What to Do if Windows Search Feature Does Not Work

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What to Do if Windows Search Feature Does Not Work

If the ‘Search’ option on your Windows 7/8/8.1 OS isn’t performing up to your expectations, you have landed on the right page. In this Techspirited article, we present a few troubleshooting options to make the Windows Search on your system functional again.


File indexing can take some time to complete. To speed up the process, it is advised that you close all other programs and windows, and also not browse the Internet till the process is complete.

In the early days of computing, searching for a file used to be a much simpler affair than today. There used to be only so much space on your hard disk, and so you could only store so much data in it. Opening a particular drive partition and scrolling through the limited content in it was all that it took to find a file. Today, however, the story is quite different!

With the storage capacities in even the average systems having graduated from gigabytes to terabytes, it has become possible to stock massive amounts of digital content into our systems. No matter how much data you add, there always seems to be space for a lot more. As such, scrolling through the piles and piles of data in your hard disk to locate a file isn’t just infeasible, it is outright impossible.

To alleviate this inconvenience, Microsoft has equipped its Windows operating systems with the ‘Search’ feature, which allows one to search for any file/content on the system, and in the latest versions of Windows, even on the Internet. It is one of the most useful tools in everyday computing. But what will you do if the Windows Search feature on your machine stops working?

In the following sections, we have provided a few step-by-step troubleshooting procedures that should help you to get the Windows Search on you system working again. But before going through them, let’s understand how the Windows Search actually works.

How Does Windows Search Work?

Simply put, Windows Search works via a process known as indexing. To understand this concept, take the example of a large book having multiple topics and thousands of pages. To search for a particular topic within it, you would require the index which lists the book’s content according to the page numbers.

In a similar manner, Windows makes use of an indexing mechanism, which allows it to search for each file in a faster way. It is also much more efficient, as rather than going through each individual drive, folder, or file stored on the hard disk every time, Windows Search can simply refer to the index and accordingly map its real location.

Windows Search Error

Though it is a highly useful feature, Windows Search isn’t free from errors. At times, you may find that it is unable to locate the file that you are sure still exists on your PC.

These issues may be accompanied with messages such as: the search results are slow, search results might be incomplete, Windows Search Indexer has stopped working, Windows Search service terminated unexpectedly, no items match your search, etc.

For Windows 7

The following are the different procedures that should help you in getting the Windows Search on your Windows 7 PC up and running again.

Windows Troubleshooting

Windows troubleshooting analyzes the search and indexing for problems, and attempts to identify and fix any issues. Follow the steps given here, to allow Windows to troubleshoot the Search feature.

Step 1: Click on Start, and in the search-box type index. From the list items that appear on the top, click on Indexing Options.

Step 2: In the Indexing Options window that opens, look at the bottom left-hand-side corner to locate the Troubleshoot Search and Indexing link, and click on it.

Step 3: The Search and Indexing dialog will open containing a list of the possible problems that might be associated with the Windows Search. Select those problems which you have been facing by checking the check-box next to each item on this list.

Index Rebuilding

Windows Search may not be working properly because of problems in the file indexing. The following is the procedure for rebuilding the Search index.

Step 1: Click on Start, and in the search-box type index. From the list items that appear on the top, click on Indexing Options.

Step 2: In the Indexing Options window that opens, look at the bottom left-hand-side corner to locate the Advanced button, and click on it. You may have to enter an Administrator password if you are prompted to do so.

Step 3: Step 2 will cause the Advanced Options dialog box to open. On it, click on the Index Settings tab.

Step 4: Click on the Rebuild button on the right-hand side, under Troubleshooting.

Enable Windows Search Index

Often, it happens that, we unintentionally disable the Windows Search feature on our system. This may even happen when we install a third-party software program. The following is the procedure for re-enabling Windows Search if it has been disabled.

Step 1: Click on Start, and on the right-side pane click on the Control Panel option.

Step 2: In the Control Panel window, click on the search box on the top right-hand side corner, and type Turn Windows features on or off.

Step 3: In the search result, click on the Turn Windows features on or off link. This will open the Windows Features dialog.

Step 4: Scroll down in this dialog to locate Windows Search, and ensure that it is checked (ticked).

Step 5: Put a check next to Indexing Service to enable indexing service from previous Windows versions.

For Windows 8/8.1

Windows 8/8.1 have a more powerful universal search feature, which can extract results from the Internet, user’s contact list, content applications such as Wikipedia, and also from emails and other online messaging services. However, many users complain that this search is unable to find files which are on their hard disk itself.

The most probable reason for this is that, the default configuration of these operating systems enables them to search for only those files that reside in the user directory, which is ‘C:\Users’, in most cases. To allow Search to find files in Windows 8/8.1, you will have to make additions to the ‘Index’ of these operating systems.

The universal search can only search and display those files which it has indexed. To enhance its capability, you need to add to the index those directories or folders which you want to be searched. Note however, that adding to the index and keeping it up-to-date is a resource-hungry process, which may bog down your system’s performance if you have your entire hard disk indexed. Hence, you are better advised to choose and add only those folders which you need searched.

The following is the procedure for adding to the Index of the Windows 8/8.1 OS.

Step 1: Press Windows + X keys, or search for Control Panel, and open it.

Step 2: In the Control Panel window, locate and click on the Indexing Options icon. If you can’t find this option, click on the View by menu, and select Large icons.

Step 3: In the Indexing Options dialog, on the bottom left-hand side corner, click on the Modify button. This will open the Indexed Locations dialog.

Step 4: In the list, check all those folders and sub-folders that you want to add to the index, and then click on OK.

Step 5: Click on Close to close the dialog box, and wait for a few minutes till the Search feature adds the new locations to its index.

It should now be possible to search for and find all the files that you need to locate using the universal search feature.

To search within a folder or drive which hasn’t been indexed, click on the File Explorer icon on the task bar on your Windows 8/8.1 desktop. In the search box on the top right corner, type the name of the file you want to search for. It will produce a list of all the items that match your search.

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