Mail Search Not working on Mac, Fix

Several users have said that the Mail search is not working as expected on the Mac. Users have further said that the search results don’t appear as expected. For example, the results do not include older emails. And sometimes, searching mails get no results at all, or Mail search returns unexpected results. Some users have said that they only began experiencing this problem after updating their Mac. In this article, we explain what you can do if your Mail app search function seems broken or has seemingly stopped working.

Check for updates

The first step you should do is to check for macOS updates. And ensure that your Mac has the latest version of the software. You can update and check for updates by going to System Preferences > Software Update. If there is an update available, then follow the screen instructions.

Update Mac

Quit and restart

If updating the Mac does not fix, then try these steps:

  1. Quit the Mail app. You can choose Quit from the app’s menu (Mail > Quit Mail) or you can press Command (⌘)-Q.
  2. Now press and hold the Shift key, while pressing the Shift key, open the Mail app.
  3. Quit the Mail app again.
  4. Again open the app while pressing the Shift key.
  5. Quit Mail again.
  6. Now restart your Mac (Apple menu > Restart).
  7. Now open the Mail app and do a search and test to see if you have fixed your problem.

Rebuild

You can try to build your Mailbox. If you have multiple Mailboxes, rebuild for each one of your Mailboxes. Here is how:

  1. Open the Mail app.
  2. Select your Mailbox.
  3. Click the Mailbox menu.
  4. At the bottom of the menu, click the Rebuild option.
Rebuild Mail

Then wait until the process is completed. A progress bar will appear.

Reindex Spotlight

The next step in fixing broken Mail search is to rebuild your Spotlight indexing. Here is how:

  1. Go to System Preferences, then click Spotlight.
  2. Remove Mail & Messages from the spotlight search settings by unchecking its box.
  3. Then restart your Mac.
  4. And go to System Preferences > Spotlight and recheck the Mail & Messages box.

If rebuilding Spotlight does not help you, you can also do this via Terminal. Here is how:

  • Quit Mail.
  • Open the Terminal app (Applications > Utilities) and enter the following command and hit enter. This will stop and flush the indexes:
sudo mdutil -i off -E /
  • Enter your passcode if asked. Then enter to following command to verify:
sudo mdutil -s /
  • Then enter the following command to reindex:
sudo mdutil -i on /
  • Again enter the following command to verify:
sudo mdutil -s /

Now we will clear the Mail.app indexes. Here is how:

  • Open your Library folder:
    • In Finder, click Go > Go to Folder.
    • In the box, type ~/Library and click Go.
  • Click and open the Mail folder.
  • Open the V8 folder (depending on your version, it can be V7, if Catalina, etc). If it is Big Sur, it is V8, the next version will be V9, etc.
  • Click and open the MailData folder.
  • Find Envelope Index files and drag them to the Trash. And empty the Trash.
  • Restart your Mac.
  • Open Mail and test your issue with searching Mail.

If you are still having this problem, you can try resetting the SMC and restarting your Mac in Safe Mode.

See also:

Dr. Serhat Kurt worked as a Senior Technology Director. He holds a doctoral degree (or doctorate) from the University of Illinois at Urbana / Champaign and a master’s degree from Purdue University.

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