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After you use your computer for a few years, you begin accumulating files in various directories. Even if you organize them yourself, your Windows computer has a service that indexes them in case you ever need to perform a search on your system. For instance, suppose you wrote an article last year and you need to find it. The SearchIndexer service has an internal algorithm that sorts files for better, faster search capabilities on Windows. SearchIndexer is also used internally, so it’s an integrated part of Windows functionality.
When Was SearchIndex Introduced?
Most people haven’t heard of Windows Search, which was introduced as far back as Windows XP. It was introduced to Windows Server operating systems with Windows Server 2003. The functionality has been a part of the Windows operating system for several years.
When you think “search engine,” you probably think of Google, Bing or Yahoo. These search engines index a list of web pages, so users can find content related to their search phrases. Windows Search works in a similar fashion except it indexes only your own files for faster queries on your desktop.
What is SearchIndex.exe?
Since most users don’t know that Windows has its own index service, they usually find the SearchIndex.exe file listed in Task Manager in the Process tab and think “virus.” The Process tab lists all of the processes running on a computer, so it’s useful for identifying malware on the system. Malware writers like to create names for services that mimic the real deal, so users find this process and wonder if they have malware. Rest assured that this process is a part of the operating system and not a virus.
In the Windows Task Manager Process tab, right-click the SearchIndex.exe process and choose “Go to Service.” This function takes you to the service running on the machine. The service shown is WSearch or Windows Search depending on the version of your operating system. Right-click this service and view its properties. The properties Windows displays file information, which verifies that it is indeed a Windows service.
From the service description, you’ll see that SearchIndex indexes and caches files on your system including email message. The advantage is that when you or the computer needs to find a file, results are much quicker and speed up your machine.
Does SearchIndex Slow Down Your Computer?
As you might imagine, the more files stored on the machine, the more resources SearchIndex needs to index your files. While SearchIndex speeds up file searches, the amount of resources needed increases. If your system is older or doesn’t have the CPU power to index large amounts of files, SearchIndex can be too much of a burden on the processor.
Before you assume computer performance is the result of SearchIndex, you should do some troubleshooting on your computer. You should first open Task Manager and identify if you have CPU spikes. Resource usage is available in Task Manager’s Performance tab. The first section is CPU usage, and the second section is physical memory use. This monitor is extremely useful for both server administrators and desktop users. When CPU usage spikes to 100%, your system performance suffers. Your CPU usage should be between 10% and 40%. CPU usage might spike only for a few seconds, but when it occurs consistently you’ll notice serious performance issues.
Troubleshooting SearchIndexer and System Performance
The best way to identify if SearchIndexer is affecting your performance is to disable it for a short time. Watch the Task Manager monitor for a day or two, and if you consistently have CPU spikes, it’s time to troubleshoot the issue.
To disable the service, open Services from the Windows Control Panel. You can also open this window by typing “services.msc” in the older Windows “Run” toolbar. Right-click Windows Search and select “Stop.” Using the “Stop” command instead of fully disabling the service lets you restart it again when you reboot. Since this is just a troubleshooting step, stopping the service is the better choice.
After you stop the service, watch the Task Manager monitor again. If CPU usage doesn’t spike anymore, your computer’s performance issues could be caused by the indexing service. If you see a significantly positive change in performance, you can disable the service. Most experts don’t advise customers to completely disable the service, but if your performance degradation is too much due to the service, it’s a viable way to speed up your machine without buying more hardware.
To disable Windows Search, right-click it in the Services window and select “Properties.” Select “Disabled” in the Startup Type property. Click “OK” and SearchIndex no longer runs when you reboot the machine.
Change SearchIndexer Settings to Improve Performance
If you don’t want to completely disable SearchIndex, your other option is to change its settings. In Control Panel, type “Indexing” in the search toolbar. Click “Indexing Options” to open the configuration settings.
Look at the list of file locations. If you don’t need indexing on certain folders, click them and click “Pause.” This option stops the service from running on one particular folder instead of the entire computer.
You also have the option to change the location of indexed files. For instance, do you need to index pictures? If not, then modify the location to only one or pause the service on this folder.
After you narrow down the location of your important files, click the “Advanced” button. Windows indexes the full content of each file by default, and this feature isn’t necessary for all of your files. In the Advanced window, you can change settings to index only file names. This change can greatly improve your system performance.
It’s frustrating when your computer doesn’t function well. The SearchIndex feature could be just one reason, but tweaking its settings can greatly improve your computer’s speed. Disable Windows Search only if you absolutely need to. You might need to test settings to verify which ones work best for your system. With the right changes, you can speed up an older computer that no longer performs well.