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Make Windows 7 Start Menu Search Find Your Applications Faster

When you first get your shiny new Windows 7 PC, typing anything into the Start Menu search box returns exactly what you want instantly—but what about once you’ve built up loads of files? It tends to get really slow, but here’s how to fix it.

Note: we’re assuming that you already use Disk Cleanup on a regular basis, or maybe you’ve already setup CCleaner to clean your PC on a schedule. Still slow? Keep reading.

Make the Start Menu Only Search Applications

The first thing you can do is change the Start Menu search box to only search through your applications in the Start Menu, rather than finding documents, pictures, emails, and going through your internet history.

Head into Taskbar and Start Menu Properties by right-clicking on the Start orb and choosing Properties, then click Customize.

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Now scroll down in the list until you find “Search other files and libraries”, which you should set to “Don’t search”.

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Note: only make this change if you don’t want to search for documents, pictures, etc, from the Start Menu search box.

Increase Search Speed by Tweaking Search Locations

The second way you can tweak the Start Menu search box to work a little faster is by simply cleaning up the locations that you are indexing so less files are included in the index. This isn’t going to magically make everything all better, but it’ll definitely help if you’ve got loads and loads of files that are being indexed.

Open up Indexing Options, which you can find easily in the Start Menu search box, and then click the Modify button at the bottom of the window.

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Now you’ll be able to tweak the indexed locations—if you’ve got directories with loads and loads of files that you’ll never need to search through, you should probably remove them from the search. For instance, I’ve got a couple of code directories with 10,000 files in them, so I got rid of those.

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Keep in mind that if you remove items from the index, you’re removing them from the entire index—so if you have a documents folder that you frequently search via Windows Explorer, you probably should leave it enabled.

Note: once you make this change, Windows will have to do some index cleanup, so you won’t instantly see results, and depending on just how many files you have in the index, it might slow the PC down slightly for a very short while as Windows removes the files from the index. Once it’s all done, however, your Start Menu search should be a bit faster.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 09/6/10

Comments (8)

  1. danar

    thank u this great work

  2. Erez

    Thanks!! I hope It will help me!

  3. Paul DeLeeuw

    Great suggestion. Mine was set to index unused stuff, but not C:!
    To make it run even better, after selecting indexing options, choose Reset Index. This takes time but the result is a much faster, more accurate search. Probably best done at night.

  4. jean helft

    and how do you do that? I cannot find “reset index”???

  5. Matt

    It is actually considered “Build Index” and can be found under the ‘Advanced’ settings in the Indexing Options window. There is no progress/status bar with this though, so do be mindful of how long your computer will be on for.

  6. Ed Stewart

    Best way to speed things up is to wipe windows 7 and install Linux!

  7. Chas.Graves

    Slightly different miss is the mouse pointer. Win 7 does show location via Ctrl expanding circle function, but, for any/all op.sys; how hard would it be to make pointer HOT PINK or preferred, which would “stick out from most data”? This has bothered me for a long time!

  8. Rad

    Made it only index program files and my documents, then making it only index certain file types that I use. Amazing performance gain on the start menu.

    Another way to quickly access files, especially programs, is to use Launchy. Once you try Launchy, you will never use a computer again without it! Although the windows seven start menu is pretty good now.

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