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.

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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.