Why Is Windows 10 Search So Bad? Here Is How To Fix It

Windows 10 is used by more than 10 billion people, according to Microsoft. With such a huge user base, you might think that something as simple as the search feature will run smoothly on an operating system that has been around for decades. Unfortunately, however, Windows 10 Search can be very frustrating.

Windows 10 Search is so bad that it is known to be too slow and has features that do not work. You can try troubleshooting the issues, removing the Bing integration, or indexing your files, but in the end, you may need to opt for third-party software to take over the search task completely. 

Depending on what kind of issues you’re having with Windows 10 Search, there are workarounds and fixes you can use.

Some are pretty easy to do, while others need you to copy strings or commands into the registry.

Read on to find out if the problems you’re having are normal and what you can do to fix them.

Caution: We do not take responsibility for any consequences you may have from editing your registry or other modifications to your operating systems. Proceed with caution and always do your backups.

windows 10 computer searching for files

What makes Windows 10 Search so bad?

Windows Search can help you quickly find videos, images, documents, apps, settings, system files, e-mails, and other files when it works.

It saves you going through every folder in your drive to find what you are looking for, plus it can even search the Internet because of its integration with Bing.

The problem is that Windows Search does not always work. Search results may be incomplete, or worse: your queries will not yield anything at all.

Sometimes, it is an unresponsive taskbar, and other times, the search will delete anything you type.

No doubt we’ve all been spoiled by Google returning search results in a fraction of a second, but there is no denying that glitches happen a lot when you use Windows Search. 

Windows users have been airing their grievances on Microsoft’s official forum for years. Here are some of the most cited complaints:

  • Search can be pathetically slow, and one solution to the turtle pace is indexing your files, which also takes a long time and can hog your computer’s resources.
  • The search results are not that good and are poorly matched.
  • Windows Search will still fail even if you type in the exact file name.
  • It is forcing you to use Bing for web searches.
  • It searches the web when you are looking for a file on your computer.
  • Windows Search can often conflict with other software, including your IDE drivers, antivirus programs, and SSD firmware.
  • There are times when a Windows Update can introduce bugs to Windows Search so that it doesn’t run as it should.

It does not help that Microsoft has been largely unresponsive and unhelpful with these kinds of complaints, and thus far, the company has not been offering too much support for Windows Search.

On their forums, answers are provided by community experts, not employees.

Over the years, Microsoft seemed unable to provide users with a reliable search function. Instead, people have come to rely on fixes and workarounds offered by different sources.

I just thought I’d mention, Windows 10 is a great operating system, and I cannot recommend it enough. But every operating system has its weaknesses.

Windows Search is, unfortunately, one of those weaknesses, for now.

Temporary glitches and easy fixes

There are times when Windows Search does not work as it should. Sometimes, you can fix this by rebooting, but your first move should be to run the troubleshooter if that doesn’t work.

This will, hopefully, identify and fix your issues without you needing to do much work.

Run the Troubleshooter

search and indexing troubleshooter under additional troubleshooters

Windows offers a troubleshooter feature for many of its functions and can help with problems with your audio, printers, Wi-Fi connection, and others.

These troubleshooters can diagnose and detect any issues with your Windows Search and can also fix them automatically. 

To run the troubleshooter:

  1. Go to Settings, open Update & Security, and then click on Troubleshoot.
  2. Look for Find and Fix Other Problems and then choose the Search and Indexing option. 
  3. Click on the button labeled Run in the troubleshooter.
  4. In the new window that asks you what problems you are having with Windows Search, choose all the relevant options for you, and then click on the Next button.
  5. Follow the on-screen directions.

Launch the Troubleshooter via Command Prompt

You can also start the Troubleshooter by going to the command prompt:

  1. Press the Windows Key and R (⊞ Win + R), then type in this command in the command line: msdt -ep WindowsHelp id SearchDiagnostic.
  2. Doing so will launch the Troubleshooter
  3. Click on the Advanced option. 
  4. After that, choose to Apply the Repairs Automatically and then press the Next button. 
  5. Select all the problems that you are noticing, and then click on the Next button again.

This video will show you this method in more detail:

Restart Windows Search

Another way to quickly fix Windows Search is to restart it. This is the equivalent of “turning it off and on again,” which is a common tech trick to help get rid of any bugs. 

