How to Fix Mail Search Not Working on macOS

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There are plenty of unexpected glitches that may occur shortly after upgrading to a new macOS version. Some of these bugs seem to plague almost every new macOS release. Oftentimes, many Mac users are unable to get the mail search function to work after installing a new macOS version. But this issue may also occur out of the blue which is even more confusing for users. Let’s explore how you can quickly troubleshoot your Apple Mail search problems.

Fix: Apple Mail Search Has Stopped Working

As always, don’t forget to backup your data before you pursue the solutions below. In case anything goes wrong, you’ll be able to restore your data.

Log Out, Restart Your Mac or Use Safe Mode

  1. Close the Mail app, launch it again and log out of your account. Exit the app.
  2. Restart your computer and check if you can use the Search function.
  3. If the issue persists, enter Safe Mode.Shift keys on MacBook keyboard
    • On an Intel-based Mac, shut down your computer, wait 10 seconds and restart your device. Press and hold down the Shift key while your machine is restarting. Release the key when the login window appears on the screen.
    • If you own an Apple Silicon Mac, turn off your machine, and wait 10 seconds. Then hold down the Power button until the startup options appear on the screen. Select your startup disk and hold the Shift key. Select Continue in Safe mode and release the key.

⇒ Important Note: Make sure you check the All Mailboxes option. If you select All Inboxes, your search results may not be that accurate.

apple mail app search all mailboxes

Customise Your Touch Bar

Reconfiguring the Touch Bar settings is another simple solution that yielded positive results for many users. Of course, use this solution only if your Mac has a Touch Bar. All you need to do is launch Mail and go to View. Select and add the Search function.

Use the Shift Key

Many users confirmed that opening the Mail app while holding down the Shift key worked for them. By holding Shift while launching an app, you temporarily prevent the app from restoring its saved state. In other words, the Mail app forgets what windows were active the last time you closed it.

  1. Quit the Mail app.
  2. Press and hold down the Shift key and then launch the Mail app again. Wait 5 seconds and exit Mail.
  3. Repeat the process, press the Shift Key, launch Apple Mail and close the app again.
  4. Restart your computer and launch the app normally. Check the results.

Manually Select Your Emails

apple mail

Did you know that you can use Shift + Click to manually select the email or folders you want to include in your search? So, go ahead and click on your inbox, and then hold down Shift and click on the last folder in the list. In this manner, you can select all of the folders in-between and include them in the search. Check if you can now find the email or information you’re looking for.

Rebuild Your Mailboxes

Rebuilding your mailboxes may help you solve this problem. Keep in mind that you need to repeat the steps below for each of your mailboxes.

  1. Launch your Apple Mail app and locate the mailbox you want to rebuilt (left-hand pane).
    • Note: If the pane is not visible, select View and then click on Show Mailbox List. Or you can use the Shift + Command + M command.
  2. Select your mailbox, go to the Mailbox menu and hit the Rebuild option.apple mail rebuild mailbox
  3. Wait until your Mac completes the process. This may take up to a few hours depending on the size of your mailbox.

Reinstall the OS

If this Mail Search problem occurred after you installed the latest macOS updates, try reinstalling the OS. Maybe some of the update files failed to install properly. For some users, reinstalling the OS was the only solution that worked.

  1. Press Command + R to launch macOS Recovery. Or press Shift + Option + Command+ R to enter macOS Recovery over the Internet.
  2. Select the Reinstall option, hit the Continue button and follow the on-screen instructions to complete the process.reinstall macOS using Recovery Mode menu
  3. If you own an Apple Silicon device, turn on computer and hold the Power button until the startup options appear on the screen. Click on Options and then hit Continue.

Rebuild Your Mail and Spotlight Indexes

A number of users solved this problem by rebuilding their Mail and Spotlight indexes. While this method may not work for everybody, it’s worth giving it a try.

  1. Exit Mail and navigate to ~/Library/Mail/V8/MailData.apple mail library maildata
  2. Delete the three files that start with Envelope index.envelope index apple mail maildata
  3. Restart your app and let it import the data.
  4. Then go to System Preferences, select Spotlight and uncheck Mail and Messages.spotlight mail and messages
  5. Wait  two minutes and then check the Mail and Messages checkbox again.

Do a SMC Reset

If the search problem persists, do a SMC reset. However, keep in mind that many users said this solution worked only until they switched users. The good news is that a simple restart should fix the issue afterwards.

  1. Shut down your MacBook.
  2. Hold the following keys on the left side of your keyboard: Shift + Control + Option.
  3. Then hold down the Power as well. You now need to hold down all the four keys for 10 seconds.
  4. After 10 seconds, release all the keys and press the Power button to turn on your machine.

Additional Solutions

  • Clear the search criteria by clicking the X in the search field. Check if your Mail app now shows all your messages.
  • Disable and enable your Gmail account. Navigate to System PreferencesInternet Accounts → go to your Gmail account and simply untick the checkbox already checked by Mail. Just uncheck the box, don’t delete it. Close System Preferences, restart your Mac and then go back to System Preferences and select your Gmail account in Mail.
  • Launch the Activity Monitor and quit the corespotlightd process. The process will restart by itself. Check if the search functions works as intended.

Conclusion

The Search function may sometimes stop working on your Mail app. It appears this problem frequently occurs after installing a new macOS version. To troubleshoot this issue, hold down the Shift key and launch the Mail app. Wait a few seconds, exit Mail and restart your computer. If the issue persists, rebuild your mailboxes, and do the same for your Mail and Spotlight indexes.

Did you encounter similar issues after upgrading to Big Sur? Did you find other solutions to troubleshoot this problem? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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