Editorial

TechSpot: How Has Windows Search Improved Since Win2k? Hint: It Hasn't!

Last weekend I was feeling a bit nostalgic and fired up Windows 2000 on my home computer. Win2k has a special place in my heart. Sadly, due to planned obsolescence it's no longer possible to use this fantastic operating system with the latest software available (without manual modifications).

During the day I work at a fairly large industrial company. We have many different systems and machines worth millions of dollars, so it goes without saying that if such machinery works and performs a good job, we don't throw it out just because it runs NT4 or Windows 2000. Indeed, some of them still do. The fleet is being continually upgraded though, and I'm glad to see the oldest NT4 systems leave us for good soon.

Be that as it may, what annoys me even more are the "improvements" made to Windows search through the years. The search box in Windows 2000 is very powerful, there are no cute animations and there are no exclusions. It's just no-nonsense search, as you would expect it to be.

Read: How Has Windows Search Improved Since Win2k? Hint: It Hasn’t!

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I don't know if the author used search in Win8, but there is just no comparison with W2k. Now search is universal, across apps and internet. And no, I don't want all the results together, for that there is Google. That's why I love BING, it categorizes results better. And now they improved it in Win8. Stay with your W2K Search, but you'll need to pry the win8 search from my dead fingers.

Who cares?

I never understood the hard-on people have about searching. I always though that if you kept your stuff organized you wouldn't have to search. Learning a new OS is one thing, but after the first couple times you should know where to find things.

bjoswald said,
Who cares?

I never understood the hard-on people have about searching.

I suppose it depends on what you're searching for

Some people don't search for files because it is lost. If I know the name of the file I want it is faster to type it's name and open it in the Start-> search area.

bjoswald said,
Who cares?

I never understood the hard-on people have about searching. I always though that if you kept your stuff organized you wouldn't have to search. Learning a new OS is one thing, but after the first couple times you should know where to find things.

This is essentially true. However as years and data expand, this becomes less manageable, even for someone with eidetic memory and ideal organizational skills.

My email, documents, letters, programming projects, pictures, images go back to 1989, and I literally have millions of emails alone.

I can dig through and eventually find what I need, and get close.

However, most people don't have my memory and why should I have to do extra work that the computer will do for me?

I can throw in a quick AQS syntax that asks for email from a specific person when they mentioned project in year 1999 and contains attachments. And in a matter of a second or two, have the 5 or 6 possible emails to contain exactly what I am looking for.

Additionally, with Windows Search, I can search for text in OneNote, or text in image files or text in audio files that I recorded in OneNote meetings. The last one is important, as I can find the recording, but finding the place in the 2hr meeting from 5 years ago where XYZ was mentioned is not something I can find instantly, and Windows Search can.


This is just a tool that is there for people that need it or find clever ways to use it.

It also works along with Windows 8 and is an extension to networking client/server search that enables someone to search Hulu, Netflix, etc in a couple of clicks. (Windows 7 had Federated search which was a precursor to this, but not widely used by web services.)

What is insane, when you are searching non-indexed locations or are crazy enough to turn the Windows Search features off, the search results you get are the same type and speed as Win2k, as it crawls the folders and files the SAME WAY. (However, there is now a benefit, as they can use AQS in non-indexed locations that they couldn't use in Win2K.)

BTW, NEVER EVER turn off the Windows Search. The OS uses it in ways you don't even realize, and when it is disabled, it cheats you out of a lot of performance. Just take an example of enumerating shares and base contents of shares across a network, Windows Search asks the host for this information, without Windows Search, this information is crawled. This is also why you can connect to a data server with million upon millions of documents and not have any additional network congestion as the query is sent to the Server to perform and only the limited results are sent back to your computer.


Windows Search is a rather advanced technology, that still doesn't seem to be well understood. It is not a technology like Apple Search or Google Desktop, it is the full database indexing technologies of MSSQL/WinFS.

Windows Search is where WinFS actual exists in Windows, and with tracking, journaling, metadata features of NTFS, Microsoft had NO NEED to use the database storage mechanisms that were slower and would have limited the scope to just the user's location.

So ya, it is not a big thing, and not important for people that have a few thousand documents and emails. However there are a lot of people like myself that have every email and chat log and document going back to 1989 and this makes it 'handy'.


It is also a features that developers can user, by adding their data store to the Windows Search, their own software can query its own data from the Windows Search, like OneNote does. Thus they don't have to build a robust search technology and can also reference and lookup database like data without a running database. This is underused, but is getting more use as Microsoft is getting developers to use Search locally and remotely as a common feature of their Apps.

Microsoft made a post on their building windows 8 blog a long time ago about why they grouped the results. It was because it was very rarely used for files and basically never used for settings (I happen to use it for all 3, but I use Windows a lot different than most)

Colin McGregor said,
I love how someone that has no clue what they are talking about can troll and add the word editorial and make it ok.

Welcome to Neowin.

Yeah. I have putty.exe but if I search in apps on W8 it doesn't show up.

Apparently Putty.EXE is not an application, it is a file.

Microsoft dropped the bomb with search.

ArialBlue said,
Yeah. I have putty.exe but if I search in apps on W8 it doesn't show up.

Apparently Putty.EXE is not an application, it is a file.

Microsoft dropped the bomb with search.

It only appears as an 'App' if the shortcut to the file is located in the old Start Menu: "C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs" for example on most systems.

This is how it 'classifies' what are Apps and not Apps. This is also why another user can have software installed, and if it isn't available as a shortcut in this location, you won't be able to see it in a Apps search.

And yes, they do this for a reason and it far more thought out than you would ever imagine.

So instead use the Files category and type...

fileextension:exe


Your Application will appear if it sits in an indexed location. If it isn't in an indexed location, here is how you gain access to the old traditional CRAWL search of Win2K, and far easier and faster and with more options.

