How-To Geek

Disabling Instant Search in Outlook 2007

I know what you are thinking when you read the title of this article… why on earth would you want to disable Instant Search? It’s one of the best new features in Outlook 2007! I agree, but if you are having problems with it you might be curious how to effectively disable it.

I personally found this very useful when the Instant Search just completely broke. It returned nothing at all, and I needed to find a message quickly… so I just disabled the index temporarily.

Note: I’m not recommending that you just go and try this. Only use this as a troubleshooting technique, and only if you backup first.

Disable Instant Search

Click the tiny drop-down arrow next to the Instant Search box, and then choose Search Options from the menu.


You’ll see a list of your data files or .pst files here, and you’ll want to remove the checks next to each one.


When you close the dialog you’ll get an extremely wide message telling you that you will need to exit and re-open Outlook.


Now when you restart Outlook, the search will work just like the old versions of Outlook did. That’s right, it will be painfully slow.

To reverse these changes you can simply complete the same steps, but make sure to check the boxes. Note that when you re-enable Windows will rebuild the search index again, so it won’t be available for a while.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/20/07

Comments (21)

  1. Chris B

    Thank you thank you! I was wondering how to get my search back! My Instant Search has been broken for months… and i’ll gladly take the slow search over nothing at all!

  2. Marty

    Or don’t disable anything and just press CTRL+SHIFT+F (or Tools mernu -> Instant Search -> Advanced Find).

  3. Ross

    You can rebuild the search index through the Control Panel and that also solves the problem of a broken Instant Search in Outlook 2007

  4. Reddox

    Or disable Vista’s User Account Control. It works.

    Open Start:

    Type in search:
    C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe /k %windir%\System32\reg.exe ADD HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System /v EnableLUA /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f

    press Ctrl+Shift+Enter


  5. Eric

    Just removing the checks for each data file listed under “Search Options”, “Indexing Options” appears to have fixed it for me. After restarting Outlook 2007, quick search is still available and working again.


  6. Elanza

    Please help. I’m trying to disable indexing of mailbox. I follow all the steps but outlook keeps on comming back with an error. I cannot use search as Outlook 2007 is always busy indexing

  7. Roman

    Please help. Outlook 2007 is still indexing! I really need to use search. I have tried everything above and all other sites. Pleas help!!

  8. M. Keller

    On a different note on MS Outlook using Contacts. I enter a contact and several days later it is not there when I try to send an e-mail message to that contact. I re-enter the information for that contact only to be told that the contact already exists and if I want to add the info to the existing contact…ussually strapt for time, I simply add the new version of the contact. This can happen several times so that I will get several identical contacts of the same person….help

  9. Mike

    I just did the same thing. I have tried all of the recommended remedies for rebuilding the index to no avail. I am now downloading Google Desktop to replace the fast searching.

  10. Andor

    Thank you for this! The indexed search in both Vista and Outlook is the biggest setback of Microsoft in many years. It simply does not return all the result, because always the index is either corrupted, or incomplete, or Windows/Outlook decided it did not need to index certain areas. Search is practically impossible on Vista and in Outlook 2007.

    Fortunately, now there is a way to disable the software to think for you and decide that you really won’t be looking for whichever file you are looking. So thanks for this!

  11. Santosh

    Hi, I need a help in Outlook 2007

    I want to RESTRICT Search Inbox option only for SENDER and SUBJECT. But by default, Outlook searches even email body thus it takes a while.

    Do you know how to set this?


  12. Richard Scott

    Hi, Can you please help me. I get this error message when I try to use the instant search. In outlook 2007, I’m still on MS XP

    “Instant Search encountered a problem while trying to display search results. Mondifying your queary may resolve this problem.”

    I don’t know why I suddenly get this message. I have not changed the settings and the instant search worked last week.

    Thank you

  13. Roger

    Thanks !!!

    I was very upset with it because that f*****g advanced search did not returned anything, because indexing was enabled.

    Despite that option activated that tells outlook to tell us if indexing was not complete with a message box, outlook remainded autistic…

  14. Travis

    Hahahaha, ‘painfully slow’? Is that geekspeak for “actually works”?

    InstantSearch and WDS4 are the glitchiest piles of garbage I’ve had the misfortune of running into in a long time.

  15. Tony

    Disabled Instant search and replaced it with Lookeen. Now that’s what I call instant search : )

  16. Neil

    Thanks for this I had a problem with contacts and you have solved it.



  17. Julio Cibrian

    I had to install the piece of garbage of Windows Search 4.0 to be able to remove all the checkmarks from the “Search Options” menu. After installing it (just to disable it) my old “slow but working” search was back. Thanks!

  18. sumit

    I tried these steps to enabling the instant serch but it didn’t work. Can you suggest me an alternative way to do that?

  19. Fahad

    Thanks my problem is solved :)

    my instant search was broken and result returns nothing.

  20. Marvin

    It worked!
    …and it is not that slow.

  21. Elizabeth

    Hey – it might be painfully slow – but at least it works now. Thanks for the fix!

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