This just was bad luck and the index stopped one time and you won't have to run the repair tool again in a day or week or month.
  4. Your Mac has storage or stability issues with the filesystem or spotlight in general. If this is the case, you should be able to find other things like file name search that are broken or Disk Utility telling you that the disk needs repair / erase / reinstallation.

There will be lots of other things to try to attack the "bad luck" case above like emptying the mail cache (which tell spotlight to forget all the results and causes all the mail to be redownloaded from the server that it thinks it needs a local cache), but doesn't address the fundamental mechanism for search. Outlook uses spotlight and modifies spotlight with its custom plug in to handle the data format for Outlook data when it's stored on the local disk.


I tried everything and in my case the only thing that solved the issue was selecting the New Outlook option from the top right of Mac Outlook. After that, Outlook relaunched with the new look and also Search now works.

Mac mini M1 with Big Sur. Outlook for Mac 16.45.

Hope this helps.

New Outlook Toggle

  • Is this the web version of Outlook? I cannot find this option on my outlook app which was installed as part of Office for Mac
    – user39008
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 15:45
  • 1
    No. It is the latest Outlook for MacOS. You have to enable the New Outlook option on the top right of the application.
    – Rimsky
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 19:56
  • Thanks for the answer. I cannot find this option and I dont seem to have a profile install either which was the reason some say for the absence of this option.
    – user39008
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 21:27
  • This search problem of Outlook for mac has driven me crazy.
    – user39008
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 21:28

There have been problems between macOS and Outlook search indexing for some time now. It appears that Microsoft, whilst acknowledging this, for some years already, appear to be doing nothing to fix this, as it has been under the status of "investigating" since the article was created.


It is arguable that the loss of reliable searching in an email application makes it not fit for purpose.

  • The link provided now suggests this issue was resolved in Mojave 10.14.5. Should this answer be updated with this new information? Did this resolve the issue for you?
    – grg
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 11:12
  • It's still a problem on Big Sur.
    – mamills
    Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 18:55

For me the solution is to switch to Outlook Web Access - at least for searching. I had this problem on and off for at least 2 years now and couldn't find the solutions to work. For a time the OutlookSearchRepair was helping, but since that is no longer working I don't find the proposed solutions to work.

So my suggestion: Check if your organization provides Outlook Web Access (OWA) and use that for searching or even all your mail duty.

  • I have unfortunately still not found a suitable solution either. Using the web app certainly is a workaround but not a fix, and I have also found that if I periodically (about once every three months) completely destroy my Outlook profile and rebuild it, that mitigates most of the problems. But, the issue 'builds up' again over time. Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 20:25

Right now, the current guidance on Big Sur is to uninstall and reinstall Office for Mac.


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