7 Ways To Fix Windows File Explorer Search

By | December 5, 2021

Search Windows 10 File Explorer is a handy option for finding files. If you have a folder full of documents, you can enter keywords. Or, if you don’t know the file name but you know the file extension, you can search with a wildcard.

Unless, of course, File Explorer search doesn’t work. File Explorer search can crash for several reasons. Fortunately, most of these errors are easy to solve.

Here are seven ways you can improve File Explorer searches.

Make Sure Windows Search Service Is Running

The first thing to do is make sure the Windows Search service is active. Windows services control many things Windows can do. If a service dies or a bug exits, it can have unforeseen consequences. Therefore, if the Windows Search service is off or damaged, you cannot search for your files using File Explorer search.

Press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog, then enter services.msc.

Scroll down the list of services until you find Windows Search, then check the status.

If Windows Search is running, this is not the cause of the problem. If it doesn’t run, double-click Windows Search to open options, then Start service. Press Apply and close options.

If you want to restart the Windows Search service in the hopes that it jolts it to life, select Stop, then Apply, then Start, then Apply.

Rebuild Search Index

If stopping and starting the Windows Search service doesn’t coax File Explorer search back into real life, you can rebuild the search index. The search index is a long list of every file on your computer. If Windows doesn’t have an index of where the files are, it can’t search your computer to tell you where to look for them (or guide you right there!).

Rebuilding the search index can take a while. However, it is one of the best ways to solve Windows File Explorer search problems.

Press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog, then enter the following:

rundll32.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL srchadmin.dll

The Windows Indexing Options pane will appear. choose Advanced, then below Troubleshooting, choose Rebuild.

choose OK when Windows tells you the rebuild will take “a long time”, then wait for the process to complete. You can use your computer during this time, but File Explorer search will not work until re-indexing is complete.

Make Sure the Search Index Include Your Drive Location

If rebuilding the search index doesn’t fix your File Explorer and Windows search issues, make sure the folder you’re looking for is included in the index.

Reopen the Windows Indexing Options pane (as shown in the previous section). choose Modify. Now, check your Indexed Locations.

At the very least, you’ll want to index your C:/ drive. For most people, C:/ contains your operating system, Windows user profile, photos, videos, music, and documents. If you don’t include those folders in the index, File Explorer search will lose a lot of your files.

After selecting your drive location, press OK. Windows will index the new location automatically. Depending on the size of the drive you are adding, indexing may take some time.

Run the Windows Index Troubleshooter

The Windows Index Options pane is also a place for troubleshooting. Return to the Windows Index Options pane.

Under Troubleshooting, choose Troubleshoot search and indexing. You then have four options:

Select your search indexing issue, then continue. The Index Search and Troubleshooter will automatically apply the fix, then notify you of any changes.

The fourth option is a little different. You can try to describe your File Explorer search problem, and Windows 10 will keyword match the error and attempt to provide a fix. It hits and hits, as you might imagine.

Disable Cortana

Disabling Cortana can sometimes jolt File Explorer back to life, as can the tool’s integration with Windows search options. Cortana is also the specific cause of the broken Windows Search issue.

Right click your taskbar and select Task Manager. Open tab Processes, then scroll down to Cortana. Right click the Cortana process and select End task.

Cortana will close, then reopen.


If File Explorer search is still not working at this point, you need to consider some more serious fixes. Windows Check Disk (CHKDSK) is a Windows system tool that you can use to verify the file system. You can set up CHKDSK to fix any issues that occur while running.

Type command prompt in your Start menu search bar, then right-click the most suitable one and select Run as administrator. (Or, press the button Windows + X, then select Command Prompt (Admin) from the menu.)

Next, type chkdsk /r and press Enter. This command will scan your system for errors and fix any issues along the way.


System File Check (SFC) is another Windows file check tool. Instead of checking your entire drive for errors, like CHKDSK, System File Checker analyzes and repairs your Windows installation specifically.

Before running the SFC command, it is best to double check if it is fully functional.

  • Type Command Prompt (Admin) in the Start menu search bar, then right click and select Run as administrator to open an elevated Command Prompt.
  • Type the following command and press Enter: DISM /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth
  • Wait for the command to complete. The process can take up to 20 minutes, depending on the health of your system. The process seems to crash at times, but wait for it to finish.
  • When the process is complete, type sfc /scannow and press Enter.

Fix Windows File Explorer and Search

When File Explorer search doesn’t work, finding specific files takes time. Repairing File Explorer searches doesn’t take long and will help you keep tabs on your most important (or completely lost!) files.