Cannot search contents of pdf files using File explorer

The indexer is set up to search pdf file contents.  There are no other apparent indexing or searching problems.

This looks just like the problem that existed in previous versions of Windows.  Attempts at using new Adobe iFilters / jFilters or by running registry hacks were claimed by some to have fixed things but others reported no change.  

The only wholely reliable solution at the time was running two searches

1 using Windows explorer in case the content was in a non-pdf file &

2 using Adobe Reader Advanced search function in case the content was in a pdf file.

Is this limitation affecting all Windows 10 installations or just mine?

Is there a well-tested solution other than just installing Adobe Reader & using its Advanced search function again?

I have now resolved the problem in my

1  Windows 7 x64, computer [with Adobe Reader XI],

2  Windows 10 x86 [32 bit] computer [with Adobe Reader XI].

3  Windows 10 x64 computer [with Adobe Reader DC], and

1     For Windows 7 x64, I downloaded & installed the latest version of Adobe’s 64 bit iFilter - see Adobe - Acrobat  For Windows  PDF iFilter 64 11.0.01. 

I assumed that the Windows indexer would be confused by the change of indexing filter so I deleted the index and let Windows rebuild it - Control panel, [View by - Small icons, if necessary], Indexing options, Advanced.  It took a couple of hours. 

I then tested searching for text in pdf files and it worked correctly.

Before rebuilding the index, I checked all the folders included in indexing and adjusted them as a few were no longer relevant - that’s in Control panel, [View by - Small icons, if necessary], Indexing options, Modify.  I could have done that at any time as it’s a fairly routine task.

2     All the online information I had studied referred to the PDF indexing problem [& hence the Windows search problem] as being confined to 64 bit OS.  So I just rebuilt the index in my Windows 10 x86 [32 bit] computer instead to see what that would achieve - {right-click on the Start button}, Control panel, [View by - Small icons, if necessary], Indexing options, Advanced.  It took at least five hours as it is a very old computer. 

I then tested searching for text in pdf files and it worked correctly.

3     I noted in the Adobe link above that Adobe’s 64 bit iFilter is not described as being Windows 10 compatible.  So, for my Windows 10 x64 computer, I thought I’d just try rebuilding the index instead to see what that would achieve -  - {right-click on the Start button}, Control panel, [View by - Small icons, if necessary], Indexing options, Advanced.  It took a couple of hours. 

I then tested searching for text in pdf files and it worked correctly.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I was keen to get Windows search working properly because I often use it in [Windows 7] Windows explorer / [Windows 10] File explorer. 

I use the Adobe Reader “Search” function [rather than its “Find” function] a lot as well.  I frequently create pdf files by printing to pdf when I read web pages that I might want to refer to later, by using Word’s “Save as pdf” capability for lots of reference documents such as technical procedures and by saving any scanned documents in pdf “Image on text” format. 

Now that I have both search functions working correctly, I can use them in conjunction with each other to very good effect. 

I search from Windows explorer / File explorer first as that identifies the files containing the text I’m interested in.  I can open & look at whatever I want as you’d expect.

Then, if the pdf files identified in the Windows search results are very long, I open them in Adobe Reader and use its “Search” function.  The tree-like presentation of its results makes referring to specific topics within large pdf files a breeze.  This screenshot shows one of two results within a large pdf file, I select each result and Adobe Reader automatically takes me to it within the document itself so I can jump around the document backwards and forwards to any of the search hits.  Incidentally, the screenshot also illustrates the fact that Reader’s search function can search within whole folder trees - the unexpanded entries you can see in the search results are the other pdf documents where the search term was found in that group of folders so I can jump around search hits within multiple pdf documents easily.

