Turn off indexing in Windows 7 and Windows Vista?

This article explains how to turn off indexing in Windows 7 and Vista, but also argues that Windows Search is most likely not the culprit if your computer is slow.

Michael PietroforteMVP By Michael Pietroforte - Wed, January 5, 2011 - 5 comments google+ icon

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor of 4sysops. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with more than 30 years of experience in system administration.

One of the reasons why many have experienced Windows Vista to be slow was because the Windows Search indexing process kept the hard drive busy. A hard disk that is always busy can slow down even a well-equipped PC considerably. This is why I recommended to disable indexing in Vista at that time. The question now is whether it also makes sense to turn off indexing in Windows 7.

I don’t know what Microsoft did in Windows 7 with Windows Search, but it appears that improvements were made in the detection of active applications that could be impaired by the indexing process. I never saw a Windows 7 computer being slowed down by the indexing process. The latest Windows indexing technology is also available for Vista and Windows XP in Windows Search 4.0, which may eliminate all performance issues related to indexing.

I wrote this article because my previous post about disabling Vista indexing is still read about 4000 times per month. Thus, it seems that many people still believe that turning off indexing improves performance. This might be because many don’t know about the update for Windows Search. It could also be that they are running Vista on old hardware that is not suitable for this modern operating system.

However, I do believe that even an old computer running Windows Search 4.0 won’t perform much better with indexing turned off once initial indexing has been completed. The only reason I can think of that would justify disabling Windows Search is because you want to run a third-party desktop search solution.

The other question is whether there really is a better desktop search solution for Windows. Windows Search is perfectly integrated into Windows, does not require a web browser, and works well together with Outlook/Exchange and other Microsoft enterprise search products.

But if you still want to turn off indexing in Windows 7, you have several options. I recommend having a look at the comprehensive Windows Search FAQ first, so you know what you are actually turning off.

Options to turn off indexing in Windows 7

You can remove some or all folders that are indexed in the Indexing Options applet (type “indexing” at Start Search).

Turn off indexing - Windows 7 and Vista - Indexing Options

You can also just pause indexing for 15 minutes if you want to be sure indexing doesn’t interfere with another hard disk intensive task.

You can remove individual drives or folders from indexing through the properties dialog in Windows Explorer.

Turn off indexing - Windows 7 and Vista - Folder properties

The most reliable way, certainly, is to disable the Windows Search service (type “services” at Start Search).

Turn off indexing Windows 7 and Vista - Windows Search service

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5 Comments- Leave a Reply

  1. This should be standard procedure on all computers. Microsoft needs to get it through their heads that The best way to improve windows is to stop adding features and make the basic ones work right.
    This indexing was bringing me to a grinding halt.
    Every time I get a faster computer, Microsoft gets a new version of Windows to soak up my resources!

  2. mohamad says:

    thanks.

  3. Ash Blue says:

    Between this and SVC host I feel like Windows is trying to hijack my computer sometimes.

  4. John says:

    You seem to have missed the main reasons why people want to disable the search indexer. (Note that this refers to the default Vista indexer)
    - It’s very badly written. It takes, literally, days to index a hard disk of any size. I have 200GB on a 500GB disk. I left it running on an otherwise idle laptop for 3 days and it still hadn’t finished indexing. I gave up after that.
    - It stops the disk from powering down and so over time consumes large amounts of power and thus money. Not to mention the wear and tear on the hard disk. Similarly the CPU.
    - Search results using it are poor. 9 times out of 10 I am searching for name not content and the junk that it returns does more harm than good.
    - When I want to do more sophisticated searches on more complex attributes I find that it simply can’t do it.
    - It’s always out of date. Typically I want to search on stuff I’ve recently been working on. I can never trust my search results which makes it useless.
    - Searches on un-indexed areas are not that slow. At least I can trust the results.

    In summary the search indexer is a badly written piece of software that is of little practical value. That’s why I disable it and why it should be disabled by default.

  5. John says:

    Just discovered I already have WS4.0 installed so all my previous comments apply to it as well.

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