Using and Troubleshooting Windows 7 Search

November 23, 2010, By Christian Cawley

Windows 7 search affords the opportunity to find the contents of any accessible file or folder on your PC. This comprehensive search tool is available via the Start menu or via Windows Explorer and can yield amazing results; for instance you can enter text from within a document and Windows Search will find the document.

The power of this search tool is considerable and owes a lot to the old Windows Live Search tool that could be downloaded from Microsoft and installed, offering a similar level of search depth and effectiveness in addition to the old search tool.

With Windows 7’s search tool replacing the old one, relying on the new search tool can lead to some problems when Windows 7 search fails – after all, now there is no “backup” search tool!

Troubleshooting Windows 7 Search

Windows 7 search will appear to have failed when it doesn’t return the required file or files. For instance, you might know that there is a Word file containing the term “in his shoe” but searching for this term fails to return the Word document. This can be particularly galling if the search term previously returned the document.

This failing can be due to a problem with the Windows 7 search index, and is easily resolved. In the Control Panel Search box, type indexing to find the Indexing Options screen. These types of search should never fail due to them being hardcoded into Windows.

In the Indexing Options screen, you can add new locations to be indexed via the Modify button and use Advanced to change the way in which the index works.

Troubleshooting Search and Indexing

The first thing to try in order to resolve problems with search is to reboot Windows. This has a surprising level of effectiveness; files that cannot be found using search one day will suddenly be returned in the search results the next, and this is most likely due to the index failing to correctly initialise all information.

To fix problems with the search finding your files if a restart fails, use the Rebuild button on the Index Settings tab. This will delete and rebuild the Windows 7 search index, with the intention of sorting out whatever problem was causing it to fail. The index is basically a database, and this can be corrupted from time to time, so rebuilding it is a good way to proceed.

Making Search More Effective

Windows 7 search can be made more effective by using the File Types tab in Advanced Options.

Using this tool you can add new file types to the indexing, thereby allowing them to be returned in the search results. Using the Add button at the bottom of the screen, new file types can be added to this list and you can decide to either Index Properties Online or Index Properties and File Contents. The second option facilitates the searching of Word documents for phrases, for instance, and should be seen as the slower option – therefore you should only use it on certain file types.

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