Stop search indexing slowing down your Windows PC

Get more performance and speed out of your Windows PC

Windows is sometimes working very hard behind the scenes performing all manner of tasks. One of these is creating a search index. In some cases it can slow down the PC. Here’s the fix you need.

Speed up the disk drive in the computer for an extra performance boost

There is a search box on the Start menu in Windows 7, on the taskbar in Windows 10 and a search panel can be opened in Windows 8 by pressing Windows+S. In the top right corner of Explorer windows is a search box.

Do you use these search facilities? Are they slowing down your computer?

When files are saved to the disk drive, Windows scans them and adds them to an index, which is basically a big database containing information about them. Windows indexes programs, documents, images, music, and many more file types.

The idea is that the index speeds up searching and the results can be displayed faster. Instead of searching the disk drive for a file, it just looks it up in the index and then it knows where it is on the disk.

The index can even store details about the contents of files, so you can find documents not only by their filename, but also by the text they contain.

It sounds great and it is, when it works. Some people have problems with it though. It takes time, processing power, memory, and a lot of disk accessing to keep the index up to date. This can negatively impact the performance of the computer.

Sometimes the indexing service goes all weird and starts using lots of processing power and thrashing the disk with constant accesses. This can seriously affect the computer’s performance and it can make the PC feel very slow.

Traditional mechanical disk drives suffer much more than SSDs with slow indexing and laptop disk drives operate more slowly than desktop PC disk drives, making the situation even worse.

There are two solutions and one is to throw out the old index and create a new one. This can solve problems such as corruption in the index database. Rebuilding the index from scratch may be all that is required to restore the performance of the PC and stop the heavy CPU and disk usage.

The other solution is to turn off indexing completely. This does not mean that you cannot search for anything, you can. Searching will still work, although it may be slightly slower because it has to look through the folders and files on the disk for the item you are searching for instead of looking it up in the search index.

Turning off search indexing means there is less work for Windows and so the computer is more responsive. It can solve problems with a slow Windows PC and restore some of the lost performance. If you rarely use search anyway then the benefits can be useful.

Rebuild Windows Search Index

1 Open Control Panel

Click Start (Win 7) or right click the Start button (Win 10) and then click Control Panel in the menu.

 Right click the Start button in Windows 10 to access a menu of commands

2 Indexing Options

Set View by in the top right corner to Small icons, then click Indexing Options in the Control Panel.

 Indexing Options in the Windows Control Panel

3 Advanced options

When the Indexing Options window opens, click the Advanced button. (You can see the locations on the disk that are indexed in this window. Not all parts of the disk are indexed, just the folders Windows thinks might be most useful. The rest of the disk can still be searched, but it uses a slower method.)

 The indexing options in Windows

4 Rebuild search

Click the Rebuild button to delete the old search index and to build a new one. It does this by scanning the files on the disk drive. This takes a long time and while Windows is doing this, the computer will run slowly.

 Rebuild the search index in Windows to solve problems

When it has finished, several hours later, the index will be fresh, new, and error free. It may be sufficient to fix whatever problem you were having and restore performance.

Stop Windows Search Index

5 Disk properties

To stop Windows Search Index, open Explorer and select This PC on the left. Right click the disk drive (C:) and select Properties on the menu.

 File Explorer in Windows 10

6 Turn off indexing

Down at the bottom is an option to enable or disable search indexing. Clear the tick box to turn off indexing. Click OK or Apply afterwards.

 Turn off search indexing in Windows

7 Confirm it

Select the option to apply changes to the drive C:\, subfolders and files. This turns off indexing everywhere and for everything. This takes a long time because it must scan the disk and for every file it finds it must remove it from the search index.

 Apply indexing changes to the disk drive in Windows

After it has finished removing the indexing, your PC should be a bit faster and more responsive. On a new PC with an SSD you might not notice when indexing is on or off, but it can make a noticeable difference to an old PC with a slow mechanical disk drive.

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