How do I find the email I’ve lost?

Apr 27, 2023 | Outlook Hints and Tips

This is something that I get asked over and over again.  Sometimes it’s because you just have too many emails to try and hunt through, or it may be that you have filed it away in the wrong place so it’s’ not where you expect it to be or even that you have accidentally deleted it.  Fear not!!  Help is at hand.

Prevention is better than cure

If you are getting 10’s or 100’s of emails through every day then no wonder you can’t find the one you are looking for.  The following basic housekeeping tips could help to keep the volume of emails you are having to deal with or are keeping in Outlook down which is going to help

  • Delete emails that you do not need
  • Send emails to junk if the sender repeatedly contacts you and shouldn’t be
  • Use rules to file emails automatically avoiding errors
  • Use Quick parts to file emails more easily making the chance of them going into the wrong folder less likely
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters you are no longer interested in
  • Use Microsoft Teams to communicate internally minimising communication in Outlook

Still having problems?  Then learning how to use search effectively is vital.

Using Basic Search

Many people only use search in a very fundamental way.  This is better than manually searching but may not be as sophisticated as you need.

  1. Click in the Search box at the top of the Outlook screen
search box image

2. Type in what you need to search for.  This could be part of an email subject line, a persons name, a file attachment or more.

3. Press Enter

4. This searches throughout the current mailbox and will often pull through a huge number of emails still many of which are irrelevant to the search you want to perform.  For example, searching for “May” could pull though emails about the month May or the text “we may be able to do this” or a person called May.  If this can be narrowed down it is going to help

More sophisticated search

When you click in the search box a Search tab appears on the ribbon.  This can narrow down the search criteria significantly

  1. Click in the Search box
  2. Hit ESC to close the list of the last searches performed
Search Tab image

3. There is now a Search Tab available with many options to choose from.  In the refine section we have:

a. From – looks for emails from a specific sender.  The search box shows from:”Sender Name”.  Sender Name can be replaced with the sender to search for and this will be found anywhere in the email address

b. Subject – looks for the text anywhere in the subject line.  The search box shows Subject:”keywords”.  The keyword can be replaced with the text to be found in the subject line

c. Has attachments – looks for any emails with file attachments

d. Categorized – looks for emails that have been assigned a certain category.  A list of current categories is displayed to choose from

e. Sent to  – the search can look at emails sent directly to me, not sent directly to me or sent to another recipient.  This last option shows as to:”recipient name” in the search box.  This can be changed to the required recipient name

f. Unread – searches for emails that have not been marked as read

g. Flagged – shows any emails flagged for follow up regardless of the date

h. Important – shows emails that have been marked as high importance

4. The Scope section of the Search tab allows the search location to be narrowed or widened from the default of Current Mailbox.  If you think you know where the email should be then looking in the Current Folder or Subfolders (which includes the current folder) can be useful.  If the email can’t be found in the current mailbox then expanding the search to All Mailboxes or All Outlook Items (which also includes the calendar, tasks, contacts etc) can help.

5. In the Search Tools the Advanced Find option can be more specific by searching based on any of the fields that exist in Outlook

6. In Search Tools and Search Options the default settings for the search can be altered.  This includes where the results are being found from and whether to include Deleted items

Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed reading how to find an email you have lost in Outlook, there are some other blogs below that you might find useful:

Want to learn more about Microsoft Outlook? Then email to discuss how I can help or have a look at the Microsoft Outlook Courses I run.