How to Change the Default Search Settings in Windows 7

By Nick Peers

Change the default search settings in Windows 7 to perform more thorough searches or get results faster. To speed up your searches, enable or disable various options. Some of the settings control how Windows uses its Indexing service. If Windows doesn't include subfolders in search results, fix the problem by changing the search settings. Furthermore, you can configure the Search feature to search the contents of compressed files -- such as ZIP, RAR or CAB -- even if these files are not indexed.

Step 1

Click the Start button and then select "Computer" to launch Windows Explorer. Alternatively, right-click the Start button and select "Open Windows Explorer."

Step 2

Click "Organize" and select "Folder and search options" from the menu to open the Folder Options window.

Step 3

Select the "Search" tab to view all settings related to the Search feature. Note that the General tab is selected by default when you open the Folder Options window.

Step 4

Click the "Always search file names and contents..." radio button in the What To Search section to ignore the Index and search the file names and contents of every file. This option slows down your searches significantly.The "In indexed locations, search files names and contents" option is enabled by default. When this option is enabled, Windows doesn't search the contents of files that are not indexed; it does, however, search their file names.

Step 5

Check the "Include subfolders in search results when searching in file folders" box to search subfolders. This option is enabled by default.If you uncheck the "Find partial matches" box, the Search feature displays only whole-word matches. For example, Windows does not display the "Banana" file if you search for "banan."

Step 6

Check the "Use natural language search" box if you want to avoid using operators such as AND or OR in your search queries. The Natural Language option enables you to perform searches using a more natural language. For example, searching for "by Nick" would return all files that have "Nick" listed as author. If this option is enabled, Windows may get confused when you try to perform a more complex search.Check the "Don't use the index when searching in file folders for system files..." box if you want the Search feature to ignore the Windows Index. Although this option is helpful when the Index is broken, searches you perform while it is enabled are considerably slower.

Step 7

Check the "Include system directories" box if you search for system files frequently. Searches are slower when the Include System Directories option is enabled. Check the "Include compressed files" box to search the contents of archives. Searches may take longer when this option is enabled. The contents of indexed archives are also indexed.

Step 8

Click "Apply" and then "OK" to apply and save the new settings if you are satisfied with the changes.

Tips & Warnings

  • To search for system files without enabling the "Include system directories" option, open the Windows folder and then use the "Search" box to specify what you're looking for.
  • Instead of enabling the "Always search file names and contents..." option, modify the Index and add the drives or folders that may contain the files you wish to find.
  • To restore the default search settings, click the "Restore Defaults" button on the Search tab of the Folder Options window. The Windows 7 search settings revert to their original settings when you click the "Restore Defaults" button.