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

  1. Avatar
    zelozelos 13 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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    bob walker 12 years ago

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

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    Robert Walker 12 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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    archwaygunner 12 years ago

    I use “everything” a free and instant search because I find it the best I’ve ever tried

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    DIPS 12 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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    DIPS, thanks for the hint. Read this first. I changed the text accordingly.

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    gg109 10 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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