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What is SearchIndexer.exe and Why Is It Running?

You’re no doubt reading this article because you’re wondering what that SearchIndexer.exe process is all about, and why it’s chewing up a lot of RAM or CPU. Here’s the explanation you’re looking for, and how to deal with it.

So What Is This Process?

SearchIndexer.exe is the Windows service that handles indexing of your files for Windows Search, which fuels the file search engine built into Windows that powers everything from the Start Menu search box to Windows Explorer, and even the Libraries feature.

You can see this for yourself by simply right-clicking on the process name in the Task Manager list, and then choosing Go to Service(s) from the menu.

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This will take you to the Services tab, where you can clearly see the Windows Search item selected in the list.

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If you take a look at the file properties, you can clearly see that this particular executable is the Indexer component for Windows Search—though the name probably gave that away already.

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How Do You Stop This Process?

If you want to stop the service from running, you can open up Services through Control Panel, or type in services.msc into the Start Menu search box. Once you’re there, you can find Windows Search in the list and click the Stop button.

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We wouldn’t recommend disabling the service—you can simply uninstall it if you don’t want it.

How Do You Uninstall This Service?

We’re not recommending that you uninstall the Windows Search service, since it powers so much of the behind the scenes stuff in Windows 7, but if you want to remove it you can type windows features into the Control Panel search to pull up the Turn Windows features on or off screen. In here you can simply uncheck Windows Search and click the OK button. You’ll probably have to reboot your PC once that’s done.

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How Can I Make SearchIndexer Use Less RAM or CPU?

Your best option is to cut down on the amount of data that you’re indexing—there’s usually no reason to index every single file on your drive. You’ll need to open up the Indexing Options through the Control Panel or Start Menu search box to make the changes.

The first thing you should notice is the Pause button on this window, which can pause indexing for up to 15 minutes—useful if you’re trying to do something and Windows Search happens to be in overdrive mode, though it really shouldn’t since it only runs while your PC is idle.

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You’ll want to click the Modify button and then trim down the list of locations to just the ones you really need indexed—this can seriously improve the performance of your Start Menu search box as well.

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Advanced Tip: Make Windows Search Index Only Filenames

If you click the Advanced button on the Indexing Options dialog, you’ll be able to access another set of settings—what we’re looking for here is the File Types tab on this dialog. Once you’re there, scroll down to some common formats like doc, docx, and other files, and you’ll see that they are configured to search the file contents by default.

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If you don’t actually search within the files and only care about the file names, you can trim down the index by changing this setting to Index Properties Only.

Conclusion: This Process Shouldn’t Be Removed

You really shouldn’t remove this process, but hopefully the lessons in this article will help you trim it down to size, and remember that you can always temporarily stop the service if you feel like it.

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 09/10/10

Comments (26)

  1. NWW

    I’ve disabled this feature since I had Vista on my laptop, back in 2008, and have been disabling it with every new install of Windows on my machine. It takes up a lot of RAM, a lot of CPU, and one thing you forgot to mention in this useful article, it prevents the head of the HDD to work for nothing, since the HDD isn’t beeing solicited for the indexing of its contents.

    Hope that helps.

  2. Rick Robey

    I have disabled this feature also…however, when you think about it, it is actually a useful thing to have…an index of all the contents of your hard drives. So my next step in the fix included installing “Everything” located at http://www.voidtools.com/download.php.

    Everything does what Windows Search Index was intended to do. It rapidly searches your hard drives and indexes, well, everything! It is extremely easy to use, easy on ram and process cycles and just works.

  3. GKI610

    I can’t see the value in disabling/removing this feature unless you’ve got Win7 Starter on some weakly powered notebook. Anything built with Win7 should have enuf horsepower to be unaffected by it, especially since it only runs at idle time, thus not even a problem for gamers.

  4. brian99

    Thanks for that detailed explanation of SearchIndexer.exe

    There is just one question I now have.

    Since I use Everything-1.2.1.371.exe (http://www.voidtools.com/) for all my searches since it is so much faster than the Windows search, is there any reason to keep Windows Search service turned on?

    Brian

  5. ron davison

    This was slowing my computer down way, way to much. I run Xp and use a network storage for my files. I had to disable this just to be able to use my computer without crashing. I do lots of web research with multiple windows with multiple tabs. this along with index search pushed me into page swap hell zone. Does this work or work poorly when a (slow?) network connection to network storage?
    In other words does this try to index my files across the network? What are the implications with latency and this indexing program if it does wan to do this? Can this be set up differently? i.e. can’t the network server be indexing what on it and only index the desktop with the desktop computer?

  6. onedeafeye

    I use Everything. Do I still need searchindexer running? For that matter, can I turn off indexing for the whole drive at C:Properties?

  7. RobCr

    Windows should have an option -
    Turn off permanently all the crap.
    That would turn off Indexing
    It would also stop Office Pre-loading anything.
    And would prevent everything possible from pre-Loading / starting.

    PS There maybe those that will say – “how do I find things ?”
    To which I would reply -
    Do not store files where MS thinks they should go.
    Instead, store them in an organized manner.
    Create folders such as -
    C:\B_
    C:\B_CD_DVD
    C:\B_Finance
    C:\B_Health
    C:\B_Web
    You can then have sub folders under those folders.

