Microsoft resorts to Registry hack to keep Outlook from using Windows 11 search
Only a short-term solution to prevent the OS interfering with email results
Microsoft has identified Windows Indexing as the culprit for broken Outlook Search results in Windows 11.
The problem for Outlook Desktop users on Windows 11 is that recent emails are not showing up in the search results and Windows Indexing appears to be the culprit.
The indexing service is infamously fragile and when results look a bit odd, chances are the Windows Indexing options in the Control Panel might show the service as either paused or running slowly.
Since the Windows Search service is used to index offline email, the problem mostly affects users with POP, IMAP, and offline Exchange accounts. Microsoft 365 and connected Exchange accounts use Service Search, which isn't affected by whatever is causing Windows Search such trouble.
As for a fix, well, there isn't a formal one yet. Microsoft is working on it, but hasn't yet emitted a release date.
A temporary workaround is to simply switch off Windows Desktop Search to force Outlook to use its built-in service. Users that choose this option will be warned that Search will be impacted because a group policy has turned off the Windows Search service, but let's face it, less-than-slick performance has long been a hallmark of the Windows Search services.
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Microsoft has helpfully provided a set of steps required for making the necessary changes to the Windows Registry to disable Windows Search for Outlook (alongside the usual health warning that clumsy editing might result in "serious problems").
Windows Search has long blighted Microsoft's flagship operating system, and behind the scenes Windows Search continues to cause grief for some.
In 2019, for example, Microsoft emitted a fix for excessive CPU usage that ended up comprehensively breaking desktop search for a bunch of users.
The latest problem is, however, a reminder of the connection between Microsoft's services. Local Outlook search appears to have a preference for the indexes produced by Windows Search. Therefore, when Windows Search is having issues so too does Outlook. A shame then that a registry hack is required to work around the problem. ®