Last Reviewed:  April 27, 2023

I Can't Search PDF Documents


When you try to search for PDF documents using the Windows Search engine, you can only find them by name. You can't search by contents.


It's possible that you don't have an "iFilter" in place for PDF documents. To explain, the Windows indexing service doesn't understand the PDF file format, so you need an iFilter, which is a helper for PDF files. Here's how to check:

  1. Go to your Windows Control Panel > "Indexing Options"
  2. Click the "Advanced" button
  3. Go to the "File Types" tab
  4. Scroll down to "PDF"

Next to the PDF entry, it should say "PDF Filter" or "File Properties Filter". If it says something like "No iFilter", then you need to install one.


If you're on a 32-bit version of Windows, just install the free Adobe Reader. It comes with an iFilter.

If you're on a 64-bit edition of Windows, you'll need to download Adobe's free iFilter. You can get it here:

Now the bad news. Windows won't automatically re-index the PDF files. You have to rebuild the indexes. Here's how:

  1. Go back to your Control Panel > Indexing Options
  2. Click the Advanced button
  3. On the Index Settings tab, click Rebuild

It may take awhile to rebuild the indexes. You can see the status on the Indexing Options dialog.

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