October 23, 2020

Enable File Search on Windows Server 2008 with Windows Search Service

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A common question I see on Twitter and on some forums is that out of the box users are not able to search for files very easily on Server 2008 because the indexing service is disabled by default.  I am going to walk you through enabling the search features for files on the server.  To do this you need to enable Windows Search Service which permits fast file searches on the server from clients that are compatible.  Windows Search Service is intended for desktop search or small file services and is NOT a enterprise solution. 

The main thrust of this is that if you want an enterprise solution there are more robust options from Microsoft.  The discussion is a bit out of scope for this writeup but you can see some comparisons of products at http://www.microsoft.com/EnterpriseSearch/products.aspx

If you just need to search a single file server or even are going to be using Server 2008 as a desktop OS for yourself, the Windows Search Service will be more than enough for your needs.

Let’s go ahead and install Windows Search Service

  1. Open Server Manager and select Roles in the left pane.  Then in the center pane click on Add Roles.
  2. If you get the Before You Begin page just click Next, depending on if you have installed a role before and chose to skip this page in the future you might not see it.
    Enable Search
  3. Select Server Roles window go ahead and select File Services and then click Next.
  4. The next page will discuss the File Services Role and what you can do with it. After reading go ahead and click Next.
  5. In the Select Role Services page place a check next to Windows Search Service and then click Next.
  6. The next page will ask you to select the volumes you want to index.  Place a  check next to the volumes you want indexed and then click Next. As a note this is a test server so I don’t have separate data drives, be careful indexing your system drive as it can cause performance issues.
  7. Confirm your selections by reviewing the information and then click on Install.

  8. Hopefully you see a Installation Succeeded message and you can click Close.

    Windows Search Services Installation Succeeded

That’s it!  You will now be able to execute searches on the Windows server through Windows Search Services.


  1. Syed Rehman says

    Really helpful artickle. Windows Help was useless when searching for this article.

    Thanks a bunch.

  2. What a useless “development” of the Windows Server platform. If you happen to be logged in at the console of a large file server and need to search the contents of a handful of folders, you can’t. It’s quicker to mount a drive on a Windows 2000 PC and search from there!

    Having recently migrated from NetWare I’m amazed at the awful excuse for a server environment that people have had to put up with from MS for all this time.

  3. Andreas Hoffmann says

    Shame on Microsoft that I have to do extra steps to get functionality that was obvious the past 25 years!
    Thanks to the guys here for the hint.

  4. Sadly I agree with Martin.

    The only really useless thing worth complaining about here are the developers at microsoft that don’t believe this is a problem worth fixing.

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