It is this “search” function that keeps me using Adobe Reader.  I posted a more detailed review of this function in

A guide to using Windows Search; two alternatives to Windows Search

[the same information is also in A Guide to Using Windows Search; Two Alternatives to Windows - Wiki]

I have seen several other pdf readers recommended as being faster or less demanding of system resources.  Foxit Reader has an advanced search function that is more convenient than Adobe's as it is built-in to the standard toolbar.  I don't know if Sumatra PDF or Nitro PDF Reader have an equivalent.  [This para was edited 23 Dec 2015]

Try*3 - a user
Dell Inspirons 7779, 1545, 9300; Windows 10 Home x64 & Pro x86; Office Pro 2007; HP DJ2540; HTC UPlay [Android 6.0], MyPhoneExplorer

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This windows search method seems to ONLY for indexed files? For searching pdf:s in a location that you do not wish to index (i.e. corporate or home server) this solution seem to give little help?

Anyone with a solution for true runtime inline-search that includes also (and not only) pdf:s?

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See the description of SearchMyFiles in A guide to using Windows Search; two alternatives to Windows Search

[the same information is also in A Guide to Using Windows Search; Two Alternatives to Windows - Wiki].

To use SearchMyFiles to search general files, you need to enter the search term as type text.  To search in pdf files, you need to enter the search term as type binary.  In other words, SearchMyFiles can do the job but it needs to be run twice to include both general files [such as docx] and pdf files.

If you have any further queries then search the forum first then start a question of your own if necessary [that's how this forum works - you'll get a better response that way].

Try*3 - a user
Dell Inspirons 7779, 1545, 9300; Windows 10 Home x64 & Pro x86; Office Pro 2007; HP DJ2540; HTC UPlay [Android 6.0], MyPhoneExplorer

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for my Windows 10 x64 computer, I thought I’d just try rebuilding the index instead to see what that would achieve -  - {right-click on the Start button}, Control panel, [View by - Small icons, if necessary], Indexing options, Advanced.

Based on this sentence, rather than click 'Rebuild', I clicked 'File Types' and changed the 'pdf' extension to "Index Properties and File Contents", i.e. the "Plain Text Filter" instead of the "File Properties filter". It's now apparently rebuilding the index. Shouldn't this work?

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I do not think it will work. 

When I deleted Adobe Reader from my computer, I found that the pdf entry in Indexing options, File types had been changed to the Plain text filter but it did not work - this filter cannot see inside pdf file formats to access its text because they are not plain text files.  The Plain text filter is intended for use with plain text files only.

The filter that does work is the Reader search handler.

I was only able to fix searching-indexing by running a Repair install procedure - see Repair Install Windows 10 with an In-place Upgrade - Windows 10 Forums  After the Repair install, the Reader search handler entry had reappeared and searching-indexing worked again.

On my Windows 7 computer, I recently uninstalled Foxit Reader [the Adobe Reader & its iFilter were still installed].  I then discovered that the problem had returned.  I think the moral of this story is not to remove any pdf reader unless the embuggerance of running a Repair install is acceptable.  Since I am upgrading that computer to Windows 10 in a couple of weeks, I'll just put up with the problem for the time being.  Once I have upgraded I expect to find search-indexing has been reset to a working condition by Windows 10 [and I intend to do a clean installation of Windows 10 eventually anyway].  I will then install only Foxit Reader because its advanced search function is more convenient than Adobe's [as it is built-in to the standard toolbar].

Denis

Try*3 - a user
Dell Inspirons 7779, 1545, 9300; Windows 10 Home x64 & Pro x86; Office Pro 2007; HP DJ2540; HTC UPlay [Android 6.0], MyPhoneExplorer

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Actually, I think what I said worked for me: I was able to search within a directory, which narrowed down a list of 20 PDFs to 3, and I was able to open a PDF and find what I had searched for in that PDF.

Thanks though! I'll read what you wrote more thoroughly if I encounter another problem.

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Simply open the pdf. In Microsoft Word. It will convert it to a word document and formatted the same. Presto. Now search and edit if necessary.

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Last updated October 27, 2020 Views 43,710 Applies to: