Searching for files gave you zero results? Can’t find an e-mail that you just know is on your PC? Here’s why—there might be something wrong with Windows Search. No worries, we’ve got you covered. In this post, the TuneUp Blog team will show you how to solve annoying problems with this feature and get correct search results once again.
What could be wrong with Windows Search?
Trust us—we’ve had our share of problems with the new indexing search feature of Windows Vista and 7. Files, folders, e-mails and programs that were not found, in fact, do exist. Here are some of the most common search worries figured out.
Reason 1 – The file or e-mail you’re looking for has not been indexed (yet)!
In short, Windows Search works by putting together an index of files and folders on your hard disk. This index allows extremely quick search results because it’s much faster to read an index than to search through the entire hard disk.
However, you have to understand what is being indexed here (and when); only a handful of the most important folders, for example, your entire user folder that includes “Documents”, “Pictures” and “Music”, are being add to the index. All of the Start Menu entries and your Internet Explorer history are also added. If Windows Live Mail or Outlook is installed on your machine, Windows Search will add all of your e-mails to the index, as well. This is an example of how it looks on my machine.
So, maybe your file isn’t found because it isn’t stored in the default search locations? Now, usually, you can perform a hard disk-wide search, but this may take up too much time. Avoid this by adding regularly used hard disk folders to the Windows Search index. Here’s how:
- Fire up “Control Panel”, and type “Indexing” into the quick search bar. Then, click on “Indexing options”. Note: If you don’t see any results, read the instructions in Reason 3 to open up the indexing options.
- Click on “Modify”, check whatever drives or folders you might want to add to the index, and hit “OK”. Quick Tip: Go to “Advanced” and “File Types”, and make sure that the file type of the previously missing file is not unchecked in this list.
Now you just have to sit and wait until Windows indexes your files; this is performed while you’re not actively working with your PC. You can see how many “items” (files, folders, e-mails, Start Menu items, etc.) have been indexed so far. For example:
This step should make your missing files and folders appear in future search queries.
Reason 2 – The Windows Search service isn’t running.
In order for Windows Search to index files and throw back results, a so-called “Windows Search Service” needs to run in the background. If this has been turned off, either by a program or a user, the indexing process will not work. To make sure that it’s turned on:
- Go to “Control Panel”, “System and Security”, “Administrative Tools” and “Services”. A huge list of all of the services pops up. Scroll all of the way down until you see the “Windows Search” entry.
- Double-click on it, make sure that “Automatic (Delayed Start)” is selected, and hit “OK”.
Now click on “Start” to fire up the Windows Search service or restart your machine. You have to be patient, as Windows Search starts from scratch and indexes all of your files (see Reason 1 above to choose which folder you explicitly want to include).
Reason 3 – There’s a problem with the index itself.
We’ve had this happen to us a couple of times with both Windows Vista and 7. The service is running, the folder is indexed, but files (that do exist) just can’t seem to be found. We were able to easily solve these problems by rebuilding the search index. Follow these steps:
- Hold down the “WINDOWS” key on our keyboard, and press “R” at the same time. A “Run” box will appear. Type in “control.exe srchadmin.dll”. Note: This is an alternative way of opening the “Indexing options” that you can use if the search itself isn’t working (see Reason 1).
- Go to “Advanced”, and hit the “Rebuild” button. Again, wait until Windows has indexed all of the content!
If all else fails, try to move the Windows Search index to another location (see previous dialog to do so—click “Select new”). You might have simply run out of disk space, or errors may exist on the drive. In either of these cases, you should try out TuneUp Utilities:
- Install the program, and go to “Increase performance”. Use the “Gain disk space” feature to get rid of as many unnecessary files as you can.
- Try out “Check hard disks for errors”, which you can find under the “Fix problems” category. Both of these reasons are unlikely but not unheard of!
We hope you’ve managed to solve all of your Windows Search problems. Still have issues with search? Leave a comment below, and we’ll try to figure it out.