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Speed Up or Disable Windows Search Indexing in Vista

The new indexing service built into Windows Vista has been the subject of a lot of complaints, since it seems to kick in at strange times and thrash your hard drive. So what can we do to speed this up?

There’s two options: You can either trim down the amount of files that Windows Search is indexing, or you can disable it entirely if you never use the search.

Trim Down Indexing Locations

The best way to trim down the amount of processor time the indexing service uses is by trimming down the amount of files being indexed. For instance, if you don’t regularly search through your C: drive, there’s really no need to be indexing it.

Personally, I love the search function for Outlook and the Start Menu, but that’s the only places I care about indexing.

Type Indexing into the control panel search or the start menu search box, and you should see an item called Indexing Options.

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Here you can see the current list of locations that are being indexed. For instance, I only index the start menu and Outlook. If you want to modify or remove locations, use the Modify button.

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All you have to do to remove a location from being indexed is uncheck the box. You might have to click the Show All Locations button to see some of the default locations.

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If you wanted to remove the start menu indexing, you’ll need to click on Start Menu in the summary list at the bottom, and it’ll automatically navigate to the item in the tree.

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The start menu indexing really doesn’t take much processing time though, so I wouldn’t bother removing that.

Completely Disable Indexing

If you’d prefer to completely disable the indexing service, you can disable it entirely by turning off the service.

Open up Services through control panel, or by typing services.msc into the start menu search box. Find “Windows Search” in the list of services and double-click on it to open it.

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Change the Startup type of the service to Disabled, and then click the Stop button to stop the service.

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At this point the Windows Search service is completely disabled.

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 09/24/07

Comments (26)

  1. Ryan Wagner

    I never understood why they didn’t make it easier to stop the indexing for a temporary period of time. At one point a Microsoft employee was making a sidebar gadget to do that, but I don’t think it ever got released.

  2. mgo

    Thanks for the Indexing articles. You seem to be one of the few writers discussing this Windows feature. When it work, it’s really nice. When it’s thrashing escessively, it’s a brat. Your tips are a help.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that after a cold start, Indexing seems to run thru all the files again. But, if I come out of Hibernation, it does not do that. Since Hibernate works well on my computers, that’s what I do.

    Also, de-selected Favorites and other folders in Indexing Options reduces drive thrashing a lot. It makes no sense to me for Windows to constantly update favorites while I want my machine’s resources dedicated to surfing, not indexing!

  3. rei

    They need to have a timed temporary Indexing disable thing like they did in MSN Desktop Search. I can’t turn off my computer tonight, but I also can’t get a good night’s sleep with this thing clattering away.

    By the way, I personally find the Favorites and History indexing really useful. It isn’t indexing the webpages, just the link titles, so I doubt that’s causing any thrashing. In fact, I wish it would index the Favorited webpage content so that I can search through them.

  4. Garrett

    It took me a few months to get fed up enough with the constant clicking before I checked the Resource Monitor to find out what was causing the constant hard drive use. If this were my primary computer, I probably would have checked it sooner, because it does slow down my video/audio editing enough that I’ve wondered if I should just use my old 500 MHz computer. Also, the midnight clicking gets annoying, especially since no windows are open and I didn’t have any clue as to what was causing the hard drive access.
    I only use the search function for the Start menu(wait, is it still called that, or is it “the circular button with no words, but does have the Windows logo”) and files in my user folder(I did a search once… the file I was looking for wasn’t indexed, though, so that search was useless).

  5. Conrad

    Thanks for the tip. My box is much quieter, and the hard drive should last a bit longer now that the indexer service is disabled.

    Why would Microsoft presume to dedicate so much of our resources to local indexing? I practically never search my own files. If I ever do, I’ll consider starting the indexer…after getting a replacement hard drive ready to go for when the indexer wears out this one.

  6. Larry

    The thrashing was starting to drive me crazy. I disabled Windows Search but the thrashing goes on. What is it now?

  7. David

    stupid tool as far as i am concerned, was slowing my pc down immensley still dont get the usefulness of the program.

  8. Ali

    I don remeber how, possibly using TuneUp Utilities, I have disabled Indexing service on my Vista.

    I used to do that from the Services window on Windows XP.

    that’s the easiest way.

  9. Jim

    easy to stop this service, go to start/run then type msconfig. Go to startup and find windows search and uncheck it, problem solved! :D

  10. Dakota

    Stupid searching service was taking up a constant %100 of one of my cpus. I’m glad I could stop it.

  11. Ok

    You guys aren’t acomplishing much by disabling the service….

    Try disabling indexing of your hard drive.

