Troubleshoot problems with searching

Here are solutions to some common problems with searching for files.

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I don't know how to perform a search.

To start with, you can use the Search box at the top of any folder. It performs a fast search of the current folder and all of its subfolders. If you want to set up a more comprehensive search, open the Search folder.

  • Open Search by pressing Windows logo key Picture of Windows logo key +F.

For more information, see Find a file or folder.

Windows can't find a file that I know is on my computer.

The most likely reason is that you are searching a limited set of locations. Indexed Locations, the set of files used by default, includes most of the common locations you might want to search. However, you can expand your search by adding additional locations to the current search in the Search folder. Here's how:

  1. In the Search pane, click Advanced search.

  2. Click the Location menu, and then click Everywhere.

Tip

  • If you want to search a specific set of locations rather than your entire computer, click the Location menu, and then click Choose search locations.

Search can't find files that belong to other users.

For privacy reasons, only your own files are added to the index, and so by default only your own files are searched. Here is how to modify searches so that files belonging to another user will appear in your search results:

  1. Open the folder that contains the user's files you want to search. Typically, this is C:\Users\User, where User is the name of the person whose files you want to search. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  2. Perform your search. This user's files will now be a part of your search results.

Some searches take a long time to complete.

If you are searching in locations that are not indexed, the search might be slow because Windows must inspect each file in those locations during the search. You can add those locations to the index to speed up future searches. For more information, see Improve Windows searches using the index: frequently asked questions.

Note

  • You can only add locations that are on your computer to the index. Network locations can't be indexed, so they will always be searched more slowly than folders on your own computer.

I can't find a system file or program file.

To make your routine searches faster, system files and program files are not included in the index. If you want to look for a system file or program file, change the location of the current search in the Search folder from Index to Everywhere, or choose a special search location such as a specific hard disk or folder. Keep in mind that when you search locations that are not indexed, your searches will be slower than usual.

I can't add a network location to the index.

Only files and folders located on your computer can be added to the index. This means that network locations will be searched more slowly than files on your computer.

What does it mean when I see a message that search results might be slow because a location is not indexed?

When you search in the Search folder or the Start menu, you get results quickly because the search includes only the locations on your computer that are indexed. If you change the search locations in the Search folder, or if you open a folder that's not in the index and search there, the search will take longer. In addition, searches outside of the index only look for files by file name, whereas index searches include an assortment of file properties and the contents of files. If you frequently search a slow location on your computer, you should add it to the index.

What does it mean when I see a message that search results might be incomplete because files are still being indexed?

Windows collects information about files on your computer in order to perform fast and accurate searches. This information is stored in the index. Periodically, Windows needs to update the index. If you perform a search while the index is being updated, the results might not be up to date.

What does it mean when I see a message that searching network locations and connected devices might take a long time?

Locations that are not on your computer's hard disk—such as network locations and media devices—can't be added to your computer's index, so searching these locations takes longer than searching indexed files on your computer.

What does it mean when I see a message that a location can't be reached or there is no media present in the search location?

There is a problem searching one or more of your selected locations. The most common cause is that you have selected a network location or a connected device that is not currently connected to your computer. It's also possible that you have selected a removable media device, but there is no media (such as a memory card or a CD) in the device. Check your locations and try the search again.

When I'm using the Search box, why does searching sometimes not begin until I press ENTER?

If you are searching in locations that are not indexed, you must press ENTER to start a search. Keep in mind that when you search locations that are not indexed, your searches will be slower than usual.

How do I know which files are searched quickly?

Any files in the index are searched quickly. By default, all of the most common files on your computer are indexed. Indexed locations include all of the files in your personal folder (such as Documents, Pictures, Music, and Videos), as well as e‑mail and offline files. Files that are not indexed include program files and system files. Those locations are not indexed because you rarely need to search those files, and so not including them in the index speeds up your searches.

To see the complete list of locations that are indexed, open Indexing and Search Options.

  • Open Indexing and Search Options by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Indexing Options.

    The indexed locations are shown in the Index these locations list.