Here are answers to some common questions about the index.

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What is the index?

Similar to the way the index in a book helps you to keep track of its contents, the index in Windows keeps track of the files on your computer. The index stores information about files, including the file name, date modified, and properties like author, tags, and rating. You will never see the index, but it is used by Windows to perform very fast searches of the most common files on your computer.

What is the index used for?

The index is used to make searching for files much faster. Instead of looking through your entire hard disk for a file name or file property, Windows scans the index, which allows most results to appear in a small fraction of the time that a search without the index would take.

What files are indexed?

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. The locations that contain those files are not indexed because you rarely need to search those files, and so not including them in the index makes your searches perform faster.

How do I know what locations are in the index?

To see the complete list of locations that are indexed:

  • 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.

How do I add new files or locations to the index?

  1. 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.

  2. Click Modify.

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

    If you don't see all of the locations on your computer in the Change selected locations list, click Show all locations. Administrator permission required If you are 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, expand the folder, and then clear the check box next to any folder you don't want to index. These folders will appear in the Exclude column of the Summary of selected locations list.

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

You shouldn't. If you make the index too large, or if you include system file locations like the folder called Program Files, your routine searches will slow down because the index will not perform well. For best results, we recommend that you only add folders to the index that contain your personal files.

How do I remove a location I rarely use from the index?

  1. 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.

  2. Click Modify.

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

When I perform a search, is the entire index searched every time?

Usually. By default, searches in the Search folder are conducted using the index, but it is also possible to search using other locations.

How do I change the hard disk or folder in which the index is stored?

If you add a faster hard disk to your computer, you might want to move the index to this location for better performance. Here's how:

  1. 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.

  2. Click Advanced. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  3. Click Select new, and then specify a new location for your index.

I want to search for a file type that is not currently being indexed. How do I add a file type to the index?

If you use an unusual file type that is not currently recognized by the index, you can add it to the index yourself. Here's how:

  1. 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.

  2. Click Advanced. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  3. Click the File Types tab.

  4. Enter the file type in the text box, and then click Add new extension.

  5. Click Index Properties Only or Index Properties and File Contents, and then click OK.

When should I rebuild my index?

Your index requires virtually no maintenance. However, if the index has problems finding files that you know should be located in an indexed location, you might need to rebuild the index. This can take a long time to complete, so avoid performing this step unless you have given the index enough time (several hours) to correct any problems first. To rebuild the index:

  1. 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.

  2. Click Advanced, click the Index Settings tab, and then click Rebuild. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

How do I restart the Windows Search service?

  1. Open Administrative Tools by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Administrative Tools.

  2. Double-click Services. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  3. In the Services dialog box, under Name, double-click Windows Search.

  4. In the Windows Search Properties dialog box, click Stop, then click Start, and then click OK.

Why do I need to have BitLocker or a non-Microsoft drive encryption solution enabled before indexing encrypted files?

If you choose to add encrypted files to the index and you are not using a full volume encryption solution for the location of the index, encrypted data from your files—for example, text from a Microsoft Word document—will be added to the index. The index is obscured so that it is not easily readable if someone tries to open the index files, but it does not have strong data encryption. If someone were to gain access to your computer, they could extract your data from the index. Therefore, the location of the index should also be encrypted to help protect your indexed data.

How can I find the location of the index?

Follow these steps:

  1. 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.

  2. Click Advanced. The current location of the index is listed under Index location.