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Microsoft Desktop Search


March 5, 2005 12:03 AM PST

Microsoft released a desktop search application a few months after Google. I never installed the Google app because I didn't like that it installed a little webserver/proxy on my machine. As far as I understand, it combined the contents of the Google web search with the contents of my drive. I'm sure it's an elegant solution, but it just goes beyond what I want to commit to for something as simple as searching my files.

I recently set up some new machines and therefore did the "install newest versions of software I could find" song and dance. I installed MS desktop search because the regular search is super slow and I was interested in also searching network drives and my email.

In the initial phase, you can specify what folders to scan. I picked a network drive, as well as my HDD, email, etc. I didn't think it would work correctly on the network drive. After a relatively quick initial indexing, I found that a search is incredibly fast! Just type a word or two, and up pops a window with 300 hits and their summaries, spanning emails, documents and files on the shared drive. Enter a contact name and all the emails, contact info, and any saved documents show up. You can easily filter on just emails, documents, or Web results. Pretty easy. Why wasn't this just implemented in the OS? MS: junk the built-in indexer, don't wait for longhorn and include this badboy in XP SP3.

I'm really happy with this search tool. It does install the MSN toolbar, but that can be hidden in Windows Explorer, the Taskbar, Outlook, the or IE. Plus I use Firefox, and no toolbar is installed there. The only toolbar I leave up is the one in Outlook. You can also hide most of the buttons on the toolbar, so you can get it down to just a text box and a MSN icon.

I've seen a bug where what you type in the search toolbar won't update the MSN search window, and closing all apps would't help. Only a logout/login fixed it, but it only happened once.

Not sure if it's a bug, but the location of the search results is in a window that is always just to the right of any running copy of Windows Explorer. I would expect a new window to show up to the right of all items in the taskbar. (Don't get me started on how the taskbar should let you drag the elements around, or how using virtual desktops will rearrange the taskbar order).

I recommend installing this app. But BEFORE YOU DO, watch your CPU usage in task manager for a while. I'm seeing a 100% cpu spike for about 5 seconds from svchost.exe every minute or two. I suspect it's either this app or the anti-spyware app. Let me know if you see this behavior after you install it.

Also, if anyone has tried the Google desktop search and this tool, I'd like to hear a comparison of the two.
Comments (7)

John, March 5, 2005 02:52 AM:

I've been using it for about a month now. I don't see the CPU spikes you are mentioning on any of the machines I have it on. Its been working very well for me. I have found at least two minor bugs (it is a beta) and reported them internally. The outlook search is my favorite. I use it all the time now to track down obscure email.

J, March 5, 2005 11:36 AM:

The outlook search is better than the search built into outlook. You're right, my files are usually located where I can find them, it's email I end up searching most.

So you're running this and the spyware filter, and don't see the spike? Something is using svchost and I thought it would be one of those. I'll have to start uninstalling things now and see...

Paul, March 6, 2005 11:12 PM:

Google Desktop Search 1.0 is released now. You can make your own plug-ins, or download others.

John, March 7, 2005 04:51 PM:

Wow 1.0, not a beta??!!

J, March 8, 2005 12:24 AM:

Ha ha ha. Now MS is on the hook. Clock's ticking. Ars says they'll do a comprehensive comparison of these, so I'll look forward to that.

Bryan, July 26, 2005 12:34 AM:

The MS desktop search has become the most unstable thing on my laptop. It regularly hangs during shutdowns and I have to go through the whole 'End Now' routine. It is consistently the winner of the highest CPU Time award and I suspect it might be involved in the 'low on virtual memory' message I get all the time now too.

It seems to work fine on my desktop though.

J, July 26, 2005 09:21 AM:

Interesting... Yeah, it's definitely beta. I've had some issues where I enter a search in the outlook bar and it brings up the previous search I entered, and the only solution is to reboot.

At home I ended up going with google desktop search because I use thunderbird and firefox, and MSN doesn't index those. You can get 3rd party plugin, but in this case I like the more open Google solution. I like the MSN interface better, but for home use, the Google interface is fine for how seldom I use it.

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