How do I ... tweak Vista indexing options for better performance?

Microsoft Windows Vista indexes files on your PC, which is great for searching but can lead to a decrease in system performance if not properly managed. Jack Wallen shows you how to tweak the Vista indexing configuration to increase overall system performance.

Have you ever done a search using the Microsoft Windows Vista search utility? It is pretty fast, isn't it? The reason for that speed is indexing. Vista indexes many of the files on your machine in order to keep searches fast. But indexing can decrease performance if not managed properly. The more files your machine has to index, or the more you change your files, the more your machine has to work. As you would expect, your machine's performance can take a serious hit with extensive indexing. Here are some tips for changing the indexing settings in Vista.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

Deciding what to index

One of the keys to making this work for you is deciding what files and folders you want Vista to index. The most obvious is the Start menu. You will want this to be indexed because you are most likely adding and removing applications and you don't want to always be searching for applications that may or may not be there.

You might also want to consider any other folder that you know you search a lot. Keep in mind that if you are noticing a big hit from your system when it is indexing, you will want to keep the indexing options as bare as possible. If you do not notice a hit when the system is being indexed, you won't have to be so concerned.

Locating the options

The fastest way to get to the indexing options is to click on the Start menu and enter Indexing Options in the Start Search field. What will open is the Indexing Options window, shown in Figure A.

Figure A

By default you should have the Start Menu and Users listed.
You cannot select the file locations shown on the Indexing Options window and remove them. Instead you have to select the entry and click Modify. Figure B shows the expanded view of the Users Indexing entry. It is from here that you can disable this option so it is not included in your machine's indexing.

Figure B

Either deselect Users or deselect the specific user(s) you want to exclude from indexing.

Once you have unchecked the folders you don't want to include in indexing, click OK and the window will close. You do not have to apply the changes. However, if indexing is currently occurring, you will need to pause it. To pause indexing, simply click the Pause button from the main window.

Advanced options

There are a number of advanced options to take a look at. Some of these options will actually take a bigger hit on your system, so if you're looking to gain performance you will want to avoid them.

Click on the Advanced button to open the Advanced Options window (Figure C).

Figure C

If you make changes to the indexing options, it is best to re-index.

There is one option in particular that will help search performance but will not hurt system performance. If you have a number of encrypted files on your drive, Vista does not, by default, index them. You can select to index those files so they are indexed along with nonencrypted files.

There is another option that might trip you up. You can select to make indexing treat similar words with diatrics as different words. A diatric is a small sign attached to a letter to alter the pronunciation of a word. An example of a diatric would be the German umlaut.

Outside of configuring where to index, configuring what to index is the best means of keeping indexing from hogging your system resources. If you click on the File Types tab (Figure D) you will see that, by default, Vista indexes an incredible amount of file types. If you know which file types you do not use or search for, uncheck them.

Figure D

You will find file types aplenty that you can uncheck here.

If there is a file type not listed that you want to make sure is indexed, you first need to enter the extension in the bottom left text area and then click the Add New Extension button (it will be grayed out until you enter an extension in the text area). Once you have made your selections for file types, go back to the Index Settings tab and then click the Rebuild button. This will re-index your system. If you have configured it to your specifications, you might not even notice the re-indexing taking place.

Final thoughts

For power users, the search feature of a desktop is critical to efficient computing. Vista does improve on the previous Windows search function, but this improvement can cause a hit on performance if you are not diligent. When performance is paramount, it is crucial to customize your indexing settings.


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website


My complaint is 'when'. It sounds like indexing starts about 20 minutes after I go to bed. If I'm not asleep I can hear the harddrive in the next room rattling away. I'd like to be able to set indexing to NOT run from 12am to 6am. Any way to set that??


completely turned off Vista indexing and installed a free Everything software. Now I have total performance! and NOTHING beats Everything in speed! It's, with absolute certainty, the BEST search utility ever produced! mario


I've always disabled indexing for all of my computers. Locate the Indexing Service and turn it off.


When you install Outlook 2007 on Vista it joins the indexing list. Every time my computer was idle it would start indexing and would not stop until I started working on it again. After a week it never settled down so I disabled it in Vista Indexing. Unfortunately, it came back after a few days and I could not get Vista to stop indexing Outlook. Finally, I corrected the problem by opening Outlook > Tools > Options > Preferences >Search Options and unchecking my mailbox. I think that everyone needs to consider that the only purpose of indexing is to make things easier to find. If you have a good filing system and rarely need to search for things then disable indexing entirely.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Did you know you could adjust Vista indexing? I put some strict limits on my personal PCs when it comes to indexing. What are your Vista indexing preferences for peak performance?


I got tired of looking for obscure stuff that wasn't in any predictable location so I had Vista index it all - all my drives and about two TBs of data, maybe a bit more. You would think this would be a big performance hit, judging from how carefully you set your locations, but I didn't notice anything much really. Am I missing something here? Do you have any statistics on what sort of performance hit I might be taking? I have an index 'widget' for the sidebar - tells me when indexing is occurring - the great majority of the time it just says 'index up to date' '537,628 items total', that's a big index - every once in a while it will say 'indexing' for a few seconds. The widget is nice - lets you pause indexing if you are so inclined and you can set the options from the widget to.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

How much churning indexing creates is really dependent on your system and how you use it. That widget sounds very useful though - do you have a name we can search for?

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