One of the nicest features on a Mac is how intelligently it can help you search your email. You can do your search in Mail.app or from Spotlight. Sometimes, though, you’ll experience problems. Here’s how you can fix broken Mail search on macOS Catalina and Big Sur.
Restart Spotlight Indexing
Your first step in fixing broken Mail search should be to stop, clear, and restart your Spotlight indexing. The other method that usually works will reset all your defaults in Mail.app. To avoid this, try following Apple’s support article on rebuilding the Spotlight index. Or, follow these steps
Quit Mail.app, then open Terminal.app. To stop and flush the indexes, enter the command
sudo mdutil -i off -E.
Now, let’s verify indexing is stopped:
sudo mdutil -s
We’ll restart Spotlight indexing like this:
sudo mdutil -i on
To verify indexing is turned on again, just do
sudo mdutil -s a second time.
Next, you need to clear the Mail.app indexes in
~/Library/Mail/V7/MailDatafor macOS Catalina. On macOS Big Sur, it will be
~/Library/Mail/V8/MailData. From Finder > Go to folder, enter
~/Library/Mail/V8/MailData. You’ll see some Envelope Index files; drag them to the Trash, then empty the Trash. Don’t worry, they’ll be rebuilt.
Now, restart your Mac and then reopen Mail.app. Hopefully, this will have solved your issue with searching Mail.
Fixing Seriously Broken Email Searches
This next method is a bit more destructive to how you have Mail.app set up, but it might be your only hope if reindexing Spotlight didn’t do the trick. Nevertheless, when you’re dealing with broken email search, this could be your last resort. What you’re going to do is completely reset Mail.app to its defaults.
Go ahead and close Mail.app completely. Now, hold the Shift key (either one will do) and click on Mail. Once it’s fully launched, close Mail.app completely again.
Once again, hold Shift and click on Mail.app. Close Mail.app completely one final time. Now, restart your Mac.
Enjoying Your Mac’s Email Again
After your Mac boots back up and you get logged in, open Mail.app. Everything should start working fine again. Bookmark this article, just in case the problem rears its ugly head again.