How to improve Instant Search

We mentioned in our previous article that Instant Search uses an index to return the results of your searches as quickly as possible. The index is like a library that stores information about files, including the file name, the date it was modified and properties such as author, tags or rating. Instead of looking through your entire hard disk for a file name, Instant Search scans the index, which allows most results to appear in a small fraction of the time that a search without the index would have taken. By default, Instant Search indexes only a small number of folders such as the Start Menu, the names of the files opened, the Documents folder and the user’s e-mail.

The index can be customized by the user at any time. You can remove locations or file types from the index in order to make Instant Search even faster or you can add even more locations or files types. In this article we will show you how you can configure the Windows Vista index to your liking.

First, enter the Control Panel and type the word “index” in the search box. The first result will be Indexing Options.

Control Panel

Click on it and the Indexing Options window will open. Here you can see the locations included in the search index.

Indexing Options

If you want to add or remove locations, click on the Modify button. In the Indexed Locations window browse to the specific folders you want to add to the index and click on the corresponding check boxes. If you want to remove a location from the index, just uncheck the corresponding check box.

Indexing Options

After you have selected all the locations you want to include in the index, press the OK button and you will return to the Indexing Options window.

If you want to configure other aspects of the search index, click on the Advanced

In the Advanced Options window you will find two tabs: Index Settings and File Types. In the Index Settings tab you can rebuild the index, restore the default settings or change the location where the index is saved on your hard disk. You can also set the index to include encrypted files or treat words with diacritics as different words.

Indexing Options

In the File Types tab you can select the types of files that are indexed. Just scroll down the list of available extensions and check or uncheck the ones you want to include or remove.

You can also configure it so that it indexes only the file properties or the files properties and their content.


Configuring the Windows Vista search index is very easy. Before you make any changes you should decide what you want: better speed or more comprehensive search results?
If you want more speed, then you should keep the indexed file types and locations to a minimum and try to include only those which are important to you as a user. If you want comprehensive results, then you should include all the locations where you store your files. Also, it might be a good idea to index properties and file contents. However, the more you include in the index, the more time it takes to build that index and to return search results. This is why we recommend you to experiment a bit before making the final configuration and try to create a balance between speed and quality.

Related articles:
Understanding Instant Search
How to customize the Start Menu search box
How to enable Natural Search and how to use it

Recommended articles:
Windows Search Advanced Query Syntax

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