To do a restart: 

  1. Go to the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc.
  2. Choose Task Manager
  3. Once the Task Manager is open, proceed to the Details tab. 
  4. Search for the SearchUI.exe entry. 
  5. Right-click on this process and then choose End Task
  6. Click on the End process button.

An alternative way is to press on the Windows key + R (⊞ Win + R) and then key in services.msc to call up the list of running services.

This video will show you how both of these methods are done:

Bad Bing integration

The idea of Windows 10 being able to serve up some quick answers or web pages using the search toolbar looks excellent on paper.

Rather than launching a separate browser, you can go to Windows Search and search there.

This is possible through the integration with Bing. But in February 2020, many Windows users found their search results empty.

Traditional fixes failed to work, but some Windows experts stumbled into a solution: removing Bing from Windows Search altogether.

Here is how you do that: 

  1. Press on the Windows Key and R (⊞ Win + R).
  2. Type in regedit and hit Enter.
  3. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER, SOFTWARE, Microsoft, Windows, CurrentVersion, and then Search.
  4. Right-click on Search and then click on New.
  5. Click D-WORD (32-bit) Value.
  6. Key in BingSearchEnabled and press Enter
  7. Double-click the BingSearchEnabled entry and then make sure that the value is 0 before clicking OK.
  8. Then go to CortanaConsent, and make sure that the value is 0.
  9. Restart your computer.

Here is a Gauging Gadgets video that shows you how to do all these steps:

Slow indexing

Indexing helps Windows Search do its job faster. However, this process can use up many of your computer’s resources and take a long time to complete.

The reason for this is because your laptop typically has many files, and the more files there are to index, the longer it takes to complete the process.

So, it makes sense to tell Windows to limit indexing only to specific locations. For instance, you can exclude certain directories or folders.

If you don’t need to search your entire C: drive, you can select specific locations that Windows should index.

Moreover, if you are only interested in searching for your documents, images, and files, specifying locations for these files will reduce the number of files to index, making it a lot faster.

Finding the indexing options

indexing options in the control panel

To specify certain directories and folders, you will need to open the indexing options:

  1. Go to the Control Panel.
  2. Click the View by: menu at the top right corner of the window. 
  3. Select either small icons or large icons, and you will find the Indexing Options shortcut.

Alternatively, you can press on the Start menu and search for Indexing Options.

Specifying locations

modify index options

If you want to ensure that the files you usually search for are indexed, you should specify the folders to save them in the Indexing Options. Here’s how you do just that.

Once the Indexing Options window is open, you will find out how many files are currently being indexed and a list of included locations.

By default, Windows 10 will index the Start Menu folder and the Users folders, with some exclusions such as the App Data.

The Users folder will include all your personal files, such as the files you download, the music and videos you store, pictures, and documents you create.

To specify specific locations:

  1. Click on the Modify button.
  2. Check or uncheck the folders you want Windows to index. 
  3. After that, you can add exclusions. 
  4. Click the OK button and wait until Windows finishes indexing your folders.
choose locations to modify

Rebuilding your index

click on advanced button in indexing options

When you are having problems with Windows Search, it is sometimes recommended to rebuild the Windows Search index.

For example, if your searches are not finishing, crashing, or really slow, rebuilding the index is the way to go.

delete and rebuild index button in advanced indexing options

Here’s how to rebuild your index:

  1. From the Indexing Options dialog, click on the Advanced button near the bottom of the window.
  2. Under the Troubleshooting section, you will find the option to Delete and Rebuild the index. 
  3. Click on the Rebuilt button next to it.

You have to wait until the rebuilding process is complete before seeing any improvements in the slow searches.

This MDTech video will demonstrate how to find the Indexing Options and rebuild your index:

Why is Windows File Search so bad?

There are instances where you only need to search through specific file types.

For example, you might want to index your Word documents, as well as some text files. This is common for students or writers with lots of different files. 

However, Windows File Search performs its search across your entire system of files rather than from an index. This is time-consuming and very slow. The issues are compounded when you add in various folders with subfolders and “hidden” files.

The good news is that you can tell Windows to index only specific file types, which should help speed up the process. Here’s how:

  1. From the Indexing Options window, click on the Advanced button.
  2. Click on the File Types tab.
  3. Select the file types you wish to include in the file search.

If you do not see a particular file extension that you want Windows to include in the index, you can easily add that to the list. 

