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How to Solve Windows Search Issues with an Index Rebuild

Posted by Jim Tanous on May 8, 2015
Windows Search Magnifying Glass Detective

Microsoft Windows includes powerful system-wide search functionality that lets users quickly find files and other data via a Start Menu or Start Screen search. By default, Windows Search will index certain common locations on your drive, such as the User folder, Outlook Messages, and Internet Explorer browsing history. If Windows Search stops working for you and no longer returns search results for files that you know exist, there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot the issue. Here’s how to fix Windows Search issues in all versions of Windows from 7 to 10.
First, head to the Control Panel and find the section labeled Indexing Options. If you’re not facing a total malfunction of Windows Search capabilities, you can quickly jump to Indexing Options directly by searching for it from the Start Menu (Windows 7 and Windows 10) or the Start Screen (Windows 8 and 8.1).
windows 8 control panel indexing options

Verify Indexed Locations

In the Indexing Options window, the first step to take when Windows Search isn’t finding your files is to make sure that Windows is indexing the location where your files reside. You’ll see a list of locations and applications that are currently being indexed; note that if a drive or folder is listed here, then all subfolders and files included in that drive are indexed as well.
windows search indexed locations
If the locations of your files are not listed here — such as your Users folder for places like the Documents and Desktop folders, or a second hard drive — you can manually add them. Click the Modify button and you’ll see a list of all locations on your PC. Find the desired drive or folder that contains files you’d like indexed and check the box next to it. Click OK when done and you’ll return to the Indexing Options window to see your new location listed.

Rebuild the Windows Search Index

Regardless of whether the location of your files was already in the indexed locations list, you’ll want to rebuild your Windows Search index as your next troubleshooting step. This index can become corrupted or otherwise encounter issues, and rebuilding it from scratch is often a good way to solve Windows Search problems.

Related: How to configure Windows Search to index the contents of files.

One note before we begin: rebuilding the Windows Search index can take a very long time depending on the speed of your PC, your storage drives, and the number of files that need to be indexed. You can still use your PC during the rebuild, but you won’t have full access to Windows Search until the rebuild is complete. On slower systems, the rebuilding process may decrease system performance while it runs (you can see how much of an impact the process has on your PC by finding the Microsoft Windows Search Indexer process in Task Manager). It’s therefore best to plan a Windows Search index to take place overnight. Just follow the steps below as the last thing you do before leaving your PC at night, and let it run uninterrupted.
To rebuild the Windows Search index, head back to Control Panel > Indexing Options. Click the Advanced button and make sure you’re on the Index Settings tab of the Advanced Options window.
windows search indexing options rebuilt
Under the Troubleshooting section of the Advanced Options window, find and click the Rebuild button. Windows will warn you, just as we did above, that the index rebuilding process may take a long time, and that you may not have full search functionality until it’s complete. Click OK to accept the warning and start the re-indexing process.
Once the Windows Search index has been rebuilt, try searching for your files again. Absent more serious issues like hardware failure or viruses, your files, folders, and data should all now appear in your Windows search queries.

18 thoughts on “How to Solve Windows Search Issues with an Index Rebuild”

