Windows Search & File Indexing

By Joe Callison
27 July, 2017

Windows Search has been around for several Windows versions, and frankly I never gave it much thought and rarely used it until Windows 8 came along, and then I found it was the quickest and easiest way to find where Microsoft had put all of the stuff I used to know where  was in Windows 7. I was aware of the option to index your hard drive or not in the disk properties, but had never made the connection with Windows Search until recently when I came across an article suggesting to speed up old computers and free up disk space by turning off the indexing if you do not rely on Windows Search that much and don’t care if it takes longer to find something when you do use it occasionally.  

I investigated the topic further and found that indeed for old and slower computers, you can lighten the processor load and reduce the time to read and write files to disk by not having to create data for the index for every file, which can take up to 25% more disk space than an un-indexed file. I also found that there are Indexing Options in Control Panel to add folders or remove folders from the default list for indexing in Windows, and other Advanced options such as choosing file types for indexing or rebuilding a broken index.

If you have a really slow computer or one with very little disk space, then you might want to try turning off the indexing option completely. You can always change your mind and turn it back on again later if you want to. To turn off indexing, use File Explorer or Computer on Vista or Windows 7 (My Computer on XP) and right-click your mouse on the drive with your files, usually called Local Disk (C:) or some other name with (C:) after it.

In the menu that opens, select Properties. Near the bottom of the Properties window will be a checkbox to allow indexing. If you uncheck it and click on Apply, your computer will begin removing the index data from all files. Don’t be alarmed if you get a message at first with a file that it can’t change. There are a few protected boot-related files at the beginning that cause the message, Click Ignore All and you won’t see it again. If you decide to index again later, it will rebuild the index. It will take some time to remove or rebuild the index. You can go on to other tasks while it is working, but it will be slower until done.

If you want to limit indexing to just a few folders that you frequently would need to search, then you could leave indexing on but go to Indexing Options in Control Panel to select what you want indexed. The easiest way to find it is to use Windows Search!  Start typing Indexing Options in the search bar and after just the first three letters you should see it listed in the results. Click on it and you will get the current list of folders or places that are indexed, which you can modify. The Advanced button will open another window where you can choose specific file types, delete and rebuild your index, and other options.

Even if you do not have a slow computer, you may wish to modify the indexing options to improve your Windows Search performance.

I currently have indexing turned off completely in my Windows 10 laptop which has a relatively small solid-state drive (SSD) just to conserve disk space. The search feature still works, just a little slower.


Posted by Joe Callison

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