How to search in Microsoft Outlook

Use the search bar located at the top of the Outlook window. In this field you can enter text related to the sender’s name, sender’s email address, the email’s subject, the email’s body/content, etc.

Microsoft Outlook 2021 Search Bar

Depending on your Microsoft Outlook settings, the system will select the location for your search. If you’re searching while you are in the Inbox, the system usually selects “Current Mailbox”, which means, the system will search all folders within your email. You can change this behavior by clicking on Current Mailbox and selecting the place you would like to search instead.

Microsoft Outlook 2021 Search Location

Please note that there are a few extra filters and options available under the Search tab which include options like:

  • Has Attachments: Returns only the emails that have an attachment.
  • Include Deleted Items: Includes all results and any matching results found on the Deleted Items folder.
  • Search Tools: This area includes additional tools that will be very beneficial when locating older emails.
Microsoft Outlook 2021 Search Options

During search, the system will typically return indexed items that are currently present on your computer (no cloud results). What does this mean? In most Outlook setups, users and IT admin will limit the email cache to up to 1 or 2 years to enhance performance and prevent issues. When this cache is set, Microsoft Outlook will only download emails that are newer to the cached limit. Once the emails are downloaded, Windows will “index” those downloaded items for its search functionality.

Due to the way Microsoft Outlook works with the settings mentioned above, many of your search results will not include older items. To bypass this issue, Microsoft Outlook has an option under Search Tools called “Include Older Results” under Search Tools. If you’re searching for an old email or you’re unable to locate an email, try using the Include Older Results options.

Microsoft Outlook 2021 Search Tools
Microsoft Outlook 2021 Search Include Older Results

Some versions of Outlook will have a dedicated button.

Searching Online Archive

Depending on the organization’s Microsoft 365 configuration (Exchange Online), emails older than 2 years (standard practice), will be automatically moved to a location called “Online Archive” or “In-Place Archive”.

In most cases, when searching for emails in your mailbox, Microsoft Outlook does not include results on this archive place. To search the Online Archive, locate the folder on the left side of the Microsoft Outlook window that starts with “Online Archive” or “In-Place Archive”. Once you locate that folder, proceed to expand the folder ( click the > icon) and then do a search as you would usually do.

Microsoft Outlook 2021 Online Archive

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