If you've wondered how exactly Vista's sluggish desktop search saves you time, you might be pleasantly surprised by the updated version.
It seems that we’re all storing more files on our systems than ever before -- digital photos, music, email attachments -- even if you store them in organised directories, it's still easy to lose files here and there.
Not wanting to be held responsible for this state of affairs, Microsoft has been hard at work providing integrated search solutions for the Windows platform. For Windows 2000, XP and Server 2003, this has taken the shape of Windows Desktop Search which was originally released as part of the MSN Toolbar suite, and later as a standalone application.
In preparation for Windows Vista, WDS was re-released for Windows XP and 2003 only as a system service. It was also accidentally pushed out via WSUS late last year, causing entire workstation fleets to take on the performance and dynamism of asthmatic snails. As a network administrator myself, I still have nightmares about that episode, actually.
Windows Vista and Server 2008 now have indexed search functionality in-built via Windows Search, which offers some advantages over WDS such as searching of both indexed and non-indexed locations and centralised management via Group Policy.
However, Microsoft has now unified the indexing and search experience across all platforms with the recent release of Windows Search 4.0. This is available as a free download for Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008. It offers quite a few improvements:
- Improvements in performance and stability of the indexer
- Fuller complement of Group Policy settings, available on all supported operating systems
- Fast sorting and grouping of results in Windows Explorer
- Indexing improvements in online e-mail
- Ability to index delegate mailboxes for online e-mail
- Support for indexing (local file system) encrypted documents
- Expanded ability to perform fast remote queries of file shares, including those on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. This includes automatic indexing of shared folders.
- Item previews in Windows Explorer for Windows XP
So far user feedback has been that Windows Search 4.0 is more efficient and less resource-hungry than its predecessors. Enhanced stability is always welcome, so for Vista users and Server 2008 admins it should be an essential update. Apparently it will be made available in due course via WSUS.
You can download Windows Search 4.0 here.