    The MS default locations are called ‘My Documents’, ‘My Pictures’, etc
    They are in reality folders that are buried miles down the mineshaft called Documents and Settings.
    After the changes I outlined above, NONE of my files are buried down that mineshaft.
    Thus finding files is a piece of cake (I never have to use MS Search).
    Also backing up is dead easy, as you just burn all the B_ folders to a DVD.

    “Now who could argue with that” (Blazing Saddles, in the church)

  8. brian99

    RobCr , Yes I totally agree.

    This is the place where I store everything in the same way you described:

    MyAudioOutPut
    My Annimation
    My CDs
    My Drivers
    My Icons
    My Music
    My PDF
    My Pictures
    My Scans
    My Templates
    MyDownLoads
    MyAutomotive
    MyInComingFaxes
    MyJartetFolder
    MyScriptFldr
    MyBatchFldr
    MyPicturesDwnLFromCamera
    MyPowerPointFiles
    MyScreenShots
    MyProductKeys
    MyScans
    MyAudio
    MyVideo
    MyMovies
    MyUnZipFolder

    I should Also mention, it is very easy to backup!

    I still hope someone with the expertise can answer my earlier question and the same one raised by onedeafeye since we are both using the Everything search:

    “Do I still need searchindexer running? For that matter, can I turn off indexing for the whole drive at C:Properties?”

    Brian

  9. RobCr

    Brian,
    I do use Everything, on rare occasions.
    Everything does do a quickie index, but it is self contained, and does not rely on Windows Indexing.
    I have turned off, all that I mentioned above.
    Thus Windows indexing is turned off.

    You have my personal guarantee that it is safe to to turn off Windows Indexing.
    Not sure what would happen if you then tried Windows Search
    (I just tried it then. Nothing fell over. I hope it did not turn on my indexing again ?)

    Whenever I have to search for words within files, I use XYPlorerFree.
    It does not do pre-indexing.
    It has a better search panel than Windows horrible confusing mess.
    You just position on the desired folder (or C:\), and press F12 to see the Search panel.
    F12 gets rid of it again.
    It is only available on a couple of sites that host ‘The Last Free Versions’ or ‘Previous Versions’
    Yell out if you cannot find it.
    Rob

  10. brian99

    Rob,

    Thanks for that information.

    I think I will follow your set up; I have used XYPlorerFree before, so that will be easy to include it with Everything.

    Thanks again.

    BRIAN

  11. adamkade

    I don’t know much about computers or how to use them, but I have always organised my folders in one place, in such a way as others have explained above, simly because my memory is so bad that it makes sense to have them the way that others have explained in the above posts

  12. Greg

    Sorry but the assertion that searchindexer.exe only runs when the machine is idle is flat out wrong. It runs while you are using the machine, while the machine is *very* busy (for example during startup).

    Several times I have had to ‘unlock’ a seemingly ‘locked’ machine by killing searchindexer.exe. It may not take much CPU – but it monopolizes the disk.

  13. None

    I think this process is locking my external drive and is preventing from being removed. I’ll change to index only local drives.

  14. Paul

    Greg wrote:

    “Sorry but the assertion that searchindexer.exe only runs when the machine is idle is flat out wrong. It runs while you are using the machine, while the machine is *very* busy (for example during startup).”

    I just saw searchindexer.exe running at the same time as my backup was running. It was writing between 90,000 and 105,000 bytes per second and the total CPU usage was up at 79%. By stopping the indexing service, CPU usage fell to less than 50%, and the system was no longer doing those I/Os.

    100KB per second may not be large in the grand scheme of things, but presumably that incurred a lot of disk head movement, thus slowing the backup itself down.

  15. Karen

    This was not an issue for me until recently. I have Win 7 Pro 64-bit. Machine was lightening fast until a week ago.

    And – this process is the issue.

    I have narrowed down the index and will see if that makes it better.

    But – I too have seen this process go off the charts taking CPU while I was actively working on other tasks in the same machine and also on a vm guest.

  16. Joe

    I have win7 pro 64bit on quite quite a good machine (though this mobo isn’t anywhere near up to the standard of my previous workstation…)

    the search indexer was CONSTANTLY using 25% processing power, along with SEARCHPROTOCALHOST and SEARCHFILTERHOST using 25% each too.

    I had to turn it off as it was causing problems, but recently turned it on telling it only to look at my C: drive and a couple of folders on my e: – it now uses 7-10% constantly for all the files, but i still don’t view that as an acceptable use of processing power just to have indexing on…

    My previous machine, even though had a better mobo, was alot lower spec, and XP.. only used 1% maximum (usually nothing) to index….

    The Windows media player networking processes, were also using 25% processor power.. so i turned them of, i saw no need to share fires that way when i can use shared folders on the network… The only benefit i can see from using it is the ability to connect it to a PS3…

    And Windows Media Player itself… sometimes when i close it, it doesn’t close the process, and keeps using.. yup you guessed it, 25% of my processor.

    Also sometimes it wont even load the file, just freeze and crash!!!

