Improve Windows Start Menu’s Search or simply install a better software tool

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Although the Start menu is supposed to be the fastest way to find local files, software, and settings, the default configuration for Windows 10’s search indexing service is far from the best. The index located at C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Search catalogs files and folders from around Windows so that when you perform a search, the operating system can simply check this database instead of scanning the entire drive.

By default, searching the Start menu doesn’t return files that you store on a secondary drive such as portable exes, not to mention that Windows 10’s Start menu has other annoyances such as integrated Internet search results and emphasizing “apps.” Generally speaking, we don’t have a problem with that, however, it is not uncommon that a simple query won’t return any valid results from your local drive first, no matter how simple or precise your query is. Of course, your mileage will vary, but unreliable search often means you stop depending on it.

If you’re unsatisfied with your Start menu’s search results, the default settings can be improved with a few tweaks such as adding new locations to the index from the “Indexing Options” menu, while there are also many feature-rich alternative applications that are faster and more accurate than searching from Start menu.

 

Improve the Start menu without extra software

If you’re trying to find files on a secondary drive by searching the Start menu, you’ll have to include this destination from Indexing Options, which you can open by searching the Start menu for “indexing options.”

Add a secondary drive to the Start menu search

From the Indexing Options menu, click “Modify” for a list of drives and check the box next to the device that you want to include (click the arrow to choose a more specific location on this drive instead of indexing the entire thing).

By default, the Start menu programs (C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs) should already be indexed along with your Windows user folder and Internet Explorer history.

Internet Explorer history.

Along with adding new drives to the Start menu’s search results, you may want to remove locations from the index.

For instance, the user folder has many sub-folders which are also indexed and depending on how many files you have stored here, these could be congesting the Start menu’s search results and/or reducing its performance.

Clicking the Advanced button in Indexing Options opens a window with a tab where you can also add or remove file extensions that are indexed, which may also aid in improving the speed or accuracy of your search results.

 

Better software for searching Windows

Even if you tailor the search index, searching from the Start menu is still slower and less flexible than many standalone alternative applications.

Some of these recommendations can do a lot more than search for files around Windows, while all of them are generally faster at finding results and the results presented are often more relevant.

Everything

This tool completes its initial index scan in less than a minute (even on a Windows 10 pen drive loaded in a virtual machine), after which searching for files and folders is instantaneous. Doesn’t have extra “launcher” features such as an integrated calculator or command prompt, but is still highly configurable. Of note, Tools > Options > Keyboard > Toggle window Hotkey will let you set a keyboard shortcut for opening and closing the software (we use Ctrl + Space)

Wox

Also, fast at searching for files around Windows, and in fact, Wox uses an “Everything” plugin for this functionality. Additionally, the software has plugins for doing the math, launching URLs, running system commands and more by typing directly into the launcher.