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Using MS Search Effectively

Because I work as a writer, I often find myself looking for specific references in my previous work. This means I appreciate search tools that offer fast, easy access to document contents, not just filenames. In perusing a TenForums post recently, I learned that Win10’s built-in search function offers content indexing and search. This comes as welcome news to me, because other text search tools I’ve tried out have been none of the following: cheap, fast, and decent performers. But by using MS search effectively, these hurdles may be overcome.

The Secret to Using MS Search Effectively

Turns out you can index file contents as well as filenames in the MS search tool. This requires using the Advanced Options window available in the Control Panel widget named Indexing Options. The keys to success require two things:

  1. Making sure that all relevant file extensions are checked (all are checked by default, so you may decide to prune a bit to speed indexing time if you wish to search content as well as filenames)
  2. Clicking the radio button that reads “Index Properties and File Contents” near the bottom of this window.

You can see this at work in this screen capture of my Advanced Options window here:

Using MS Search Effectively

Click the “file contents” radio button to instruct the built-in search command to report on file and document contents.

The Downside of Using MS Search Effectively

You knew there had to be a gotcha, right? Perhaps there is more than one, in fact. First, you need to review the “Included Locations” list in the Indexing Options window to make sure all volumes and folders in need of indexing appear therein. Second, you must be prepared to pay the time and space penalties involved in creating and maintaining MUCH BIGGER indexes.

Thus, if you decide to index content as well as so-called “index properties” (basically, this means file names and other file meta-data only) you’ll see some big changes. After indexing for content in the Users folder and my “work drive” (where I keep current or recent writing work), the index file jumped from under 33 MB to 2.4 GB. That file is named Windows.edb; its default location is

 C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Search\Data\Applications\Windows.

Obviously, the bigger file takes more time to create and maintain as well as more storage space. But if you’re willing to bear that burden, you’ll find the built-in search function to be both speedy and useful in chasing down local content references and the files in which they reside. Note: you may also decide to scope your searches by clicking the “Filters” item to focus in on specific volumes or folders (on the C: drive) once your new index is built. I found this to be a great way to search my Documents folder, or my work drive, for example. You may find the same to be true for you, too!

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