How to get the Vista Search Indexer to index all of my files?
December 13, 2007 6:26 PM   Subscribe

How can I get the Vista Search Indexer to index and find all of my files?

Since switching from Mac OS X to Windows Vista early this year, I have had problems with the Vista search feature not locating files I know exist. I usually use the search box in Explorer to filter file names in the current folder view. Most of the time, this works as expected. However, I have discovered that there are actually a large number of files that Windows refuses to index and can only be found by using the advanced non-indexed search, which is very slow.

I have tried all of the suggestions in this Microsoft Support article, including rebuilding the index and restoring the default settings.

I've been able to put the non-indexed files into two categories. One set of files show up in the Indexing Options Indexed Locations window as grayed out. Looking at the advanced attributes of these files, I've found that the "Index this file for faster searching" option is unchecked. I have been unable to determine a pattern for which files have indexing turned off. They can be added to the index, but it seems there is no way to automate this process. I would have to manually search for each missing file and then add it to the index; five clicks per file.

A second set of files does not even appear in the Indexed Locations window file list.

The non-indexed files come from various sources, and are not limited to a single application or file type. In some cases, I've found a series of files from the same source where half will be randomly non-indexed.

I feel like I must be missing something simple. Coming from a Mac background, I can't understand why something as basic as searching would be so difficult.
posted by Amaterasu to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This article suggests that file types could be the problem. And this one identifies some advanced operators to help you narrow the problem down.
posted by Soup at 6:43 PM on December 13, 2007

Vista's search technology is extended by iFilters. Vista ships with common iFilters, which you see in the search options list linked in Soup's comment. But if you're looking to index other file types, you'll need to track down, or write, the appropriate iFilter, install it, and re-index.
posted by paulsc at 7:10 PM on December 13, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the links. The Advanced Search Techniques link provided by Soup looks particularly useful and I'll be revisiting it in the future. It also provided some terminology I was able to refine my Google searches with, which lead to a partial solution.

Apparently this is a fairly common problem. No one seems to know what causes files to default to having the "index this file for faster searching" attribute unchecked, but it is possible to change all of your files at once instead of one at a time.

Just start at the top directory you wish to change (I used my home folder), and make sure at least one file has indexing turned off. Then select all, right click, and choose Properties. It's not very clear, but this allows you to change properties for all of the files selected. Click Advanced, then click the box next to "Index this folder..." until it has a check mark. When you click apply, you will have the option of changing all sub-folders as well.

The changes take a few minutes and this probably wont stop future files from being un-indexed, but it has already drastically improved my search experience.
posted by Amaterasu at 8:55 PM on December 13, 2007

Also, be aware that SP1 is slated to help with some searching issues... and more specifically, allow you to specify a search engine to use other than Windows', like Google Desktop, integrated into all Windows Search bars.
posted by disillusioned at 9:50 PM on December 13, 2007

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