The Windows Indexing Service actually works!

It could be that actually using the inbuilt Indexing Service is Windows’ best kept secret. The chaps at certainly seem to think so.

Windows’ Indexing Service promises to give you far faster searching than the standard search function, which trawls across all the files on your hard drive each time it does a search. How does it do this? Well, it just trawls your hard dive in advance, putting everything it thinks will be useful into a big old database ready to do lightning fast searches at the drop of a hat. The problem is that no-one seems to know how to actually use the Indexing Service!

If you’ve previously turned on the Indexing Service and then done some searches, you’ll probably have noticed that things have not sped up at all. Well, that’s because Microsoft, in their ultimate wisdom, decided not to get results automatically from the Indexing Service if it was turned on. Which was nice of them. Thankfully, there is an easy way of searching the Indexing Service from the normal search window, which I’ll show you in a minute.

Before we actually get to do lightning fast searches though, we’ll have to actually turn on the Indexing service. Here’s how you do that:

  • Right click on your “My Computer” icon, and select “Manage”.
  • The “Computer Management” will appear (which in my opinion is one of the most useful windows that XP has.
  • Open the “Services and Applications” branch, and then the “Services” branch from the left hand side.
  • You’ll now see a list of all services available to Windows. Scroll down until you see “Indexing Service” and double click on it to open it.
  • Change the Startup Type to “Automatic” and click “OK”.
  • That’s it, you’re all set to go. Just wait a few hours for the Indexing Service to actually index your hard drive, and you can do some searches!

Once the Indexing Service has actually done some indexing, you’ll be able to start doing your super fast searches with the normal search interface.

  • Open the search window, and choose “All files or folders”.
  • In the “A word or phrase in file text box”, enter the phrase that you’re wanting to search for, preceded by an exclamation mark
  • Press enter, and you should be greeted with an incredibly quick search result! Hurrah!

So, there you go - fast searches without installing anything else. I’ve only just started using it myself, and I know that there are possible performance issues, so if I notice any performance degradation I’ll report back.

UPDATE: Windows Indexing Service did cause system degradation for me

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Neil Crosby now blogs at The Code Train and also runs, The Ten Word Review and Everything is Rubbish.