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Why Your GitHub Search Isn't Working & How to Troubleshoot It


Marcel Deer

 on September 28, 2022. 
Reviewed by 

Michelle Meyer

GitHub search ribbon held up by crane covered with yellow tape

With the rise of work-from-home culture and digital nomads, more and more people are turning to learning code online in order to achieve the career (and lifestyle) of their dreams. GitHub is a leader in the online coding world as they provide one of the most robust online digital development platforms to date. But, as with all good things, nothing is ever entirely without fault. If you're having issues with GitHub’s search function, here are some reasons for those issues as well as some common fixes.

Reasons Why GitHub Search Might Not Be Working

From blank results, server timeouts, and error messages left, right, and center, here are some common reasons why your GitHub search function is not working properly.

Server Timeout Request

If you seem to be getting no results on your search, or the search function seems frozen, this could be due to the server request timing out. Given that GitHub works hard to keep their search function at high speeds for their users, they limit how long each search query can run before it times out. This is to conserve bandwidth on the site. If you did receive a server timeout error, this may result in incomplete results, given that your query was prematurely canceled before it was able to gather all possible search results.

Improper Search Query

If your search results don't contain return documents or programs that you're certain are available, or if you receive an error message while trying to search, there's a good chance that your search query was incorrectly entered or that the syntax associated with your search has inherent issues.

How to Resolve GitHub Search Issues

Resolving Server Timeouts

1. Check Your Internet Connection

Make sure that your internet connection is up and running properly, as having a slow connection could lead to timeout issues given the search time limit. To check your connection status, try using other functions on GitHub’s site, or open up another browser window to check that other web pages load correctly.

2. Review the Status of GitHub’s Servers

Although admittedly rare, there is a chance that the error lies with GitHub’s servers, due to a hot-fix gone wrong or some other significant update. To ensure that GitHub is up and running, check its server status page. This page will inform you of any incidents that are happening in real-time, as well as the status of their operations, pull requests, pages, and other functions. In addition to being a great tech support resource, you can also use it to read up on the latest updates to use GitHub’s technology to its highest potential.

Resolving Search Query Issues

1. Ensure Your Character Length Is Appropriate

GitHub has a policy in place that a search string cannot have more than 256 characters (that’s approximately 64 words). If you cannot search for a specific string of code you're looking for, it may be because your query is too long and cannot be processed.

2. Watch Your Operators

Another important point to note is that GitHub doesn't support searches with more than 5 operators (specifically, AND, NOT, and OR). If your search query has 5 or more operators of that type, you won’t be able to pull any results.

3. Read Up on Additional Limitations for Searches

While this is quite a bit technical, and may not be practical immediately as a first step, it's important to review GitHub’s search documentation to make sure you're entering your search query correctly. This is especially pertinent when it comes to searching for code, as there may be additional limitations on what does and does not count as a valid search inquiry, most likely when it comes to searching for advanced code strings. As an added bonus, reading up on these more technical points will make you a more proficient GitHub user in the long run.


In conclusion, if you're struggling with search issues on GitHub, make sure to follow the above steps to get your issue solved. If, for whatever reason, these solutions don't offer you any relief, check out GitHub’s fantastic support resources so you can keep coding and continue working towards your goals.

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