Top 14 Ways to Fix File Explorer Search Not Working on Windows 11

The default File Explorer app received a huge makeover with Windows 11 update. Apart from a design refresh, Microsoft also brought tabs support in the default file manager app. However, it’s not void of issues. Sometimes, the File Explorer doesn’t open on the PC. Many have also raised issues with an inefficient search in the app. Here are the best ways to fix the File Explorer search not working.


You may return to digging through folders when the File Explorer search fails to work. However, it’s tedious and time-consuming. Unlike Finder on Mac, there is no way to sort out important files and folders via tags on Windows. You’ll need to rely on the search function to find the file quickly. Let’s fix the Windows explorer search not working.

1. Restart PC

Sometimes, a simple device reboot can troubleshoot normal system glitches. You should hit the Windows key and click the Power button to restart the PC.

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2. Restart Windows Search Service

File Explorer is a part of Windows Explorer Services. It starts with the system startup. If the service doesn’t start automatically in the background, the search function might break for you.

Step 1: Press the Windows + R keys to open the Run dialog box

Step 2: Type ‘services.msc’ and hit Enter.

Step 3: When the UAC prompt appears, choose Yes. Scroll to Windows Search in the Services window and right-click on it. Open Properties from the context menu.

Step 4: Select Automatic from Startup type menu, select Stop, and hit the Start button.

Open File Manager and try the search function again.

3. Run Search and Indexing Troubleshooter

Windows 11 comes with handy troubleshooters to fix such system-level glitches. There’s a dedicated troubleshooter for Search and Indexing files in Windows. Follow the steps below to run it.

Step 1: Press Windows + I keys to open Windows Settings.

Step 2: Select System from the left column and click on Troubleshoot on the right.

Step 3: Click Other troubleshooters.

Step 4: Click on the Run button next to the ‘Search and indexing’ troubleshooter.

4. Check Search Options

You can enable ‘Always search file names and contents’ option in File Explorer properties. Follow the steps below.

Step 1: Press the Windows + E keys to open the File Explorer menu.

Step 2: Select the three-dot menu at the top to open Options.

Step 3: Go to the Search menu.

Step 4: Enable the ‘Always search file names and contents’ option and hit the OK button.

The search function may act slowly as it searches for file names and content in the app.

5. Allow File Indexing

Sometimes, the search results come empty when the files don’t index in the drive. Here’s how you can index files in File Explorer.

Step 1: Press the Windows + E keys to open File Explorer on Windows.

Step 2: Select the three horizontal dots menu on the top ribbon and open Properties.

Step 3: Select Advanced under the General tab.

Step 4: Select the checkbox next to the ‘Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed in addition to file properties’ option. Click OK button.

6. Rebuild Search Index

If your computer has a really old Search Index, a list of files on your computer, it might not give you accurate and updated search results. If the Search Index was stopped or deactivated, you could get it back in action. You can rebuild the search index to fix the search not working in the File Explorer issue.

Step 1: Press the Windows key and search for Control Panel. Hit Enter and open it.

Step 2: Select Indexing Options.

Step 3: Select the Advanced button.

Step 4: Click Rebuild and hit OK.

7. Restart Windows Explorer

The default File Explorer app is a part of the Windows Explorer service. If you still face issues with File Explorer search, restart the Windows Explorer service from Task Manager and try again.

Step 1: Right-click on the Windows key and open Task Manager.

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Step 2: Scroll to Windows Explorer and select Restart Task at the top.

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8. Check Folder Permission

If you have denied a folder permission on Windows, the File Explorer search won’t work as expected. You need to follow the steps below to make changes.

Step 1: Launch File Explorer on Windows.

Step 2: Right-click on a folder and open Properties.

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Step 3: Move to the Security tab. Click Edit.

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Step 4: Enable all the checkmarks below Allow and click Apply. Hit OK.

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Restart the File Explorer app on Windows and try searching for your files again.

9. Clear File Explorer Cache

File Explorer collects cache in the background to improve the app performance. However, when the app collects a corrupt cache, the search function may fail to work properly. You should clear the File Explorer cache and try again.

Step 1: Hit the Windows key and search for File Explorer options.

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Step 2: Click Clear beside ‘Clear File Explorer history’.

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Click Apply and select OK.

10. Repair Corrupt Files

If your Windows PC is infected with corrupt and bogus files, they may mess up the File Explorer search function. Thankfully, you don’t need to use any third-party antivirus app. The Windows Security app is capable enough to handle such scenarios.

Step 1: Press the Windows key and search for Windows Security. Hit Enter.

Step 2: Select ‘Virus & threat protection’ from the sidebar.

Step 3: Click Scan options.

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Step 4: Select Full scan and select Scan now.

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Minimize the app and let Windows Security scan and remove bogus files from your PC.

11. Assign System Permissions to a Folder

If the File Explorer search isn’t working for a specific folder, you need to assign system permission to it.

Step 1: Open File Manager (Windows + E keys) and right-click on a folder.

Step 2: Open Properties from the context menu.

Step 3: Slide to the Security menu.

Step 4: Make sure ‘System’ is selected by default.

Step 5: If not, click the Edit button, press Add, and type SYSTEM.

Step 6: Click ‘Check names’ and hit the OK button.

Open File Explorer again, and the search function should work without any issue.

12. Use Third-Party Apps to Enable Search on Windows

If the File Explorer search still isn’t working, it’s time to ditch it in favor of an alternative. Microsoft PowerToys is one of the best apps with handy add-ons. It comes with PowerToys Run to enable a system-wide search. Here’s what you need to do.

Step 1: Download PowerToys on Windows.

Step 2: Open PowerToys and select PowerToys Run from the sidebar.

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Step 3: Enable the option.

Step 4: Scroll to Plugins and enable the toggles for all the options.

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13. Update Windows

File Explorer search not working on Windows 11 might be due to a buggy OS build. Microsoft might have fixed the issue and pushed an update to your computer. You must install it on your PC using the link below.

Step 1: Launch the Windows 11 Settings menu (use the Windows + I keys).

Step 2: Select Windows Update from the left sidebar.

Step 3: Download and install the pending Windows 11 build.

14. Join Windows Insider

While we don’t recommend joining the Windows Insider Program on your main PC, Microsoft has improved the quality of beta builds over the years. You can join the Release Preview build and enjoy new features and bug fixes.

Step 1: Open the Windows Update menu in Settings (refer to the steps above).

Step 2: Select Windows Insider Program.

Step 3: Expand ‘Choose your Insider Settings’ and click the radio button beside Release Preview.

Restart your computer, and the new Windows Update Release Preview will be available to download in the Settings menu.

Search Your Files on the Go

Instead of working on a file, you may spend most of your time finding it in File Explorer. Use the tricks above to fix the search not working in File Explorer and avoid such a situation in the future.

Last updated on 29 August, 2023

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