This article describes 3 ways how to disable indexing in Vista: Indexing options in the Control Panel, folder properties and disable Windows Search service.
Latest posts by Michael Pietroforte (see all)

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:

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  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.


92 Comments
  1. Nick 13 years ago

    Wow thanks, i already did steps 1 and 2, but 3 seemed to help, I have a 500 gb hdd thats almost full and when i would leave the pc on and go to sleep the hdd would be quiet and barely thinking then maybe after 10-20 of being idle the hdd goes crazy and starts processing stuff non-stop keeping me awake and if i move the mouse, it will shut up almost instantly. Personally i think leaving indexing on is the quickest way to shorten the life of your hdd because it hardly lets it power down when not in use.

  2. Justin 13 years ago

    Thanks for the post, still useful 18 months later! Those who say it has no impact on performance are missing something, I had to recover a Vista install on a Dell PC, its dual core & all that but borderline on RAM, so what with Antivirus scanning, the system hitting the swap file and indexing running it was on its knees for days. Once index was complete (supposedly) all went quiet, next boot its disk crashing again. Carried out this article and all is well. If you're borderline with RAM then disable the index. Hopefully the owner of this PC will buy some extra RAM.

  3. VG for Sybase ASE 13 years ago

    Who says it doesn't works. It works n i can c the result. M doing this and the result was in front of me.

  4. Covenant 13 years ago

    Hello, just wanna say THANK YOU VERY MUCH for the tips.
    Having a 1 TB hard drive, I certainly appreciate the hdd being calm now and not always being busy like crazy.

    Think about the shorter lifetime of the hdd when busy constantly. As long as Solid State hasn't become the new standard, our hdds are spinning non-stop when in operation.

    Many of us have important data.
    Switching this stupid indexing off extends the lifetime AND makes our PCs quiter too ... YAY !!

    PS: Also thanks to "Kumkie" for his tip.
    You are all awesome (except those who say that this article was wrong.
    Google is awesome too, because it lead me to this page.

  5. MikeS 13 years ago

    Thanks.

    I recently installed a simple Vista File server for the family. Nothing major. It had a few TB of HDD space, networked to all the pc's/devices in the house.

    I've got hundreds of Gigs of photo's, music, family movies, and so on on this computer. Backed up over several drives.

    This indexing service was running constantly for a week.

    That's a WEEK of solid I/O hits. The Drives never stopped chattering. For one, it was slowing down my file transfers. Being the server for 6 heavy users, it was constantly reindexing folder after folder after folder.

    After turning it off, I was able to see the I/O's drop from 5-15mb/s to almost 0 when nothing was running.

    Thanks.

  6. A 13 years ago

    Thanks much for the third tip.

  7. Larry 13 years ago

    Thanks a lot for the post!!!!!!!

  8. jmmp 13 years ago

    Yup, thanks - What a relief!!

  9. Colby 13 years ago

    All of you that don't think that indexing isn't slowing down your systems, then you don't have much on your PC. I have 12gig, IC7 chip, and about 8TB's of drive space. At least 7tb's are filled up of that drive, they are in a raid and I'm using a high end RAID card. Indexing did nothing but slow my pc down. Creating new files took almost a min, rename a folder, another min of time wasted. Turned off all indexing, search and everything else, now when I recreate a file it takes 1sec if that.

    Basically when it boils down t it, Vista is a pile of shi*. I get much better speeds from windows 7 and XP.

  10. Covenant 13 years ago

    Hi, for those who want to calm down their HDD as much as possible, please check my little collection of Windows tweaks (pdf file):

    http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?injyghjmmnj

    Just be aware that you know what each modification of your OS does, BEFORE you apply it.
    If you're not sure, then please rather don't use it.
    Some changes do have significant impact of how an OS behaves.
    In case of doubts, just do a little research (google) and decide for yourself.

  11. danep 13 years ago

    Colby you are a tw**. With that much data the indexer is gonna take time to index it. Some people just don't deserve a decent raid PC. The search indexer is the best thing about Vista if everyone would just give it time to do it's thang.But as usual all we get are impatient airheads. The first incarnation of the indexer which was slow took about a week to index my 500GB of data whilst I used the PC. The newer version though just took a couple of hours. For 7TB you are looking at a few days if you also intend using the PC. Best leave it on overnight for the indexer to do it's job. Also remember to turn off the other Vista stuff such as the daily Virus scans etc.

  12. stalker 13 years ago

    Danep, Why do you so eagerly need to index your data? new Hdds are already enough fast to perfom searches over tham and there are much more quality third party search programs for fast searches. Why you are sticking to mic.* indexing service which is definately not functional?

    and you have to know that indexing service costs much more space because of Gigs/TBs of indexed files.

    result; according to me indexing is one of the worst idea that mic.* came with (the worst idea of mic.* is definately Vista!...

  13. danep 13 years ago

    Hi Stalker

    1. Not functional?? I type, its there instantly. How is that not functional? It's the best and most important part of Vista, which is so much better security wise than XP.

    2. Cost so much space?? Are you nuts. The size and cost of HD's today should stop anyone making that ludicrous comment immediately. I have a Raid5 TB system so space is is not a problem. This is why I commented on Colby's nonsense. He just needed to give it time to index what is a huge amount of data. Yes there are other search indexers out there but I like the way this one is tied into everything in Vista including the file system and email in Outlook etc.

    I would agree that if you have a low spec system and lots of data then the indexer can be slow. But if you only have a half decent system then there's absolutely no reason to complain. Just impatience. But granted, Vista is a beast and we can but look forward to the more svelte like Win7.

    Like MS though, I blame many manufacturers who load all kinds of shit onto their PC's and Laptops that reduce it to a crawl when you first turn them on. Hopefully they will have learnt their lesson with Win7.

  14. stalker 13 years ago

    That is what my point was. Unfortunately Vista is a beast, like you have pointed out, and consumes lots of system resource. Vistas Glassy look is bullshit, it consumes 700mb ram and 500 mhz cpu power in idle mode and nobody really needs that kind of desktop at that cost.

    Indexing is coded with same mentality with the aero interface; consume lots of computing power, cache everything, make people to upgrade their PC!...

    Me (it came with my Toshiba laptop and I am unable to get rid of it 🙁 and I am very angry to Toshiba) and lots of Vista users prefer to shutdown indexing service to gain extra Hdd speed and CPU power among long battery life (or low energy consuming).

    I am hearing lots of satifaction whispers about Windows 7. I am hopeful about it.

  15. Covenant 13 years ago

    Windows 7 is everything you ever wanted ... and more.
    Windows 7 will make your secret wishes come true.
    Windows 7 will be the very cause for world peace ...

    ... *kneed down and folds hands*

    Our Bill, who art in Microsoft,
    hallowed be thy OS.
    Thy Escrow come,
    thy build be done,
    on earth as it is in Se7en
    Give us this leak our daily fix.
    And forgive us our torrent abuse,
    as we forgive those who wont share this info.
    And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from Vista.
    For thine is the Se7ev, the power and the performance. for ever and ever.

    Amen

  16. De 13 years ago

    Thanks in advance for the tip. But I got a german vista so anyone can tell me how to do it in german vista

  17. Suzette 13 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.

  18. Przemek 13 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!

  19. RePete 12 years ago

    Thank you very much...

  20. sonia 12 years ago

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

    and after 2 clicks its removed. No knowledge needed

  21. John 12 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.

  22. Davem 12 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.

  23. RayJax 12 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.

  24. Limorkil 12 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".

  25. DEll 11 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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