Turn Off Indexing in Windows for Better Performance

Turning off indexing on your hard drives is another very simple way to boost performance in your PC. Before I get into the details of turning off indexing, let’s try to go through the reasons why you would want to disable indexing in the first place and when you should leave it enabled.

There are basically three cases as I see it when it comes to indexing, which makes it really easy to determine whether you should enable or disable indexing:

1. Really fast CPU (i5, i7) + a regular hard drive = keep indexing on

2. Slow CPU + any type of hard drive = don’t index

3. Any type of CPU + SSD hard drive = don’t index

So it basically comes down to the type of CPU and the type of hard drive. You never want to turn it on for an SSD drive and same goes if you have a slow CPU. Don’t worry, turning off the indexing service will do no harm to your computer. You may then ask, well how am I supposed to search for something!? Well, don’t worry, you can still search, it just won’t be indexed.

So ask yourself when was the last time you really searched for something anyway using Windows Explorer? I’ve haven’t performed a search in years now because I now rely mostly on cloud services or I just happen to be very organized and know where all my files are.  Also, if you read the comments on my previous post about the Windows 7 search feature, you’ll see how many people think its absolutely terrible anyway.

If you do use it occasionally, then it’s a good idea to modify the default settings and only index the absolute necessary folders you may want to search. So now let’s get into how to actually disable indexing.

Note: In order to not confuse, you should know that you can STILL search your computer in Windows 7 even with indexing turned off, it’ll just search without an index. I have found that at least in Windows 7, the search sucks whether or not you have indexing turned on or not. 

Turn Off Indexing Selectively

There are a couple of ways you can turn off indexing. Firstly, if you still want to be able to search common locations like Documents or My Pictures, etc, then you can selectively disable indexing for other non-essential location. To do that, click on Start and type in indexing. The first option should be Indexing Options.

indexing options

Here you will see a list of the currently indexed locations. You can click on the Modify button to change what locations you want indexed. By default, Windows 7 will index Outlook, IE history, any offline files, the Start Menu and your User directory, which contains Documents, My Pictures, etc.

windows 7 indexed files

If you don’t need all the folders listed indexed, then go ahead and uncheck them after clicking on Modify. Since my My Pictures folder has over 50 GB of photos all named DSCXXX or IMGXXX, there was no point in indexing that folder because I was never going to search it. All the photos in that folder were organized into subfolders by event, etc. So when I disabled My Pictures indexing, I noticed a decent speed boost because Windows was no longer trying to index those files. In addition, I add hundreds of pictures a week to that folder, so the indexing never would stop.

indexed locations

Remove Outlook from Indexing

If you want to remove Microsoft Outlook from the search index, you may notice that it doesn’t appear in the top list, but does so in the bottom list. So how do you get rid of it from the search index? To do that, you first have to open Microsoft Outlook and then click on FileOptions.

file options outlook

Now click on Search on the left side and click on the Indexing Options button on the right. It seems to bring up the same Indexing Options dialog, but now when you click Modify, you’ll be able to deselect Microsoft Outlook.

outlook deindexed

Turn Off Indexing for a Drive

Another way to turn off indexing is to tell Windows not to index a particular drive. I recently added a hard drive to my Windows 7 machine to use as a backup. By default, Windows was indexing files on the backup drive, which was useless since I was never going to search that drive.

To turn off indexing on a drive, go ahead and open My Computer or Computer and right-click on your local drive (C, D, etc) and choose Properties.

On the General tab, you’ll see a checkbox at the bottom called “Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching” in Windows XP or “Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed in addition to file properties” in Windows 7 and 8.

c drive properties

Go ahead and uncheck that and you’ll get a popup dialog box asking whether you want to apply these settings to all files and subfolders or just to the root of the drive:

apply attribute changes

Choose all files and subfolders, otherwise it’s going to still index everything on the drive! Click OK and you’ll have to sit and wait for a few minutes as the settings are applied to all the files on your computer. Unfortunately, every file in the file system has an attribute that tells Windows whether or not it should be indexed, so this has to to be updated for all files.

attributes updated

If you get any Access Denied errors along the way, just go ahead and click Ignore All because it’s probably just system files that are currently in use. In the example above, I chose the C drive, but you don’t have to turn indexing off for the C drive normally as the system and program files are not being indexed by default. If you have a secondary drive or other partitions, then it’s best to disable indexing using the method above.

Completely Disable Indexing

There is one more way to disable indexing and it will totally turn it off. The above methods will reduce what’s indexed by Windows, but the indexing service will still be running. Here I’ll show you how to turn off the indexing service altogether, which is I’ve done and have never run into an issue where I needed it enabled.

First open the Control Panel and click on Administrative Tools. Then click on Services in the list. You can also open Services directly by typing services.msc in the Run dialog or Start Menu search box.

services.msc

Now scroll down till you find either Indexing Service or Windows Search in the list of services. You’ll see it’s probably in the Started state and is set to Automatic.

windows search service

Double-click on Windows Search and click the Stop button to stop the service. Then change the Startup Type to Disabled.

disable windows search

After this, you’re going to want to restart your computer. When you turn indexing off, you can still perform a search in Windows, it’ll just give you a message saying it’s going to be slower because there index is not running.

turn indexing on message

As I mentioned before, I did a test with the index on and off and performed a search on the entire C drive for a file in one of my indexed locations and the results were pretty much the same! It was literally only a few seconds difference, but both searches took over a minute. Probably the reason why I  never use Windows search in the first place. If you have any questions about indexing in Windows, let us know in the comments. Enjoy!

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