In SharePoint terms, what's the difference between indexing and crawling?

2 Answers 2


Often, people use those terms interchangeably, as in many situations the differences don't matter. But imagine a school nurse needs to get forms from all new students. So the school nurse gets a student volunteer to go to each class and bring any new student to the nurses office. In this case, the student volunteer is the crawler, while the nurse who is recording the data is acting as the indexer.

The crawler makes requests for content and is in charge of determine which files should be processed. The indexer is responsible for building the index by processing the files returned by the crawler.

  • Thanks Mike2500 for your example. I've read this blog (techtrainingnotes.blogspot.fr/2015/03/…) and it assumes that SharePoint will index all the content in the site, regardless its extension is listed or not. That's why I'm looking for the difference between the terms "Crawling" and "Indexing", and I think that this blog is making a huge mistake.
    – KhalilG
    Mar 3, 2017 at 17:00
  • Mike Smith is usually pretty spot on. There are blocked file types which can't be added to sharepoint, but any file that is added to sharepoint will be crawled. At the very least, the system can index the file name, date created, and user properties (created by, etc)., even when SharePoint can read the content of the file itself.
    – Mike2500
    Mar 3, 2017 at 21:36
  • You are right, but I forgot to mention that we are crawling file shares also, so blocked file types will not be present on SharePoint sites but could be present on file shares.So, will they also be crawled ?
    – KhalilG
    Mar 6, 2017 at 8:07

In the SharePoint search service:

Crawling: Is the mechanism that scans all pages, documents, ListItems, etc. contained in SharePoint. With this scan you can get contents.

Indexing is the mechanism that integrates the content in the search database (you can imagine a link between content and its URL). And after, when you execute a search query, you will query the indexed content and the search will return the URL of this content.

This is a general explanation ;)


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