Force Windows indexing to run faster

You can make Windows Search index your documents and Outlook data faster – here’s how.
 
Windows Search makes an index of all your files, documents and Outlook data.  It’s essential for quick searches, even within Outlook.   Until the index is complete you may get the dreaded “Search results may be incomplete because items are still being indexed” error.
 
The problem is that indexing can take a long time and sometimes never completes.  Indexing happens as a background task when nothing else is happening.  Alas, the default setting is so discreet that indexing can take days and sometimes never completes.
 
Windows will fully reindex your computer for various reasons including some changes in index/search settings and if the index files become corrupt.
Microsoft has provided a way to make indexing go faster – but it’s not easy.
In short you have to change a registry key called:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Search\Gathering Manager\DisableBackoff
to a value of 1
 
Open Regedit (Start menu | Run | Regedit) as an Administrator:
 
Go to
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Search\Gathering Manager\DisableBackoff
and try modifying the registry value from 0 (the default) to 1 .


If you can, great, but chances are you’ll get this error:
Cannot Edit DisableBackoff: Error writing the value’s new contents.
if so, you’ll need step 2.
 
Step 2: Right-click on the ‘Gathering Manager’ item in the registry tree and choose ‘Permissions’ then the ‘Advanced’ button.
Next to the listed Owner click the Change link.


 
Type in the ‘Administrators’ group, click Check Names button to verify.  Click OK twice to return to the Permissions dialog.
Make sure the Administrators group has Full Control then click OK.


 
Now you should be able to edit the DisableBackOff key in step 1. If not, check the permissions and owner carefully.
Once you’ve changed DisableBackOff to 1:


Go to Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Services, scroll down the list to Windows Search and restart the service.



The registry changes don’t take effect until the search services has restarted.

Go to Control Panel | Indexing Options to monitor the indexing.


 
The DisableBackOff = 1 option makes the indexing go faster than the default value.   You can continue to work on the computer but indexing will continue in the background and is less likely to pause when other programs are running.
 
In response to readers questions … yes, this tip definitely works on at least Windows 10, 8 and 7.  If you can’t change the registry entry it will be a permissions issue.  Make sure you’re running Regedit as an Administrator and you’ve changed the ‘Gathering Manager’ Owner to the Administrators group.
 
The changed option doesn’t make indexing happen at a very high priority, just higher than usual. Even when the indexing status is showing ‘Indexing speed is reduced due to user activity’, indexing is still happening.
On our test machine indexing of 814,000 items took about 23 hours with the changed registry setting instead of running for many days and only indexing a third of the complete computer. It’s hardly speedy but better than nothing I suppose.
Of course, the higher priority indexing will make other work on your computer a bit slower, which brings us to the important final step.
 
Automation
 
Registry files
There are two .reg files to turn on/off the DisableBackoff setting
Indexing-Fast.reg
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Search\Gathering Manager]
"DisableBackOff"=dword:00000001

Indexing-Normal.reg
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Search\Gathering Manager]
"DisableBackOff"=dword:00000000

Batch Files

Indexing-Fast.BAT
Regedit /S  Indexing-Fast.reg
Net Stop Wsearch
Net Stop Wsearch
Net Start Wsearch
Control /name Microsoft.IndexingOptions