When Microsoft introduced the Windows Search indexer in Windows XP, they provided an add-in for it to index network shares. It worked for 32-bit Windows XP and Vista but starting with Windows 7, they discontinued this feature. You can't index network shares, nor can you include them in a Library. But even if network shares or mapped drives cannot be indexed, you can still search them, if you use a simple trick. Read the rest of this article to see how.
This trick works in Windows 10, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 with KB2268596 installed. Normally, when you try to include a network location, Explorer blocks it and gives you an error "This network location can't be included because it is not indexed." But it is only Explorer that blocks you from adding a network location.
Instead if you use Winaero Librarian, you can include shared network folders and mapped drives too to a Library. And once they are added to a Library, they can be searched. Librarian actually allows doing many different tasks related to Libraries such as changing the icon of built-in Libraries. Here is how you can add it to search network shares.
- Download Winaero Librarian and open it.
- Your libraries will be listed in it. Right click the Library in which you want to include a network folder path and then click 'Change...'. Or you can create a new custom Library for network folders such as "Network Media" or "Network Documents". To create a new Library, right click in an empty area inside Librarian and click "New...", enter the name and click OK.
- The New Library dialog will be shown. Click the Add Button.
In the dialog that comes up, type the network path in the "Folder:" text field in the Universal Naming Convention (UNC) style, that is, \\ComputerName\SharedFolder\Resource. For example, \\Windows-PC\C#\Docs. Even if you have a mapped network drive letter, use the UNC syntax. Or instead of typing the path, you can click the "Network" node in the left pane and then browse to the computer name and network share, select the folder you wish to search and click the "Select Folder" button.
- After you click the "Select Folder" button, the result should be like this where it shows you the UNC path. Click OK and close Librarian.
That's it! The folder should be available now in the Library. Now here's how to search it.
- On Windows 8.1, the Start screen search is able to search these network locations which you add to a Library.
- On Windows 10, Cortana cannot search network shares. So use the shortcut called "Search" inside All Programs/All apps. Click Start -> All Apps -> and locate the shortcut called "Search". It is the old UI which Windows 8.1 had. It can search the contents of the folder you just added using Winaero Librarian.
- On Windows 7 SP1, install KB2268596. Then, you must add the following registry value:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\SearchPlatform\Preferences] "EnableSearchingSlowLibrariesInStartMenu"=dword:00000001
Once you add the above value, you must restart Windows 7. Thereafter, the Windows 7 Start Menu will be able to search these network folders. This also works in case of StartIsBack on Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.
Note that despite doing this, network folders inside a Library are not indexed by Windows Search, like local folders are. They are searched in real time so while searching, the network results may be slow.