Last reviewed on February 26, 2013   —  31 Comments

Windows 8 logoWith Windows 8 wide availability, many users discovered one of the few major fails in Windows 8:

Windows Search does not include Outlook data. (Plus, Outlook 2013 data is not found in Search in older versions of Windows.)

I know I'm not alone in my disappointment that a feature I fell in love with over the last couple of Windows versions is history. It could find anything, fast. Including email, contacts, messages stuck in the Outbox... I've been singing the praises of the "Start Search" field and teaching users how to limit the results to just Outlook items, only to see the Outlook search capability removed from Windows 8. And no, I'm not talking about the Start button. I can live without the Start button. I want Outlook items in the Windows search results. I liked being able to search for Outlook items without going into Outlook. Other users liked that the index included contents of archive pst files, shared mailboxes and public folders (when cached).

The Windows 8 Search isn't picking up the contents of emails in an Outlook 2007 .pst file. Index properties look correct and I rebuilt the Index. But still no email in the search results.

It's not you, it's not your configuration. It's not just Outlook 2007. It's Windows 8 and all versions of Outlook are affected. The Windows 8 search does not support Outlook items in Charms.

If you upgraded to Outlook 2013 on Windows 7, Start Search won't work. Any Outlook items it finds were indexed when your older version of Outlook was installed and they will not open in Outlook 2013. Rebuild your index to remove the Outlook items from it.

You may be able to find Outlook items in Windows Explorer, depending on your version of Outlook. After the initial search ends, select Search again in, Microsoft Outlook from the Search ribbon. If Outlook is not listed as an option, you'll need to search from within Outlook.

This screenshot is from a computer with Outlook 2013 installed, so Search again in... Outlook is not an option:

search again in...

What are the recommendations for searching archived PST files? I have too much data to load into the current profile. What is the solution?

At this time, the only recommendation is a third party search tool. I have a list at Search Tools for Personal Use but I don't know (yet) which ones work best with Windows 8, or Outlook 2013. (They should all work with older versions.)

Overall, I like Windows 8. It took a couple of months, but I no longer miss Start button. The Windows key is my friend and keyboarding is faster than using the mouse. I pinned my most used applications to the Taskbar so I don't have to drop back to the start screen to open an application. The other major fail? The new Solitaire games are too easy.

Ahmed recommends using StartIsBack, which "essentially recreates the Windows 7 start menu, including Outlook/Onenote search. It will also allow you to completely segregate metro and desktop apps into their respective start menus (so that the Windows 8 Start screen only shows metro apps and the desktop Start menu only shows desktop apps) as well as boot directly to the desktop."


Tools in the Spotlight


OutlookFinder is a search add in for Outlook. It will find all of your email, addresses, attachments, desktop files in seconds... Just enter your search and press enter. Replaces Outlook built-in search. Searches all your PSTs at once. Search Desktop and Mailbox. Supports Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013 (32 and 64bit )



Lookeen Desktop Search with an optional Outlook add-in enables Windows users to quickly and easily browse all data in documents, e-mails, attachments, contacts, appointments, tasks and notes. Relevant information is at the user's fingertips within a few seconds, and search results are always up to date with real-time indexing. Advanced search queries and filter options allow users to easily narrow down a search. View & edit documents, reply to or forward emails and more from within Lookeen. Supports Outlook 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013 and Office 365, and Windows Vista, 7,8, and 10.

Xobni for Outlook: Infinity Edition

Xobni is the free Outlook plugin that saves you time finding email, conversations, contact info, and attachments. Get lightning-fast search and learn more about the people in Outlook through information drawn from around the web. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Salesforce, Hoover's info, and more-all right inside Outlook.


  1. JamesB says

    My bet why this feature is no longer there is because of the move to one OS across all device types. Phones and Tablets would never index all your email plus indexing would be a battery killer. If they are going to disable features we had in prior OS's just to get the OS to perform well across devices with less power, less demanding applications, less user content generation then who knows what else has been disabled or crippled. This is why the unified OS approach is broken IMHO. Desktops are not SmartPhones and we do not use Desktops and SmartPhones in a similar way. MS's approach would be like making all cars have 4 wheel drive, have a pickup bed in the back, have at least seating for 6 and so forth just because we need to have a unified vehicle even though many people would never drive where they need 4 wheel drive, carry a load of trash to the dump or have more than a date in the car with them, It's a stupid approach!

    Imagine how restrictive this will be going forward. If we are designing new Tech based on the slowest, least powerful common denominator then we can kiss innovation goodbye!

