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The Vista Search Indexer Stopped Working

written by: Lamar Stonecypher•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/19/2011

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen this error message at Vista startup: “Microsoft Windows Search Indexer stopped working and was closed. A problem caused the application to stop working correctly. Windows will notify you if a solution is available." Here is the solution for this error.

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    This happened to me after I had been experimenting with an indexing control gadget for the Vista sidebar. After some research and some dead ends in Google, I found that the solution, although non-obvious, to the problem is easy.

    The solution, simply, is to force Vista to re-index. Here’s how:

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    Step 1: Show Hidden Files and Folders

    First make sure that you have Windows Explorer set to display hidden files and folders. To do this, go to Control Panel and open Appearance and Personalization, and then Folder Options in “Control Panel Home" view or Folder Options directly from “Classic View." In the Folder Options dialog, click the View tab. Under “Advanced settings" find “Hidden Files and folders" and click the radio button next to “Show hidden files and folders". After doing this, click OK to close the dialog and then close the Control Panel window.

    (Click the images to enlarge.)

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    Step 2. Delete the Indexing Folders

    Double-click “Computer" and then double-click your C: drive. Then double-click “ProgramData" (one word).

    Continue navigating to C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Search\Data\Applications\Windows.

    You may want to drag the window’s left-side outward in order to confirm the address in the windows address bar. If you have User Access Control (UAC) enabled, you’ll need to give yourself permission to open the “\Windows" folder. Once there, click in the window and press Ctrl-A to select all files and folders. Then press Delete. It’s safe to let Vista move them to the Recycle Bin, although I found in testing that it is not necessary. You can press Shift-Delete to delete the folder directly.

    Then go back up to C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Search\Data\Temp.

    Repeat the process of deleting all files and folders. (The folder may already be empty. That’s fine.)

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    Step 3. Restart Indexing

    At this point, you should be able to restart your computer without the error message. You may find that things like creating folders and file copying happens much more quickly with this error fixed.

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    But . . . did you follow some advice found online that suggested that you turn off indexing in Vista as a way to fix the problem? If so, that’s just treating the visible symptom, not the underlying cause. To re-enable indexing to see if you’ve fixed the problem, do this: press the Windows button and enter


    Select the “Extended" tab, scroll down and double-click “Windows Search". Next to “Startup Type", click the selection bar and select, I suggest, “Automatic (Delayed Start)." This option will prevent the indexing function from running just as all your other startup applications begin to “phone home" for their updates.

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    An Alternate Method

    Speaking of updates, here’s one. There’s an easier way to empty the index folders. Press the Windows button, enter “indexing options," and press Enter. This will pop up the Indexing Options dialog. Click on the “Advanced" button. Then select “Restore Defaults." Vista will then inform you, “This operation will delete your index including custom index locations and excluded locations next time your computer restarts and completely re-build the indexed locations using default settings. This might take a long time."

    Actually, it takes no longer than manually emptying the folders and rebuilding the index. I further suggest that you follow step 3 to set indexing up for delayed start after you’ve restarted the PC and re-built the index.

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    Thanks for reading this. We hope you are enjoying reading and learning at the new Bright Hub.

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