How To Enable Search on Windows Servers

The Windows Server is a series of server operating systems that are developed by Microsoft. Essentially the Windows Server is a more powerful version of the desktop operating system counterparts. They are designed to handle corporate networking, internet/intranet hosting, databases, and other similar functions in an efficient manner.  Unless you’re dealing with servers and a network infrastructure, or are planning to, learning about Windows servers may not be a necessity. The reason that corporations and businesses use Windows servers is because it supports custom modifications to adapt to the business and what it needs. Most individual users won’t need such powerful options. Here I’ll explain how you can enable Windows Server search and indexing services.


Need a more powerful search software for your Windows Server? Learn more here...

Windows Search Server vs. Search Service

The Windows Search Protocol allows communication with a server that hosts a Windows Search Service. The Windows Search Service can issue queries and it also allows an administrator to manage an indexing server. The indexing process runs within the LocalSystem account and constantly runs for all users. This allows Windows Search to:

  • Maintain an index that can be shared among all of the users.
  • Maintain security restrictions and access to content.
  • Process remote queries from computers on the network.

Don’t confuse the Windows Search Service with Microsoft Search Server Express. Microsoft Search Server Express is a free enterprise-class search server, which enables high performance searches of corporate data across multiple systems. Search Server Express has a similar appearance to a Windows SharePoint Services site.  The main difference between Windows Search and Search Server Express is that Windows Search can search on a desktop and a server, where Search Server Express can only search on the server.


Windows Search Service on Windows Server 2008

If you are already using a Windows Server based computer, and are currently using Windows Server 2008 then you should know that the Windows Search Service might not be installed by default. You can install and configure the Windows Search Service manually, but it takes some time, patience, and a bit of knowledge to get it done. Here are the steps that you will need to follow:

  • Click Start > All Programs > Administrative Tools and then Server Manager
  • You will see a console tree in Server Manager, right click on Roles and then choose Add Roles.
  • When the Add Roles Wizard opens, click Next.
  • Add the Windows Search Service.
  • You will need to choose the Volumes with shared folders to be indexed.
  • Now you can finish & close the wizard. This should have the search service up and running.


Enable Windows Search Service on Windows Server 2012

While the steps are similar to enabling the search service on previous server versions, there are enough differences to write up the steps you need to follow to enable the Windows search service on Windows Server 2012.  Here’s what you need to do:

windows search server 2012

Open the Server Manager tool, then click Manage.

windows server add feature

Go to Add Roles and Features to open the Add Roles and Features Wizard window.

Click Next to open the wizard to the Installation type page.

Select Role based or feature based installation option, and click Next.

windows server select

Now you are on the server selection page. Select the server you want the service installed on. If you only have one server, it will automatically select it.  Click Next.

Now you are in the Server Roles page. Just click Next, because you are installing a feature, not a role.

windows search service to server

This will open the Features page, here is where you can choose Windows Search Service (make sure the check box is checked) click Next.

windows search service confirmation

You are now in the confirmation page. To confirm the selection, just click Install. Please note that it will take some time to install the Windows Search Service.

The installation should now be complete.


Adding a New Location to be Indexed

A common problem that users on a network face is that when they try to add a network drive to their Library, an error message suddenly pops up that says “this network location can’t be included because it is not indexed”. There’s no need to worry though, this problem is easy to solve. The following steps require Windows Server 2008 or higher, and will work directly with Windows 7, 8, and 10 Libraries.

When the Windows Search Server is enabled, the server generates an index which is then stored on a Network Share. The clients that have this share mounted can use the search index to find the files they need.

The first step is to create a Shared Folder to host the search index. This can easily be done by going to the Server Manager > File and Storage Services > Shares and setting the appropriate User and File permissions.

Next you should enable Windows Search Service from your server. See the steps outlined above to do so on Windows Server 2008 and 2012.

With Windows Search Service installed and the shared folder created, you will then need to add that shared folder to the index. On the server, go to Control Panel > Indexing Options then click Modify to add the folder or even an entire drive to the index.

Now you will be able to add the network share to the library without the error message appearing.

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  • D

    We purchased Lookeen as an add-on for Server 2012 file search and have had very poor results. This is for a cloud based server. The setup was done through Lookeen tech support and our cloud provider, but the result is completely inadequate. Is there someone in the western hemisphere who can provide real-time support to resolve our setup issues? We aren’t trying to search the entire drive, just a couple very large folders with a combined 10,000 documents, alpha-numerically titled.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    2016-07-29 17:39:00 | Dave Elliott
  • S

    Super helpful! Thanks Joana :)

    2016-03-31 23:29:37 | Siobhan O'Rorke

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