This article describes 3 ways how to disable indexing in Vista: Indexing options in the Control Panel, folder properties and disable Windows Search service.

Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor in chief of 4sysops. He has more than 35 years of experience in IT management and system administration.

Update: I have written a new article about turning off indexing in Windows 7 and Vista, which I recommend to read first. If you installed Vista SP1, there are other ways to disable indexing.

Vista comes with a new indexing service which improves desktop search. It not only makes search faster, but also adds some nice features. The one I like most is that it allows you to search very fast for mails in Outlook. There are, however, cases where you might want to disable Vista's search indexing.

Good desktop search tools index your hard disk only whenever the PC is idle. This seems to be different with Vista. I often saw the corresponding processes (SearchProtocolHost, SearchFilterHost, SearchIndexer) active even though my computer was quite busy with other tasks. This can decrease the overall performance tremendously.

Another reason why you might want to disable Vista search indexing is, if you are using another desktop search solution. Or perhaps you only rarely search for files on your PC. If it is not the reduced performance, then it could be the constant activity of your hard disk, whenever indexing starts, that might get on your nerves. And if you install Vista in a virtual environment, for example, VMware Workstation or Virtual PC, I recommend disabling it anyway since it will slow down your VM significantly.

I know of three ways to turn off Vista's search indexing:

  1. Navigate to Control Panel, choose "Uninstall a Program" under "Programs" and then click on "Turn Windows features on or off". There you can disable the Indexing Service Navigate to Control Panel/System and Maintenance/Indexing Options. There you can remove all locations or only those you use rarely.
  2. It is also possible to disable indexing for a certain drive or enable it only for selected folders. You can do this by changing the Properties of a drive or folder (right click on drive letter in Windows Explorer).Windows Search service
  3. The fasted way is to simply disable the Windows Search service. Run Services (just type "Services" at the Start Search bar), right click on the Windows Search service and select "Properties". Then choose "Disabled" for the start type. Afterwards, you have to stop this service by right clicking on it and selecting "Stop".

The first option is the one you will quite often find on the Web. But I found out that Windows Search remains active after disabling it this way. The second option works, however, it takes quite long time until all files in all subfolders have been excluded from indexing. Thus, the third option is the best one. You don't have to reboot, as with the first option, and if your want to enable it again later, it will cost you just a couple of mouse clicks.


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92 Comments
  1. Suzette 10 years ago

    Wow wow wow, thanks so much, and whatever they say about the Vista indexing not interfering when one is using the pc, my pc is now super better since switching it off. I cannot believe the difference. IT DOES KEEP RUNNING ALL THE TIME or perhaps because i don't play games and things, Vista thinks my resources are low enough for it to index - making even navigating in a simple spreadsheet slow...

    I'm so glad i found this article thank you so much.

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  2. [...] bald-faced lie). There are many sites with instructions on how to disable both Search and Indexing, but here’s one. To be honest, I haven’t been using Agent Ransack for long, but it has served me well so far, [...]

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  3. Przemek 10 years ago

    Thank you for your article - worked like a miracle. I can't hear my HDD anymore unless I start a memory-consuming apps. Great job!

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  4. RePete 10 years ago

    Thank you very much...

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  5. sonia 10 years ago

    simply download a tool from http://uninstall-windows-search.blogspot.com/

    and after 2 clicks its removed. No knowledge needed

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  6. John 10 years ago

    I own three computers with Windows7. On all three computers, within a month of OS install, the system starts to hang up regularly and any simple task can take up to 10 minutes to complete (by simple I mean just clicking a button in Firefox or another app or something similar). On all 3 systems I tried everything to solve the problem and it was only fixed after I disabled search indexer. It may not be designed to slow down a system, but I've seen it happen on three separate systems running completely different apps.

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  7. Davem 10 years ago

    My wife has a Dell INspiron 1721 for two years. It has crashed from time to time and been incrrrrrrrredibly (emphasis on the 'r's is intentional) slow. Runs Vista. Has installed various applications ut this thing just freezes and reboots for no apparent reason. But will disable the Search Indexer and see what happens. In this thread, seems that this is a common Vista, and now Windows 7, issue. I'll have to check my daughter's laptop she got for Xmas. Runs W-7 and doesn't run as fast as I thought it would given what Microsoft learned from Vista. I'll check the Search Indexer on that also. Learned a lot here.

