So you opened up task manager and saw SearchFilterHost.exe running and you want to know what it is, right? You’re probably in the clear as this process isn’t normally a virus. In fact, it’s included with every copy of Windows since XP but it wasn’t heard of much until Vista. This little executable is a system service created by Microsoft that aids Windows Search functions.
Want to know more? Let’s dive in.
If you take a look in Process Explorer, it doesn’t reveal much about SearchFilterHost, but it does let us know that it is a child of SearchIndexer.exe, which, we covered in a previous article. If for some reason you want to disable the service, it can be done following those instructions. SearchFilterHost.exe normally doesn’t use much memory or CPU power and is generally light on system resources, however, there have been a few rarer complaints we’ll talk about below.
A look at netmon reveals that this process has some network activity where it contacts Microsoft and downloads data. The data transmitted is not personal, it is related to queries for help topics within Windows built-in help system and goes directly to Microsoft. This network activity can be disabled opening the Help Topics box in Windows and then into Options > Settings and unchecking the “Improve my search results by using online Help.”
Registry keys affecting SearchFilterHost are located at:
- Reg_Expand_SZ: SystemBinariesList
- Also a few entries regarding network access through the firewall at:
The process itself is located at
Some users have reported that SearchFilterHost uses a high amount of CPU usage, up to 100%, from time to time. If you are encountering this issue there isn’t necessarily a hard fix. One user suggests setting up an image redirect for the service’s launch that will autokill it. Another suggested disabling XML indexing. Some suggest disabling Windows search, and others have had to reformat the operating system in order to fix it.
Of the cases reported, many of the time the high CPU use was related to installing a third-party decoder.
SearchFilterHost.exe is a safe process created by Microsoft. It is essential for some functions of Windows Search to properly work, however, a search is still capable of working (less fully) without it. The process doesn’t normally have a noticeable impact on system performance and shouldn’t be disabled on a whim.