Check for updates

Sometimes, you only need to run and apply a Windows Update to fix your search. However, to apply the latest updates to your operating system, you will need to go to:

  1. Settings.
  2. Update & Security.
  3. Windows Update.

Finally, select Check for updates and install any available updates. Check out this AAAworldGaming video to see how to check and apply Windows Updates:

Windows Search displays “We’re Getting Search Ready” but does nothing

There are times when Windows Search does not show any results, or it may show some results, but the document, image, or file you are looking for is not included.

A bug causes these problems, and here are some things you can try to help address this issue. If one does not work, try out another.

Check to see if Windows Search Service is running

open services from run command window

If your Windows Service is not running, you will undoubtedly face issues when trying to perform a search. To check to see if it is running:

  1. Press the Windows Key and R (⊞ Win + R). 
  2. Once the Run window comes out, type in services.msc
  3. Look for Windows Search in the list and check if the status is running
  4. If it is not running, right-click on the Windows Search service and then click on Start.
right click mouse on windows search service and select properties

You might also want to set the Windows Search service to run when your computer starts up, and you can set this option in this window.

set windows search service to start and startup everytime windows starts in service properties

Reinstall Cortana

If you have removed this service in the past, you might need to reinstall it for Windows Search to run correctly. To do this:

  1. Press on the Windows Key and X (⊞ Win + X) to launch the command prompt with administrative user privileges. 
  2. Type Powershell in the command line.
  3. Once the PowerShell session starts, type in this command:

Get-AppxPackage -Name Microsoft.Windows.Cortana | foreach {Add-AppxPackage -register “$($_.InstallLocation)\appxmanifest.xml” -DisableDevelopmentMode}

(Source: Reddit User Teesh13)

Wait for a few minutes and let the installation finish before restarting your computer.

Disable and enable indexing of your C: Drive

uncheck and check for windows to allow indexing for the c drive

You might also want first to disable and then enable indexing of your C: drive. You can accomplish this by going to your This PC section and then right-click on the C: drive and left-click on Properties.

A window will appear with details about this drive, including the used space, free space, total capacity, volume name, and file system. Near the bottom of this window, you will see two tick boxes.

The second tick box will ask you to allow files on your C: drive to be indexed. Uncheck this option and then click on OK. 

Do the same thing again, but this time, check the box.

Fix the registry

edit value data for registry key setupcompletedsuccessfully

You can also try adding a registry entry to fix this issue. Press on the Windows Key + R (⊞ Win + R) and type regedit in the Run window that appears. 

Find the following:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Search

Look for the SetupCompletedSuccessfully in the right pane and then change its value to 0.

Other things you can try

If these do not work and Windows Search is still not working for you, you can try several other workarounds, including:

  • Disable Bing and other web results.
  • Rebuild the search index.
  • Use the Troubleshooter.
  • Restore the default display language if you have recently installed another language pack.

Using third-party software

For those of you who might have given up on trying to figure out how to make Windows Search work without glitching or failing, it might be time to use a third-party tool.

Third-party tools are often faster when searching and indexing and are often more straightforward to use than Windows Search itself.

For instance, Everything helps you find folders and files by name. This program quickly gives you search results and does not use up too many resources.

It also indexes your files rapidly and can update everything in real-time.

Other programs you can use instead of Windows Search include:

  • DocFetcher runs on Windows, OS X, and Linux and can help you find anything on your desktop. You can filter these search results based on file size, file type, and location.
  • Recoll also runs on OS X, Windows, and Linux. You can search through documents, regardless of where they are stored, and it can even pore over email attachments, archives, or folders.
  • Agent Ransack helps you find information and files on your hard drive without taking a long time to finish a search. You can also browse through the returned results without having to open every file.
  • RecentX will help you find folders, websites, programs, and other files fast. It also gives you a clipboard history to keep track of your favorite items and recently opened documents so that you can easily and quickly access them without having to search again.
  • FileLocator Lite is just what its name says: it helps you find files on your machine. FileLocator Lite works just like Agent Ransack, but it has fewer features and comes free for commercial and home use.

These are just some of the Windows Search alternatives that you can use. Sometimes, they prove to be faster and more thorough than Microsoft’s offering. 

Conclusion

Windows 10 Search obviously has some issues, and it doesn’t look like Microsoft will be fixing them anytime soon.

From issues with slow searches to searches not performing at all, there are a few ways you can try to make things easier. 

In some cases, there are simple fixes, such as using the troubleshooter or performing a restart.

There are also several community fixes offered by other Windows 10 users.

However, you may find a third-party extension to be a more stress-free alternative in the end.