Should the Windows Search Index Be Enabled?

You need to find a document in your computer files but just can’t remember where you saved it. Sound familiar? Or perhaps you need to retrieve an email that contains important information about an upcoming meeting with a client. Not to worry. That’s what the search function is for, right? So you type in the search bar the title or subject of your search and there is it. A notification that says:


“Search performance will be impacted because Windows Search service is turned off.”


What the…? What does this mean? Why is it turned off? Who would do this?

Before FOMO sets in and you jump to the conclusion that you’re missing out on what should be an incredibly lightning-fast search experience, you need to know the facts.

The Lesser of Two Evils

Windows Search builds a full-text index of all the files on a computer. Once a file’s contents have been added to this index, the search function uses the index to find the results of a search rather than searching through all the files on the computer. If you were searching for a document pertaining to Acme Widgets, then every Excel spreadsheet, Word document, Power Point presentation, email, image and audio files and any other type of file that contains the text “acme widgets” would populate the search results.

Depending on the amount of data stored on your server, the search should only take a matter of seconds. So why does MIS by default turn the Windows Search index off? Because it eats up an incredible amount of CPU (central processing unit) usage and slows a computer down by as much as 20 percent.

Because the indexing constantly runs in the background, it slows down other functions of your computer such as opening files or running applications. Turning Windows Search off really is the lesser of two evils. We have found that our clients are generally happier if their computer is fast all of the time and their search runs a little slower.

How Much Slower is the Search?

Even with the index turned off, you can still perform a search of all files on your computer. How much slower it will be depends on how much data is stored on your server. Companies with huge amounts of data might see results taking 10 or 12 seconds to load whereas searching with the indexing on might yield results in as little as two to three seconds. So yes, those extra seconds might seem like an eternity, but in reality it’s worth the amount of patience needed in order to avoid the inevitable frustration that comes with a pokey computer 24/7.

Here’s Some Cake – But You Can’t Eat It

We get it. You want fast search AND a fast computer. But unfortunately at this time that’s not an option. Indexing is either turned on or turned off. With it on, you’re searches will be super-fast but the overall performance of your computer will be about 20 percent slower. Keep it turned off and searches will take a few seconds longer, but your other processes will be speedier. And you will have a much better experience.

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