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How to Rebuild Your Search Index on Microsoft Outlook 365

Marcel Deer - Writer for Unleash
By Marcel Deer
Michelle Meyer - Editor for Unleash
Reviewed by Michelle Meyer

Published August 19, 2022.

How to Rebuild Your Search Index on Microsoft Outlook 365

With programs like Mail, Task Manager, Contact Manager, and Calendar rolled into one, you wouldn’t be wrong in calling Microsoft Outlook 365 complicated. One of Outlook’s most essential features is its robust search box that can find specific emails quickly. But, at times, you might have trouble when Outlook fails to function properly, like a mailbox that doesn't load or has a problem with searching.

Sometimes temporary data can be the culprit and you can remedy it by restarting Outlook or your computer. Other times, the search engine stops indexing Outlook or emails due to the settings. But if it still doesn't work despite all the configurations, then the quickest way to fix it is by rebuilding the index.

Steps to Rebuild the Search Index on Microsoft Outlook 365

You can use one of the solutions below to rebuild your Outlook index.

Solution 1: Using Programs and Features

  • Start by launching the Control Panel. Just type "control" into the Windows search box and click on it from the results.
  • Once the window opens, select Programs > Programs & Features.
  • Scroll down and choose Microsoft 365.
  • Select Change from the top menu.
  • You’ll be able to choose from Quick Repair or Online Repair. If you don’t have an internet connection, you can go with Quick Repair.
  • Wait until it's done, and then restart your computer.

Solution 2: Using the Index Repair Menu Option in Outlook

  • Open Outlook, then select File > Options > Search.
  • Choose Indexing Options, then click Advanced. Do keep in mind that this step may require administrator access.
  • You should find delete and rebuild index on the window. Click Rebuild, then OK.
  • Restart your computer once the rebuilding is done.

If You’re Using Mac, You Can Follow These Steps:

  • Go to System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  • Select Spotlight and then click the Privacy option.
  • Add a folder to the list of non-indexed folders by clicking the plus sign (+).
  • Choose your Home folder (this usually has a house symbol beside it).
  • If a confirmation window appears, choose OK.
  • After a minute, click the item you just added and remove it with the minus symbol (-).
  • Close Spotlight preferences.

These solutions can take some time, depending on the volume of messages and contacts.

What Will Come From Rebuilding the Search Index?

There are situations when Outlook search fails to return the desired results. If this is happening to you, it might be because Outlook’s index is corrupt or hasn't finished indexing your system data files. Rebuilding the search catalog will re-index your data files and resolve this issue.

Outlook will begin re-indexing as soon as you rebuild the database in the background. Remember that searches may not work during the rebuilding process, so wait until it's complete. After rebuilding is finished, restart your computer and reopen Outlook. Try doing your search again, and you should obtain the expected results this time.

How Long Does Rebuilding an Index on Outlook Take?

It will take some time for your computer to complete a full-text index of your emails. As for exactly how long rebuilding will take to finish, there's no fixed time. It would depend on the volume of emails, file sizes, and your system's processing power. Some report as long as 24 hours.

You can monitor the rebuilding status at the top of the Indexing Options box. You'll notice "Indexing speed is lowered due to user activity" if you have other applications running in the background.

Once the rebuilding is complete, you can run some searches to determine the difference, if any, in terms of speed and functionality.

The Need for Rebuilding Your Search Index

There are various reasons why rebuilding your search index to operate effectively is important:

Institutional Memory

Most organizations build up or collect a large archive of email correspondence over the years, including records of vendor communications, price quotes, and license agreements. Known as institutional memory, they're invaluable records, and preserving institutional memory is important for the smooth functioning of any organization. Rebuilding your search index ensures your organization’s institutional memory is available at your fingertips, especially when you need them.

Types of Searches

When it comes to searching for information, most businesses have the option of Federated Search vs. Enterprise Search. The former is a type of search that typically pulls results from multiple sources, both internal and external, while the latter is restricted to a single source.

Federated searches and enterprise searches are typically queries, and rebuilding indexes won't only help in optimizing query times but also in eliminating fragmentation, reclaiming storage space, and reordering index rows.

Additionally, organizations should have secure enterprise search so that sensitive and high-value information doesn't get lost or fall into the wrong hands.

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