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What's the best way to disable indexing in Windows 7?

All of the articles that I've found online instruct me to access services.msc and disable the Windows Search service. However, even after I did that, when I right click properties of my C-drive, I notice the "Allow files on this drive...indexed..." is still checked.

So should I uncheck that option and re-enable Windows Search? Or just uncheck it and leave the Windows Search service disabled?

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If your objective is to retain search functionality, but not to use indexes, you need to set up the following situation:

  • Turn off the indexing (to prevent an index being produced).
  • Delete the existing index (to prevent windows from using the index during searches).
  • Avoid re-enabling indexing.
  • Optional: enable the searching of file contents.

Turning off indexing

Start -> Run -> services.msc -> disable and stop Windows Search.

Ensure that the Startup type is set to disabled to prevent Windows from starting it again automatically.

Windows search service dialog box

Deleting the existing index

You can get the path to the search index from the following dialog box:

Control Panel -> Indexing Options -> Advanced

However since we have disabled indexing, it will be empty:

Empty Windows Search Properties dialog

But we can still look up the value in the registry:

  • Start -> Run -> regedit.exe
  • Browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Search
  • We need the value of the DataDirectory key:

Windows Search Registry Configuration

Delete the Search folder specified by that path.

Avoid re-enabling indexing

Beware that when you run a search, you will frequently see this popup:

Propt to turn on search indexing

If you enable this, the indexing service will be restarted, and Windows will start using the index for indexed locations. So don't do that if you don't want it to use the index.

Search file contents

You may want to turn on searching file contents:

Control Panel -> Folder Options -> Search Tab

Search file contents configuration

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Don't bother for the checkbox "Allow files on this drive...". Even if it's checked, if the service is disabled, Windows won't index anything at all.

If you want, you can completely uninstall Windows Search, as explained in this tutorial (at

Screenshot of going to start - control panel - programs and features

Screenshot of seleting "Turn windows features on or off"

alt text

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Thanks for the help! I don't really use Windows Search but I guess it's good to keep it. – KL90 Nov 21 '09 at 17:21
Where is this window? How do I open it? – pguardiario Oct 14 '14 at 7:12
You go there via [start] [control panel] [programs and features] [turn windows features off]. (Screenshots also added to Snarks post). – Hennes Dec 19 '14 at 14:53
would I still be able to use the search function though? the top right hand side corner to search a file? Thanks! – Chen Stats Yu Apr 21 '15 at 23:02

The previous two answers show you how to disable Windows search altogether. This also causes search boxes in various places to disappear, most notably the search box on the bottom of the Start menu and the search box at the top right of file explorers.

Personally, I like the search box in various places, I just don't want an indexing process to be running all the time. The main advantages of indexing are that it leads to faster searches, and to in-document searches and email searches. If you need neither of these, but want to keep Search in general, proceed as follows:

  1. Do not turn off Windows search, or switch it back on via OptionalFeatures.exe. (reboot if necessary).

  2. Go to the services control (either via Computer, right click, Manage; or by typing services.msc in the search box at the Start menu).

  3. Find the Windows Search service, right click, Properties and set it to disabled at start up.

  4. Reboot (not strictly necessary, but you won't be able to see whether it worked until you reboot).

Note that documents created after you do this will not be found by the search boxes. Windows search is based on indexes only and does not do the equivalent of a Unix find anymore (as it did in the Windows XP days).

You can occasionally switch on the Windows Search service and leave your computer on overnight to have it update the indexes.

A very good in-depth discussion of windows search can be found over at Wikipedia.

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"You can occasionally switch on the Windows Search service and leave your computer on overnight to have it update the indexes." Can this be automated to only occur at night? – endolith May 1 '15 at 17:11
@endolith Great idea. I'm going to try this using Mehrdad's answer below + task scheduler. To start/stop a service via commandline (rather than merely changing its startup value), you can type "net stop WSearch" or "net start WSearch". – Coldblackice May 28 '15 at 1:23

Just type this into Start->Run (Win+R):

sc config WSearch start= disabled

It disables the indexing service.

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You can uninstall just the Indexing service (as opposed to all of Windows search which has somewhat big ramifications as below).

To uninstall the Indexing service, open the Windows Features dialog (Start -> OptionalFeatures.exe) and un-check the Indexing Service entry.

Windows Search Uninstallation Warning

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