Data Doctors: Understanding Windows 10 search indexing

Q: I was told that if I turn off search indexing in Windows 10, my computer would run faster. Is this true, and what do I give up if I turn it off?

A: Windows 10 search indexing is designed to make finding things on your computer faster by creating an index of your files.

It’s like the index in the back of a massive book; it makes it much faster to find something because Windows isn’t having to search through every file, every time.

What gets indexed

By default, all the properties of your files get indexed, but the most important items are the file name and the location of the file. Text within files is also indexed, which makes it possible to search for a file based on what’s contained in the file and not just by its filename.

Some apps, such as an email program, may add their own information to the index to speed up searches relating to that app.

The indexing process

The very first time Windows runs the indexing process on your files, it can take a couple of hours to complete depending upon how many data files your hard drive contains. This initial processing can certainly impact the computer’s performance while it’s running.

Once it completes the initial indexing, it will continue to index new files as they are added or as you make modifications to existing files.

If you work with and modify lots of files on a regular basis or transfer large quantities of new files to your computer, indexing can cause some slowing.

If you have a lower-powered computer with an older, slower hard drive, indexing can place a burden on system resources, resulting in slower all-around performance as well.

If you spend most of your time online working with data that is stored on the Internet, the indexing burden should be pretty minimal.

If you rarely search your computer for files, turning off the Indexing won’t impact you much at all.

Disabling search indexing

If you’d like to see whether the indexing is causing a performance issue on your computer, you can temporarily stop it from running to see whether things improve.

Type “services” in the Windows search bar to get to the Services app and open it.

Scroll down the list until you find “Windows Search” and double-click on it to open the “Search Properties” menu. Under the “Service status”: section, click the “Stop” button to temporarily disable the service.

The next time you start your computer, Search Indexing will be turned back on automatically unless you change the “Startup type:” to Disabled or Manual.

Limiting what gets indexed

Instead of disabling indexing altogether, you can reduce the number of files being indexed but still have the faster file searching abilities for specific folders.

Type “indexing” into the Windows search bar and then click on “Indexing Options” to open the options menu.

The current locations being indexed will be displayed, which you can change by clicking on the “Modify” button.

The majority of the locations being indexed will be under the “Users” folder for each user profile, which is where most of your data files are stored.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up