Improve Windows searches using the index: frequently asked questions


Windows uses the index to perform very fast searches of the most common files on your computer. Here are answers to some common questions about the index. (For information about advanced indexing options, see Change advanced indexing options.)

Show all

What files are indexed?

By default, all of the most common files on your computer are indexed. Indexed locations include all folders included in libraries (anything you see in the Documents library, for example), e‑mail, and offline files. Files that aren't indexed include program files and system files—files that most people rarely need to search.

How do I add or remove index locations?

The easiest way to add something to the index is to include a folder in a library. When you do that, the content in that folder is automatically indexed. For more information, see Include folders in a library.

You can also add something to the index without using libraries. To add or remove an index location:

  1. Open Indexing Options by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type indexing options, and then click Indexing Options.

  2. Click Modify.

  3. To add or remove a location, select or clear its check box in the Change selected locations list, and then click OK.

    If you don't see all locations on your computer in the list, click Show all locations. (If all locations are listed, Show all locations won't be available.) Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

    If you want to include a folder but not all of its subfolders, click the folder, and then clear the check box next to any subfolder that you don't want to index. These folders will appear in the Exclude column of the Summary of selected locations list.

Can I pause the Windows search index?

The Windows search index improves the efficiency of searches by keeping track of file names and other information for most of the files stored on your computer. It's best to let the index run uninterrupted in the background, but you can pause it for 15 minutes at a time.

To pause the index

  1. Open Indexing Options by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type indexing options, and then click Indexing Options.

  2. Click Pause. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation. (The index must be running in order for the Pause button to be available.)

Can I index my entire computer so all searches are fast?

You shouldn't do this. If you make the index too large, or if you include system file locations (such as the Program Files folder), your routine searches will slow down. For best results, we recommend that you only add folders that you search frequently.

Why aren't files from an indexed folder showing up in search results?

It might be because of the security settings for that folder. For a folder and its content to be indexed, it must be configured with the System permission. Most folders already have this, but there are some cases where a folder might be missing the System permission.

To add the System permission to a folder

  1. Right-click the folder, click Properties, and then click the Security tab.

  2. If you don't see System listed under Group or user names, click Edit.

  3. Click Add, type System in the box that appears, and then click Check Names.

  4. Under Matching names, click System, and then click OK until all of the open dialog boxes you've opened are closed.

You'll need to rebuild the index once you've made this change. To learn about rebuilding the index, see Change advanced indexing options.

How do I troubleshoot problems with search and indexing?

If you are experiencing problems with searching, such as unusually slow searches or incomplete search results, run the Search and Indexing troubleshooter to see if it can diagnose the problem.

  • Open the Search and Indexing troubleshooter by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type troubleshooter, and then click Troubleshooting. Click View all, and then click Search and Indexing.

Depending on the severity of the problem, the Search and Indexing troubleshooter might need to restart the Windows Search service.

What if I'm using Windows Server 2008 R2?

You might need to install the File Services role on your computer before all search and indexing options are available. You can do this from the Server Manager console. To open the console, click Start, type Server Manager into the search box, and then click Server Manager. For more information about installing the File Services role, in the Server Manager console toolbar, click Roles, and then click Roles Summary Help.



Need more help?