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I am a regular user of my company's SharePoint system. I was just running a search for a document I wrote and uploaded a long time ago. When I clicked on one of the documents that were recovered by the search, the result is "The webpage cannot be found". How is it possible for a document that doesn't exist to appear in the search results? Or what could this mean?

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There's multiple possibilities but here's two that are most likely:

  1. An issue with loading the URL of the item. Meaning, the item still exists and is there but for some reason you couldn't reach it.
  2. When an item is deleted it isn't immediately removed from search results. To keep search results up to date at scheduled times the search system connects to the location where the content is kept and crawls through it to update search results with any additions, deletions, or changes in the content. Perhaps the item was deleted or moved to a different URL but the search system hasn't crawled that content source yet. Or perhaps something went wrong when the crawl ran.

This type of problem is referred to as stale search results. If you notice the problem continuing for period of time or if more items show the same behavior then it should be reported to the farm administrators so they can investigate.

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