How To Fix PDF Search In Windows 7 and Windows 8 64-Bit

One of the best things about modern operating systems like Mac OS X and Windows 7 and 8 is that search, particularly PDF search, is built right in. You don’t need to have a third party tool to search the contents of a searchable PDF – the OS will do it for you.

That is, unless you are running the 64-bit version of Windows 7 or Windows 8.

It is fairly common for DocumentSnap readers to write in with questions/problems, but it is pretty handy when a reader writes in with both the problem and the solution, which is exactly what superstar DocumentSnap reader Matt did recently.

Matt had a problem: He was scanning all these OCR’ed PDFs, but Windows Search was not finding them when he typed a keyword in the document. It would only find it if he typed in the name of a file, which pretty much defeats the purpose of Optical Character Recognition. Not having a Windows machine at the time I was flying blind, but we went back and forth and eventually he figured out what the issue was: an iFilter (but I am getting ahead of myself here).

What Is 64 Bit Windows And Do I Have It?

There are basically two types of Windows: 32-bit and 64-bit. I’ll let Microsoft describe the difference:

The terms 32-bit and 64-bit refer to the way a computer’s processor (also called a CPU), handles information. The 64-bit version of Windows handles large amounts of random access memory (RAM) more effectively than a 32-bit system.

It used to be that only high-end computers were 64-bit, but that has changed. This cheap Acer laptop I am writing this on is 64-bit, for example. How can you tell which kind of Windows you have?

On Windows 7:

  • Click the Start button.
  • Right-click on Computer, choose Properties.
  • You will see an entry for System Type which will give you the information that you need.

windows 7 properties

On Windows 8:

  • Open the Control Panel.
  • Click/Tap System/Security
  • Click/Tab System
  • There’ll be an entry for System type that will say 64 or 32 bits

If you are having problems with PDF search and your System type says 32-bit, you can probably stop reading. This post likely won’t help you.

What Is The Problem?

Windows 7 and 8’s search capabilities are pretty good, but for some reason the 64-bit has a problem indexing PDF files. Windows Search uses something called an iFilter to help it index files, and the PDF iFilter for 64-bit Windows is missing. (This probably applies to 64-bit Vista and 64-bit XP too).

Here is how to tell if you have the problem:

  • Click on the Start Menu and choose Control Panel
  • Change View By to Small Icons and click on Indexing Options
  • Click on the Advanced button
  • Click on the File Types tab
  • Scroll way down to pdf and you will probably see Registered IFilter Is Not Found

Registered IFilter Is Not Found

If you see that message, you have the iFilter problem.

As an additional test, download or scan a searchable PDF. You can see here that I am searching for the word “Westminster” in Acrobat Reader and it is finding it. When I search using the search box under the Start menu, it doesn’t find it.

Westminster

Replace The Missing IFilter

To fix the problem, you need to download the missing iFilter.

Download Adobe PDF iFilter 9 for 64-bit platforms here

Once you download it, unzip it and run the installer.

When the installer completes, go back and look at the file types list from above. It should now say “PDF Filter” instead of the “Registered IFilter Is Not Found” message. Yeah!

Test The New iFilter

Download or scan a new searchable PDF and find a word that is in the text and search on it in Acrobat Reader. For example, here I searched for the word “idyll”.

Idyll

Now I will search for it in Windows Search, and it looks like it found it. Double Yeah!

Idyll

Now lets search for Westminster again:

Westminster

Looks like it still didn’t find it. No!

It turns out that fixing the iFilter will only fix new documents, not the one that Windows Search has already indexed.

Do A Re-Index

In order to fix this problem, we’ll need to tell Windows 7 or Windows 8 to do a re-index. If you have a large hard drive, this could take a long time, so do it before you are going to bed or something.

  • Click on the Start Menu and choose Control Panel
  • Change View By to Small Icons and click on Indexing Options
  • Click the Advanced button
  • On the Indexing Settings tab, hit Rebuild

Once this is done, let’s try searching for Westminster again. Hopefully third time’s the charm?

Westminster

It’s there!

I’m On Windows 8 And This Still Doesn’t Work

Believe it or not, in some cases there is a bug with Adobe Acrobat that breaks search in Windows 8. These guys.

The fix involves changing the Registry, so only do this if you know what you are doing. I don’t have Windows 8 so I have not tried this myself, but here are the Windows 8 Adobe Acrobat fix instructions.

This Should Get You Going

Thanks again to Matt for doing the detective work on this one. Hopefully it will help one of you if you find that your 64-bit Windows isn’t finding your documents.

This article was originally written in December 2010, but was updated in September 2014 for Windows 8.

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

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