  2. alex eckelberry says

    I'm as devastated as you are. I live by this feature. Upgrading to Windows 8, I pressed the usual Windows +F and got... no emails... Trying Xobni...

  3. Cathy says

    Diane, please can you give advise us the best way to search in outlook in Windows 8? I really need to find emails and documents and it is just devastating that I can't find them from within windows search and outlook just plain ...well, sucks for search. I used to use Eudora way back when, and it had multifield searches that were phenomenally better than anything ever in outlook.

    • Diane Poremsky says

      What version of outlook? I need to update it... if you use outlook 2007, possible 2010, you might be able to use the 'search again in' button to select outlook. I don't know how accurate or through is it as it will not work with outlook 2013.

  4. Neil says

    Windows 8 Explorer has a really good search function.

    1. Click on (WIN + E)
    2. Select Search tab
    3. Select Kind = email

    Another way is simply going to the Explorer search bar and typing:

    {something in outlook} kind:=email... the press enter

    Example inside quotes: "client meeting minutes kind:=email"

    Hope that helps someone

    • Diane Poremsky says

      If it's finding mail in your outlook, you are not using Outlook 2013. :) The mailbox index is separate from the windows index.

  5. Ahmed Mesbah says

    The only thing that was stopping me from upgrading to Windows 8 was the lack of Outlook/Onenote search from the Start screen. While I was more than happy to launch applications the Windows 8 way, either from the start screen or taskbar, the lack of Outlook/Onenote search akin to Windows 7 was a deal-breaker. The workaround above, with File Explorer, was also cumbersome.

    I have gotten around this, though, by installing StartIsBack (, which essentially recreates the Windows 7 start menu, including Outlook/Onenote search. It will also allow you to completely segregate metro and desktop apps into their respective start menus (so that the Windows 8 Start screen only shows metro apps and the desktop Start menu only shows desktop apps) as well as boot directly to the desktop.

    I'm a happy camper now.

  6. Carlos Tu says

    Ahmed, thanks a Million, this works great! I didn't even need to wait for indexing, my onenotes and outlook records, appeared right away!

  7. polonium101 says

    My priblem was a little different: still running Win 7, my searches didn't include Outlook items after installing Outlook 2013, even with Outlook 2010 still installed. Here's a very strange "solution." Windows 8 shares Outlook 2013's abandonment of returning e-mails in "shell search." However, if you are running Win 8, you can install the third-party Start8 program that restores the "start" button in Win 8's desktop view. If you search using the Start8 "Start" button, your search results will include Outlook 2013 e-mails.

    The reason I call the solution "strange" is because both Win 8 and Outlook 2013 share Microsoft's new "truth" that people don't want to do this kind of search, (and in fact it makes me pessimistic about their restoring the functionality that's gone with Outlook 2013 - it doesn't exist in Win 8 even if you're still using Outlook 2010, so why expect that they'll add it back to Outlook 2013)? So it's ironic that the only way I can find to get what I want with Outlook 2013 is to install Win 8.

    • Diane Poremsky says

      Shell search was removed for security reasons - anyone could read someone's email, even if Outlook was closed, using a shell search.

    • Diane Poremsky says

      Shell search only includes the logged-in user's data, but if the logged in user closes outlook and lets someone else use their computer, the "borrower" can search the owner's email without outlook open. Yes, owner's should lock computers when walking away and each user should have separate windows accounts, but people still let other people use their computer or don't lock it.

  8. David Bermingham says

    Wow, just wow. I thought things were supposed to get easier with Windows 8. What a giant step backwards. Hopefully this will get fixed in a future version.

  9. Uri says

    I posted in a different thread but here goes ..

    Upgraded work PC and can not longer use much loved Lookout search as don't have admin privileges.

    Have lots of PST files therefore happy within Win 8.1/Outlook 2013 search however would desperately love to be able to see the path of the folder of the found email eg

    happy with vba and found get path info but it fails when pointing to a PST

  10. Paul Roberts says

    Diane, thank you for taking time to put this page together, I had no idea that Windows Search would not work on Windows 8 as easily as XP and 7, assumed everything would be better in that department and that I would only have to contend with Metro tiles...

    For those struggling..... Ahmeds recommmendation to try StartIsBack (, is 100% on the money. Works absolutely perfectly for me, just like Windows 7, thoughts of having to take laptop back to shop and get Windws 7 back just for decent search have gone. Tried lots of other things including other Win 7 style start menus, but startisback works great (and is low priced.. :) )

    What are microsoft plthinking - No way I could use Win8 at work without being able to search back to 2002 in emails..

  11. alasdair says

    wow this is bizarre; I thought the modern way was not to worry about organizing things into folders as you could just search powerfully, now you can't search at all? It's like going back 10 years

    • Diane PoremskyDiane Poremsky says

      You can search, just not in windows explorer. They changed it for security reasons - email could be found if outlook was closed and could be found after it was deleted from outlook until the index updates - I found mail from a shared mailbox that was no longer in my profile.

  12. daveberm says

    I just find it odd that with Windows 10 they show you web results for your search, yet nothing from your Inbox. If I'm searching for an important file and I find it on the internet before I find in in my Inbox something is seriously wrong. If they ever get a good version of Office and Outlook for the Mac I think you will see a mass exodus to that OS.

    • Diane PoremskyDiane Poremsky says

      They used to include Outlook messages in the Windows search results but it was considered a security breach as anyone could read your mail without opening outlook.

  13. St says

    For me the win 8 search system is two steps backwards. Hopefully it get easier in the future. Otherwise I must use costly third party software. Currently I try the demo of Lookeen. As yet it's auspicious.

  14. Tom says

    No, I'm sorry. I don't believe the "security breach" claim. So a user's documents would contain less sensitive data than an email? Having proper account and physical security is always a requirement; crippling the search will do nothing to stop an adversary.

    Someone mentioned above that this was to create a unified experience among devices running Windows 8, and that I believe. It makes no sense to cripple WDS and prevent the return of email results just because my Windows Phone could never do it.

    Adding insult to injury, my PC in question doesn’t even have Windows 8. It is Windows 7 Pro x64 with Office Pro x64…and because of this idiotic decision, I cannot search for the email that I have tagged and filed everywhere—some in open psts, some in closed. And I can’t underscore enough that I *may not know where the item resides* whether a document or email, so having the unified WDS search was extremely powerful. Now I need to use WDS, then open Outlook and whatever psts may be relevant, make sure they’re indexed and included in the search, and spend a huge amount of time doing something that used to take seconds—and I don’t even know I’ll find what I want.

    By playing around with the indexing options for WDS, I’m pretty sure the quantity of email in in question is still being indexed (e.g. if I remove Outlook from the locations, the item count goes way down). So the items may be indexed, just WDS won’t return them. If anyone has a fix for this (short of third party tools that I cannot use/license on a work asset) please please post. I’d gladly buy you a dinner of your choosing—thanks!

    • Diane PoremskyDiane Poremsky says

      You can search for mail - but you need to do it in outlook, not in Windows Explorer. When a pst is closed, the contents are supposed to be removed from the index, although it usually isn't until the full re-indexing. And yes, it is a security breach - in many organizations, email contains more sensitive information than documents.

      WDS is still the indexing engine for outlook but the search results are only returned in searches within outlook. I'm not aware of any hack that will make it work like it did in outlook 2010/win7.

  15. tom says

    Sorry, that there's still a way to search email misses the point (as a side note however, while reaching this issue I found numerous examples of where the Outlook instant search wouldn't work either, mine does fortunately). We know we can do it it Outlook. We're saying our use case is that we don't know if the information is in a file, attached file, message, etc. That's the power of WDS; it was unified--not to mention the interface is cleaner than the jumbled grouping in my Outlook mailbox.

    And for security, you're conflating terms. You may view it as a risk in your organization, but it is not a "breach." In any event, if the information is of a sensitive nature, it must be classified and marked as such and afforded the proper protections to mitigate such risk during its storage and transport. This appears to be a conscious strategic direction for right or wrong from MS; but I think that blaming it on security (whether by users or MS itself) avoids discussing such a strategy on its merits and does a disservice to actual security.

    I do however appreciate the confirmation on the indexing engine and lack of known ability to extract email search data into WDS.


  16. Pat Ward says

    I was looking forward to Windows 10 , but the biggest feature i love in windows 7 and Outlook 2007 is that when I want a topic searched everything is found. I have a paid for version off Office 2013 sitting here that I had to remove from my machine as I did not know the issues. I am the only user of my laptop - just me and I want it back. This is not a security breach for me .. it is just leaving me in the past - but with the knowledge that I can search everything .. subject to Microsoft not putting a "security update patch" in to stop it .. then I go Linux and look at other options...!"

    • Diane PoremskyDiane Poremsky says

      Unfortunately, things aren't changing with Windows 10 - search is within outlook only.

Leave a Reply

Please post long or more complicated questions at OutlookForums by

If the Post Comment button disappears, press your Tab key.