File Explorer Search Not Working? Here’s How to Fix It

File Explorer search is an essential tool for quickly locating files and folders on your Windows computer. When it’s not working properly, it can significantly slow down your workflow. In this article, I will guide you through troubleshooting steps to fix File Explorer search issues and get you back on track.

Potential Causes of File Explorer Search Not Working

There are several reasons why File Explorer search might not be working as expected. Here are some of the most common culprits:

  • Corrupted search index: 

The search index is a database that Windows uses to quickly find files. If this database becomes corrupted, your searches will be inaccurate or slow.

  • Disabled Windows Search service: 

The Windows Search service is responsible for maintaining the search index and indexing new files. If this service is disabled, the File Explorer search won’t function at all.

  • Indexing options not set properly: 

You can configure what locations and file types Windows Search indexes. If the locations containing your files are not indexed, they won’t show up in search results.

  • Hidden files or folders: 

By default, File Explorer search doesn’t include hidden files or folders. If you’re searching for a hidden item, you’ll need to specifically include it in your search query.

  • System permission issues: 

In some cases, permission issues might prevent File Explorer search from accessing certain files or folders.

Troubleshooting Steps: File Explorer Search Not Working

1. Restart File Explorer:

A simple restart can often resolve temporary glitches that might be causing search problems.

Here are steps to restart File Explorer on Windows:

Using Task Manager:

  • Open Task Manager
  • Expand Task Manager 
  • Find File Explorer: Look for Windows Explorer under the Processes tab.
  • Restart File Explorer: Right-click on Windows Explorer and select Restart.
restarting file explorer

2. Restart your computer:

Rebooting your computer can clear out temporary files and caches that might be interfering with the search.

If the above steps don’t work, follow these troubleshooting methods:

3. Verify Windows Search Service

  • Press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog box.
  • Type services.msc and press Enter.
  • In the Services list, locate Windows Search.
  • Make sure the service status is set to Running.
  • If the service is not running, right-click on it and select Start.
verifying windows search service

4. Adjust Search Options

  • Open Settings.
  • Go to Privacy > Search.
  • Under Find My Files, make sure the toggle switch is set to On.
  • Click on Indexing Options.
  • In the Indexing Options window, click the Modify button.
  • Make sure the locations where you store your files are checked to be included in the indexing process.
  • Click OK to save your changes.
file explorer adjustment

5. Rebuild Search Index

  • Open Indexing Options (as described in the previous method).
  • Click the Advanced button.
  • In the Indexing Options window, click the Rebuild button.
  • This will start the process of rebuilding the search index. It may take some time to complete, depending on the number of files on your computer.
search index

6. Run Search and Indexing Troubleshooter

Windows includes a built-in troubleshooter that can diagnose and fix problems with search and indexing.

  • Open Settings.
  • Go to Update & Security > Troubleshoot.
  • Click on Search and Indexing.
  • Run the troubleshooter and follow the on-screen instructions.
search indexing troubleshooter

7. Advanced Troubleshooting

If the basic steps above don’t resolve the issue, you might need to try some more advanced troubleshooting techniques:

  • Check System Permissions: In some cases, permission issues might prevent File Explorer search from accessing certain files or folders. You can try taking ownership of the files or folders and granting search permissions.
  • Repair Corrupted System Files: System File Checker (SFC) is a utility that can scan for and repair corrupted system files. Running SFC might fix any underlying issues that are causing search problems.
  • Create a New User Account: If the problem is specific to your current user profile, creating a new user account can help diagnose the issue. If the search works fine under the new profile, then the problem lies with your original user profile.

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By following these troubleshooting steps, you should be able to fix most File Explorer search problems. If you’re still having trouble, you can search online for solutions specific to your error messages or consider seeking help from a qualified technician.

Here are some additional tips for keeping your File Explorer search functioning smoothly:

  • Regularly update your computer: Windows updates often include fixes for search-related bugs.
  • Don’t exclude important folders from indexing: Make sure the locations where you store your important files are indexed for faster searching.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is File Explorer search slow or incomplete?

Slow or incomplete search results in File Explorer could be due to a large number of files, improper indexing, or insufficient system resources. You may need to optimize your indexing settings or upgrade your hardware for better performance.

2. How do I rebuild the search index in File Explorer?

To rebuild the search index:

  • Open Control Panel and go to “Indexing Options.”
  • Click on “Advanced” and then “Rebuild” under Troubleshooting.
  • Follow the prompts to rebuild the index.

3. Why does File Explorer search not find certain files?

If File Explorer search does not find certain files, it could be because those files are located in non-indexed locations, the file names are misspelled, or the search criteria are too restrictive. Try broadening your search parameters or manually navigating to the file location.

4. Can third-party software interfere with File Explorer search?

Yes, third-party software, especially antivirus programs or system optimization tools, can sometimes interfere with File Explorer search functionality. 

5. Does File Explorer search work differently on different versions of Windows?

While the basic functionality of File Explorer search remains consistent across different versions of Windows, there may be slight variations in features and settings. It’s recommended to refer to specific troubleshooting guides or support resources tailored to your Windows version.