How to Add Items to the Search Index in Windows

By Dan Gookin

The Windows search command doesn’t actually search your stuff. Instead, it searches an index of your stuff. That’s because it’s much quicker to search an index than to search everywhere. Consider a book: It’s faster to look up a topic in the index than to turn every page looking for it. Search indexes work the same way.

For efficiency’s sake, a search index doesn’t make a note of everything everywhere in your computer. You can, however, direct the Search command to index more files in additional locations. So when you find yourself locating lost files outside the normal search locations, it pays to have Windows index those locations to make the search process faster.

The simple way to adjust search options in Windows 7 and Windows Vista is to use the Search tab in the Folder Options dialog box. Heed these steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel.

  2. Choose Appearance and Personalization.

  3. Choose Folder Options.

    The Folder Options dialog box is displayed.

  4. Click the Search tab.

  5. If you prefer more detailed searches, choose the option Always Search File Names and Contents.

  6. When you plan to search outside your personal folders, place a check mark by the item Don’t Use the Index When Searching.

  7. Peruse other search options as well, depending on how deep you want your file searches to go.

  8. Click the OK button to close the Folder Options dialog box and lock in your settings.

In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, you can expand the locations where Windows searches by changing the search index. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel.

  2. Switch to Icon view.

    • In Windows 7, choose Large Icons from the View By menu button in the upper-right corner of the window.

    • In Windows Vista, choose Classic View from the task pane on the left side of the window.

  3. Open the Indexing Options icon in the Control Panel.

  4. Click the Modify button in the Indexing Options dialog box.

  5. Click the Show All Locations button.

  6. In Vista, press the Continue button or type the administrator’s password to continue.


  7. Choose a disk drive or folder to add to the index.

    Placing a check mark in the box by the item adds the folder and all its subfolders and all their content to the index.

    The list on the bottom of the Indexed Locations dialog box shows which items are being indexed.

  8. Click OK when you’re done adding items to the index.

  9. Click the Close button to dismiss the Indexing Options dialog box.

  10. Return to Category view.

    • In Windows 7, choose the Category option from the View By menu in the upper-right corner of the Control Panel window.

    • In Windows Vista, choose Control Panel Home from the left side of the Control Panel window.

Windows XP doesn’t have as complete a method to adjust indexing. But you should ensure that the indexing service has been activated.

  1. Press Win+F to summon a Search window.

  2. From the list of tasks on the left, choose Change Preferences.

  3. Choose the link with Indexing Service (for Faster Local Searches).

  4. Click Yes, Enable Indexing Service.

  5. Click OK.

Windows updates the index automatically, so you don’t notice it happening. You cannot disable index updating in Windows Vista, nor can you change its update schedule.

Avoid the temptation to index everything. When you do, the index becomes useless as its efficiency drops to nil. To find files, index only the folders you frequent.