    Right click your C drive, choose properties, and disable the bottom checkbox “Index this drive for faster searching”

    Then delete your actual index file….this is an option in your Indexing Options in control panel.

    The entire Indexing idea is the biggest screw up i’ve ever seen Microsoft do…..ever

    Well that and Windows 7 haha

  12. It's me

    Windows 7 is in fact a screw up ! I agree with the guy above !

  13. lmd

    Perfect, disabling search indexing fixed the problem. Thanks!

  14. panorama

    This was a useful tip.
    It seems the situation under Windows 7 is more confusing however, as indexing and windows search are two separate services ?
    Also I notived that under Win 7 Pro 64 bit in relation to Outlook 2003 the search results window doesn’t allow resulting emails to be opened directly (the program doesn’t seem to be able to talk to Outlook 2003 ?)

  15. okguy

    ok is wrong. turning off the windows search service turns off the indexing, period.

  16. XPuser63

    This is a great tip. I’m actually interested in the opposite – To see if my Outlook files are indexing properly (WinXP 2002 SP3) I need to know if Search Indexer 4.0 is working ok. Although the menu option (Tools >Instant Search > Indexing Status…) reveals the number of items remaining, is there a way to see the number of items already indexed ?
    Also, can the Indexing process be sped up ? I’m affraid there’s an app that’s slowing it to a crawl (ie., Roxio, LogMeIn ??, etc.) and preventing it from completing (even when inactive over night). Anyone know how to see if the indexer is running ok and how to speed up indexing Outlook files ?

  17. Carlos

    Terrible… I am using windows XP and Oulook 2007. Since I installed Windows Search to try to hava a “google mail” like search in Outlook, my computer is sloooooowwww… It is not smart, since it indexes all the time, there is no easy way to set a Index time (like at night). Today I couldn’t even use my computer.
    So now I uninstalled it at Control Panel and I am hoping that tomorrow everything will be all right.

    I user to have a third-party tool with Outlook 2003 that was faster.

  18. Shady

    Go to start in the search bar type “services” then look for “Windows search” disable it for startup and turn it off.
    there you go your computer is 50% faster =D

    stupid program imo, no use of it.

  19. nimd4

    Ryan Wagner, the Utility / Indexer Gadget exists @

    gallery.live.com/liveItemDetail.aspx?li=45c441a6-edbc-454d-9262-d264728d6a3a

  20. Arun

    Thanks for the detailed instructions! I managed to remove Windows Vista Search indexing for one of the file folders. For some strange reason the search without indexing returns more relevant results than the search with indexing. Ex: a search for .xls files without indexing returns all excel files in that folder while the same query with indexing only returns a small subset of results. So I had to disable the indexing for that folder. Thanks for the help again!

  21. Irving

    There’s a search feature in Vista? Comes as news to me. I’ve tried everything to get it to work and it never has. I can tell it to search in a specific folder for a file that is there and it comes up empty-handed. It’s my biggest complaint regarding Vista!

  22. me

    As far as I can tell, there are certain locations for which indexing cannot be turned off short of disabling the service. You can click all you want, but the checkboxes don’t uncheck. One of those required locations is *the entire Users folder and every subfolder thereof*. Thanks windows. Thanks.

  23. huh?

    I can untick everything, I only have start menu left in the indexing options.

    That being said, between this computer (primary) and the one that has indexing service entirely disabled (secondary), I don’t notice any difference in responsiveness. I think some of you might wanna start taking care of your OS in other places (like msconfig or services.msc) and use some lightweight anti-virus programs (MSE, antivir). How many processes do you have at the start? For a well managed computer, you shouldn’t have much more than 60. I have something in the low 40s on the secondary, 56 or so on the primary. Vista/7 are amazing, they have stayed good thru an extended period of uptime ranging beyond a full month, something XP could only dream of.

    As for the HDD churning away during inactivity, it’s most likely windows scheduler doing it’s job (defragging your HDD) or could even be windows update. Doesn’t really matter though, they take the backseat once user activity sets in. I am sure you got better (or worse?) things to worry about than your HDD making some barely audible noise when you aren’t even using your computers.

  24. d3vlabs

    Is there any way to speed up the indexing process, like give more priority to indexing task? I have this thing crawling 130+ thousand outlook emails and its taking its sweet lil time. I did disable everything but outlook for search locations, yet still the indexing process is very slow.

  25. Suhas Shinde

    Thaks its realy work fast

  26. sally

    Awesome! This has annoyed me since forever and I couldn’t figure out what was causing the thrashing. You have made my day, and week, and month, and until I get my next laptop.

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