How to Customize Windows Search?

Windows 10 has a builtin search box on the taskbar. This Windows search is a file searching feature build on an index system, similar to web based search engines like Google or Bing. You unknowingly use this feature every time when searching files in Windows. The start menu, file explorer, search box and Cortana also uses the same indexing system. In this article, let us explain how to customize Windows search and tweak the indexing options to get quicker results.

How to Customize Windows Search?

Following topics are covered in this article:

  1. Viewing and filtering results in Windows search box in taskbar
  2. Customizing Windows search
    • View indexing options
    • Adding indexing locations
    • Removing indexing locations
  3. Advanced indexing options
    • Including encrypted files in search
    • Rebuilding search index
    • Troubleshooting search index
    • Include or exclude specific file types in search
    • Including file content
  4. Customize search box in File Explorer

1. Simple Filtering of Search Results

Enter the keyword you want to search in the search box and you will see the related results as shown in the below picture. Click on the ‘Filter’ option to filter the results relevant to your search. For example, click on the ‘Photos’ to only view the photos for the searched keywords. This will help you to get the results quickly.

Viewing and Filtering Windows Search Results
Viewing and Filtering Windows Search Results

2. Customizing Windows Search

You can customize specific folders/subfolders from the local drives or your personal files to index in Windows search. So, that when you search for the specific files next time, they will show up in Windows search results.

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2.1. Viewing Indexing Details

In Windows search box when filtering any of the results, scroll down and click on the button named ‘Select locations’ under ‘Change where Windows searches’. Otherwise, go to ‘Control Panel’ and search for ‘Indexing Options’ in the search box and click on it.

Indexing Options in Control Panel
Indexing Options in Control Panel

You’ll see the ‘Indexing Options’ panel’ showing the number of ‘Items indexed’ at the top. Under ‘Index these location’ section, you can see the current locations from where Windows is searching files.

Indexing Options Panel in Windows 10
Indexing Options Panel in Windows 10

2.2 Adding Indexing Locations

Click on the ‘Modify’ button. The next popup will be of ‘Indexing locations’ where you can modify the current locations. Click on any of the drives given and press ‘OK’.

Modifying Index Locations For Whole Drive
Modifying Index Locations For Whole Drive

This means that Windows will start indexing your files from this drive. If you don’t want to index the whole drive, you can also choose specific folders/subfolders in anywhere from your PC. Click on the small arrow icon showing in front of the drives. All the folders and subfolders under that drive will be shown as drop-down and you can select them specifically.

Specific Folder Selection
Specific Folder Selection

Windows will index only the selected folders and their files and show in the relevant search results.

2.3. Removing Indexing Locations

You can also delete any of the existing locations to exclude from the search results. For example, in our case, Windows search is currently indexing files from the ‘Internet Explorer History’. If you don’t want it, simply uncheck the ‘Internet Explorer History’ option. Then, click ok to save changes.

Uncheck The Internet Explorer History
Uncheck The Internet Explorer History 

3. Advanced Indexing Options

‘Indexing Options’ section has some advanced settings to customize Windows search. You can decide the file types to be shown in the search results and include or exclude encrypted files from indexing.

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3.1. Including Encrypted Files in Search

Click on ‘Advanced’ button in the ‘Indexing Options’ dialog box. You’ll see a popup for ‘Advanced Options’. In the ‘File Settings’ section under “Index Settings’ tab, check the box against the option ‘Index encrypted files’. This will add all the encrypted files on your PC to show in the Windows search results.

Advanced Options to Add Encrypted Files in Windows Search
Advanced Options to Add Encrypted Files in Windows Search

Remember, Microsoft does not recommend to include encrypted files in Windows search results. This is for privacy and security reasons especially when multiple users are using a single computer. But it’s completely your choice to add encrypted files to the search index or not.

3.2. Rebuilding Search Index

If Windows search is having some trouble in showing results, then you can always rebuild the index again. Inside the ‘Advanced Options’ under ‘Index Settings’ tab, you’ll see ‘Troubleshoot’ section.

Troubleshooting In Advanced Options
Troubleshooting In Advanced Options

Click on the ‘Rebuild’ button. It will take some time in deleting the previous index and rebuild a new one.

3.3. Troubleshooting Windows Search

You can also troubleshoot the Windows search by clicking on the link showing ‘Troubleshoot search and indexing’. Follow the instructions to identify the problem and speedup showing the search results.

Troubleshooting Search and Indexing
Troubleshooting Search and Indexing

3.4. Including and Excluding Specific File Types

Switch the tab to ‘File types’. There will be many file types which are currently indexed in Windows search. If you do not want any of them, simply uncheck the file type. You can also add a new file extension if you want. Under ‘Add new extension to list’, type an extension name you want to include in the search results.

Exclude File Types from Indexing
Exclude File Types from Indexing

Click on ‘Add’ button and press ‘OK’.

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3.5. Including File Content

Windows allows you to index only the the files or the including the content inside the file. For example, let us take a file named ‘sample.txt’ which is inside a ‘.zip’ file. This file has word ‘dummy text’. Now that you have two options in Windows search – one is to only the ‘sample.txt’ file and the other is to index the ‘dummy text’ inside ‘sample.txt’ file.

Under ‘File Types’ tab, there is a section for ‘How should this file be indexed?’. Click on the second option ‘Index Properties and File Contents’.

Index Properties and File Contents
Index Properties and File Contents

This feature allows you to index properties as well as the file content. You can exclude the file content by choosing the first option ‘Index Properties Only’.

4. Customizing File Explorer Search Box

Besides Windows search box on the taskbar, the File Explorer window also has a search box for searching files within the selected folder. You can also customize the search box available on the File Explorer. Press ‘Win + E’ keys to open File Explorer window. Go to ‘View’ menu and then ‘Options > Change folder and search options’.

File Explorer Search Options
File Explorer Search Options

You will see the ‘Folder Options’ dialog box and go to ‘Search’ tab. Here you can customize the options for the search results shown within the File Explorer windows.

Folder Options for File Explorer
Folder Options for File Explorer

Conclusion

Over period of time, you will start accumulating lots of files on the computer. Searching a specific file, which you might have created years back, is a daunting task. In such situations, Windows search is really an useful function to search and locate the files. Fine-tuning the indexing options will definitely help to speedup the search and quickly get the results. You can also include or exclude file types and folders to get optimized results.

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