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  8. RayJax 9 years ago

    To the people saying that SearchIndexing doesn't take up recources STFU. Sure search indexing doesn't take up much RAM!! BUT IT RAPES YOUR CPU AND HARD DRIVE. If you've ever looked at your processes while it's running you'd see it taking up quite a bit of CPU time and depending on your computer set up you'd hear your hard drive crackling in the background going nuts.

    If you don't often search your computer I would disable this. I did and it's made a lot of difference. I'm going to leave the indexing for outlook though since I do search my emails a lot.

    good article.

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  9. Limorkil 9 years ago

    Turning off search indexing using the advice in this article really helped me. Every time I switched on my PC I had to wait 10 minutes before Vista would allow me to do anything. It would look like I had control (no "hourglass") but Vista basically ignored anything I tried to do until it had finished indexing. If by some rare chance an application did execute prior to indexing completion it would really crawl until Vista decided to release the resources. The whole thing was ultra-annoying and I am glad it is now DEAD.

    I really cannot understand the philosophy behind Vista. Surely the operating system is meant to be in the background, behind the scenes as it were, not in your face every minute of every day. If I click on something then I do not want to be questioned whether I really want the thing I clicked on to run. If I click on something then I expect MY system resources to be given to that application, immediately. If I switch something off I do not expect to be reminded ALL THE &*$&# TIME that I switched it off. If I want to switch it back on I will be sure to let you know Vista. Would it be too much to ask for the ability to switch a lot of these "safety" features off, WITHOUT being prompted that they are off every few minutes? Please, someone point me to a third-party application called
    "Do What I Say Vista and STFU".

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  10. DEll 9 years ago

    Thank you so much, I haven't even thought of disabling the indexing of Vista's Desktop search. When I installed my search tool lookeen (you can also use it for mails)a couple of months ago, I forgot completely about the other search which of course also needs system resources. I am curious how this will change the overall performance, we'll see what the future holds.

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  11. zelozelos 9 years ago

    Thanks for the article, i tried method 2 and 3, it seems that 3 is the best, but it does constantly remind you (well-every time u search) that you did this, now I just wish someone would find a way to add a "always run this program/app with out buggin me every time i double click this file to tell it to run" check box to the user account control popup! (and yeah, i do know u can disable it, but it does have some good uses)

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  12. bob walker 8 years ago

    Thanks for the info boy was that puppy running slow....now it is better

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  13. Robert Walker 8 years ago

    I really want to thank you for the article. My HP HD was screaming and the system would just hang. I looked up what was happening in the task manager and lo and behold what did I find...?

    search indexer using up all the system resources memory and cpu. Everything took so long to do anything and just hang.

    I work in photography and need to do editing and email and this would take forever. Just going to Firefox would take a minute to load. This is not an old system and I have adequate ram.

    I disabled the offending program and now runs like it used to when new. One of these days I may get an Apple to work with for my photography editing. keep the pc for business stuff only. I hate vista....

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  14. archwaygunner 8 years ago

    I use "everything" a free and instant search because I find it the best I've ever tried

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  15. DIPS 8 years ago

    You're first sentence says that I should read 'this' before I proceed, or do you mean 'that' link before the sentence. Kind of confusing, this and that.

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  16. Michael Pietroforte 8 years ago

    DIPS, thanks for the hint. Read this first. I changed the text accordingly.

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  17. gg109 6 years ago

    Thanks for tip #3, was a lifesaver.
    Had urgent work to do and CPU usage was running 60%+, with the laptop threatening to overhead. Searchindexer, searchprotocol host etc were taking 40%+ CPU and also constantly tripping the anti-virus, which was taking another 20%+. Following tip 3, I could stop the indexer in seconds and CPU usage *instantly* fell to 5%. Superb!
    PS: I had used method 2 earlier with no luck, win-search would run even without any location tagged for indexation.
    PPS: Running disk clean-up (My computer / drive properties) may remove old index files

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