    I generally use media player classic for movies, and winamp for my eargasmic pleasure… It is just frustrating that these simple windows processes are beasting my system.

    Processor: AMD PHENOM II QUAD CORE 955
    RAM: G.SKILL RIPJAW 4GB (1X4GB) DDR3
    MOBO: ASUS M4A87TD/USB3 MOTHERBOARD
    HD Internal: 1 x WD Velociraptor 300gb [windows and core programs], 2 x WD Caviar Blue 500mb
    HD External: 1 x WD book 1tb
    PSU: OCZ MODXSTREAM PRO 700W SILENT S
    Sound Card: M-audio Delta 10/10lt
    GPU: ATi Radeon HD 5770
    Case: Antec 900
    OS: Windows 7 professional 64Bit

    I have always kept my stuff organised.. I have one drive dedicated to music with sub folders such as WAV, Production, MP3, one for windows and hardcore programs, one for games and software etc..

    Backing up isn’t the issue… I know where things are for the most part

    the main reason i want Indexing on is because I HATE what they have done with windows 7…

    for example add/remove programs is now Programs and Features, and so many of the other things i used to find simple from the classic view used in XP (eg the way they had it in win98) I can’t find and do anymore…

    So on that side note… is there a way to get the control panel etc skinned to look and work how XP classic worked?

    “windows 7 so simples now” except you have hidden everything behind different names and it takes at least twice as many clicks to get there… that’s if you know where you are going.. if you don’t you will clicking around forever!

  17. Daniel Brockman

    Has SearchIndexer begun running even more slowly than before with a recent update? It used to be a nuisance. Now it’s a problem. I’m turning it off.

  18. robin

    Thanks for the helpful article and for the helpful comments. I too think a recent update has made the searchindexer problems even worse.

  19. joe

    Thank you so much. I appreciate it so muchh I want to have your baby. My i7 completely collapsed today and I have spent eleven hours reinstalling bits all over the place, I was just about to completely reformat.

    I disabled “searchindexer” about a week ago because my No1 did nothing but index through my five other attached computers. Now I understand.

    Thanks again.

  20. mobinga

    Disabled!

  21. Hussar

    I would like to thank the author for the very helpful article. I am using a brannd new high-end gaming computer under Win7 Pro just as a regular office PC. Recently (in early May or so) my computer has become too slow even for IE and office applications; much slower than my old 2006 Dell under WinXP.
    After removing some apps (that did not help much), now I see that SearchIndexer.exe is the processor time hog. So I consider following the suggestions described in the article and in the postings made by the readers.

    ### If Microsoft people read this ###
    Please set lower priority to this indexing process or allow us users controlling indexing by say scheduling it for the time when the computer is not in use.
    Thank you Bill Gates.

  22. Chaz

    I am running Windows XP. I recently acquired Microsoft Office 2010. It was fine, but when I searched in Outlook, it prompted me to add Windows Search. I did that and I now am nearly out of disk space! Also, the Windows Search indexer tended to use too much computing resources and slowed my somewhat older laptop. So I uninstalled it. That was fine but I need to recover some of the disk space. I am thinking if I could find the Windows Search index data file, I could delete it. Anyone know where it is on a Windows XP system?

  23. Kevin

    Unfortunately, SearchIndexer is not just a cpu hog that DOES run while you are doing other things, it can turn your Windows 7 computer into a crashmobile. I kept having random crashes showing memory faults, often occuring exactly at the moment I would exit a program, and often also messing up my graphics on reboot. It turned out that the database that SearchIndexer stores had become corrupted, and from that point on the system was entirely unstable, crashing every few minutes when in use. The remedy was very simple (which I found elsewhere on the web) – I simply excluded temporary files from being indexed, and rebuilt the index. From that moment, my computer has not crashed for almost two weeks of constant, heavy use. I consider SearchIndexer to be a computer disease, not a virus, but possibly a congenital defect in Windows. Why not put one of the MS programmers on this? A good way to spend some of the billions in free cash at the company.

  24. Chad

    Microsoft pay attention: the problem with searchIndexer is this, it starts while a user is at the system trying to use it. First the process should not start within 30 minutes of a system boot. Second, the priority of this process should be reduced to LOW when a user is clicking the keyboard or moving the mouse otherise it should be stopped until the user load has been reduced below some threshold. That should be the default setting, if power users want to index fast and frequent they can adjust – not your average user.

  25. Chris

    OH MY GOD. SEARCH INDEXER IS ALWAYS SUCKING MY CPU DRY WHENEVER MY COMPUTER SLOWS DOWN

    THIS STUPIDLY ANNOYING PROGRAM HAS NO INTUITION AS TO WHETHER OR NOT I AM USING THE CPU FOR OTHER THINGS

    IF I AM WORKING (RENDERING GRAPHICS) I DO NOT WANT SEARCH INDEXER TO PULL OUT ITS F***KING VIRTUAL ROLODEX AND START GOING THROUGH EACH AND EVERY FILE ON MY COMPUTER

  26. Chris

    NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING WAS WRONG WITH THE Windows 98/Windows 2000/Windows XP search companion NOTHING!!!!

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