Brian says:
It’s best to leave it overnight???
You’re kidding. You need to go on a three week holiday or it won’t have finished.
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kam says:
I have to rebuild of every restart windows 10 pro
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sdbehrendt says:
Every time I update Windows, I need to rebuild the index. At least for me, rebuilding doesn’t take a few hours like everybody says. Rather, it takes weeks. So there are some users who have 750,000+ items requiring indexing …. Conclusion: I should never accept Windows updates. After four days I have 169097 items indexed … and slowly adding items, a few per hour ….
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Michael John Ferris says:
I’am looking to fix the search windows
please help me
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Michael John Ferris says:
i can’t access my control panel because the search windows its not working i try to restart it many time but it wont search the control panel any of the app it wont’t searh any of it even in control panel is there a way to get in control panel
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Nor Shore says:
BEAUTIFUL!
Thank you so much for sharing how to fix indexing when you are not getting the correct results when searching for files.
And it took perhaps all of 15 seconds to index too!
Again… THANK YOU SO MUCH!
Regards,
Jeff
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Go Kevin says:
his does work for
I can search D: using explorer (this PC) dut not cortana
have contacted microsoft support, but alas all they managed to was install all the apps I had removed, plus cortana still cannot see my D: drive
C: and E: are fine and cortana searches freely,
Show all locations does not show up my D:
I am just laughing, how is that an improvement.
do you have any other tips that may help
as this is part of my HDD (split to 3 parts) c: primary d: and e: are logical.
I even tried changing d: to primery and followed above steps ,,,,,,,, no joy.
now back to logical.
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Lucas Blaney says:
SO! Let’s say you’re having the issue that this whole thing is trying to fix and you CAN’T search for things, HOW DO YOU FIND THE INDEXING OPTIONS!?!?!
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André Belice says:
Restart your PC.. for me that’s fixed the issue of not being able to open the control panel.. then i have done the re index..
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02befree says:
Well done.
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TJ says:
Before wasting a lot of time doing the above, there’s a simple fix! No need to mess around with your Registry.
Navigate to this folder,
c:UsersYOUR NAMEAppDataLocalMicrosoftWindows1033
And DELETE the file: StructuredQuerySchema.bin
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menlotech says:
Genius.
Thanks for the shortcut. I guess you have to remember that a lot of people want this kind of walk through to see options of the indexer.
Do you know a good resources for more of these kinds of Tips and Tricks for administrators?
Thanks Again!
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COUPON4Vitamins says:
Thanks, truly a GENIUS !!
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sferrell615 says:
while this might do the same thing as above (re-indexing) it doesn’t solve the problem of being able to search a 2nd drive (e.g. D:) via Cortana
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TecDiSol.com says:
the solution did not work for me
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Daniel says:
I can’t find anything when I type on start menu =/
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James Rae says:
Windows 10 must use some other index for the Start Menu search as although Indexing is complete, the start menu is still doing… something, and not finding any apps.
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Daniel says:
could you solve it?? can you share?? I have the same problem
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James Rae says:
It’s computer and account specific. Just make a new account on your computer and it will work… then curse Microsoft for not providing a proper fix for it.
A solution is to back up your documents (really recommend using something like Dropbox), record your settings (take snapshots of screens like taskbar and start menu). Create temp admin account and log in. Delete your old account and either re-create your account or just attach your Microsoft account to the temp admin account and use that instead. Re-create taskbar and start menu using your snapshots. This way doesn’t delete desktop apps.
Use that until something randomly stops working (i.e. Store icon goes blank and doesn’t open) and repeat.
Daniel says:
Arigatou!! I’ll do it
ᅠᅠᅠ says:
I have the same symptoms, and the hints from the article didn’t help either. I ran the problem solving wizard for search and indexing issues. It detected the issue “Wrong permissions for Windows Search directories”, which makes sense. However, even when running the wizard from an administrative account, it ends up with status “Not fixed” and seems unwilling to do so.
In a discussion on Microsoft Answers, one user reported that deleting the search index directory and let it be recreated helped. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for me. The directory was recreated and is being filled with some gigabytes of data, but the search still doesn’t even find the names of programs with shortcuts in the start menu…
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TayyabKhalid says:
This solution worked for me. Thank you for the help, I greatly appreciate it! 😀
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Mykalicious says:
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monty51pa says:
sorry for the typos, dam numbe fingers from strokes, all i said was i liked the charms bar too it was easy to switch back and forth when i needed it
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monty51pa says:
also i want to enable the charms bar lited it too easy to switch b ack and forh with it
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monty51pa says:
THE START SCREEN OPTIONS ARE NOT ON MY WINDOWS 9926 SAD TO SAY I LIKED THE OPTION TO USE START SCREEN LIKE IT WAS IN 9879
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