How to Tweak Windows Vista Search Options for Better Results

By Woody Leonhard

Sometimes the easiest way to improve your search results is to change the way Vista search looks at your files. When you perform a simple search, you’ll see an item on the toolbar called Search Tools. Click the down arrow and choose Search Options. You can customize the way Vista search handles files, by making improvements here. The following is a list of available options and how they affect Vista search.

Search Options
Setting What It Means Timesaving Tip
In indexed locations, search file names and contents. In
non-indexed locations, search file names only
Vista may or may not search filenames, depending on where you
base your search.
You probably want this setting — although it isn’t
described correctly in the dialog box.
Always search file names and contents (might be slow) Vista will crawl through the contents of every file in the
current folder.
Slow isn’t the right term. Try glacial. (If you think
you’d want to do this type of a search often, modify the index to
include file contents. It will speed things up.)
Always search file names only Vista will ignore everything except the filename. Granted this is much faster, but most people need (and are
willing to wait for) the full text search.
Include subfolders when typing in the Search box Vista looks in the current folder and its subfolders. Leave it checked.
Find Partial Matches Match anywhere in the word. Leave it checked.
Use Natural Language Search Allows you to type searches in a less-structured way. For
example, if you type by Woody, this kind of search would produce
everything with “Woody” listed as author.
Although you can still do “regular” searches with
this check, sometimes Vista gets confused. Leave it unchecked
unless you’re sure you need it.
Don’t use the Index when searching the file system (might
be slow)
Ignore the index entirely. Use this setting only if you think your index is broken.
Include system directories Includes system folders when searching for filenames. If you commonly search for system files, and you don’t
want to navigate to c:Windows or c:Program Files before initiating every
search, this setting can help.
Include compressed files (ZIP, CAB, …) Look at the filenames of the files inside compressed (ZIP and
CAB) files, which are normally ignored by the indexer.
If you need to search inside compressed files, it’s great, but
it is slow. Note: Vista will only look at the filenames, not at the