Hit Win Key
Type C:\
Press Enter
Ctrl-F
Type fileextension:exe

This will return EVERY SINGLE application on your hard drive. It isn't 'instant' as it is the traditional Win2K/XP crawl search, but it works just like it did back then. You could type C:\Program Files or any other location rather than C:\ if you want to search just in that folder.

This is what combing the power of a brilliant indexing technology with a brilliant search terminology like AQS and giving the user flexibility to use a traditional crawl type search.

People don't take the time to see what technology and features are available to them, and instead sit back and complain nothing works as well. Guess what, it works better than it did before, but you have to at least try to understand it.

The way Windows Search is designed is like this. If the locations you want are all indexed, then it finds everything. If your locations are not indexed, you can only search one location at a time. You can do so by opening that path in Explorer and using its search box, one path at a time and its subfolders. To simultaneously search multiple locations or drives, they must all be added to "Indexing Options". Then using the path: or location: syntax in the search box, you can narrow down searches by location by AQS and using boolean parameters. The path: syntax does not work if the location is not indexed.

It's a huge fail personally to me but that's the way it is. It is just not feasible to index all locations, especially removable drives. Indexing everything takes a lot of time, requires installing a ton of iFilters and the size of the indexing DB becomes bloated quickly. Real-time Windows 7/Vista/8 search works only for one location at a time, so one must search different locations one path at a time or use another decent freeware search tool like FileLocator Lite or Everything.

The XP search UI was also a huge fail but at least you could easily revert it to Windows 2000. Then it was very powerful at doing real-time searches (but sucked at indexed ones).

Windows 8 adds a new level of annoyance by separating the combined results UI into Apps, Files etc. when Windows 7/Vista already neatly categorized it under headings but still kept the results list unified. It's called a UI disaster.

Edited by UXGaurav, Nov 7 2012, 9:59pm :

MsftGaurav said,
The way Windows Search is designed is like this. If the locations you want are all indexed, then it finds everything. If your locations are not indexed, you can only search one location at a time. You can do so by opening that path in Explorer and using its search box, one path at a time and its subfolders. To simultaneously search multiple locations or drives, they must all be added to "Indexing Options". Then using the path: or location: syntax in the search box, you can narrow down searches by location by AQS and using boolean parameters. The path: syntax does not work if the location is not indexed.

It's a huge fail personally to me but that's the way it is. It is just not feasible to index all locations, especially removable drives. Indexing everything takes a lot of time, requires installing a ton of iFilters and the size of the indexing DB becomes bloated quickly. Real-time Windows 7/Vista/8 search works only for one location at a time, so one must search different locations one path at a time or use another decent freeware search tool like FileLocator Lite or Everything.

The XP search UI was also a huge fail but at least you could easily revert it to Windows 2000. Then it was very powerful at doing real-time searches (but sucked at indexed ones).

Windows 8 adds a new level of annoyance by separating the combined results UI into Apps, Files etc. when Windows 7/Vista already neatly categorized it under headings but still kept the results list unified. It's called a UI disaster.

You really are making it more complicated than necessary, and do not understand what you are doing.

Indexing removable media is nice if you want. However, what you seem to NOT understand that when you do not add removable media to the Windows Search index, the results and performance is the SAME as previous versions of Windows - there is no loss of speed or features.

As for the iFilter issue, beyond adding a few text file changes for development that I always add, what 'complex' iFilters would or are you adding and changing?


As for indexing size being 'bloated', I have over 1 million documents indexed on this laptop, there is 0% performance loss and it returns results instantly, even complex queries.

Once index is 'done' Windows uses the features of NTFS to monitor for changes and track changes to updates to the indexing. This is why there is no humanly noticeable performance loss when indexing a large amount of content.

You keep referring back to 'one location searching' and this is not how it works and is not necessary. You can add all your computer volumes to the search index if you really want to be able to search C:\Windows\System too.

However, I will say again, if you DO NOT index your entire volume, when you search C:\WIndows\System it is going to be the same speed as WinXP or Win2k - however, you can still use AQS, which you couldn't in XP or 2K.

Seriously, if you want to power user this feature, learn the what the hell you are doing.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Search

Also go to Microsoft and look up Windows Search for the full syntax and features and developer and network features available that might help your dysfunction.

thenetavenger said,

You really are making it more complicated than necessary, and do not understand what you are doing.

Indexing removable media is nice if you want. However, what you seem to NOT understand that when you do not add removable media to the Windows Search index, the results and performance is the SAME as previous versions of Windows - there is no loss of speed or features.

As for the iFilter issue, beyond adding a few text file changes for development that I always add, what 'complex' iFilters would or are you adding and changing?


As for indexing size being 'bloated', I have over 1 million documents indexed on this laptop, there is 0% performance loss and it returns results instantly, even complex queries.

Once index is 'done' Windows uses the features of NTFS to monitor for changes and track changes to updates to the indexing. This is why there is no humanly noticeable performance loss when indexing a large amount of content.

You keep referring back to 'one location searching' and this is not how it works and is not necessary. You can add all your computer volumes to the search index if you really want to be able to search C:\Windows\System too.

However, I will say again, if you DO NOT index your entire volume, when you search C:\WIndows\System it is going to be the same speed as WinXP or Win2k - however, you can still use AQS, which you couldn't in XP or 2K.

Seriously, if you want to power user this feature, learn the what the hell you are doing.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Search

Also go to Microsoft and look up Windows Search for the full syntax and features and developer and network features available that might help your dysfunction.

Hmm. You sound like a clueless smartass trying to prove everyone is wrong on the internet and only you are correct.

MsftGaurav said,

Hmm. You sound like a clueless smartass trying to prove everyone is wrong on the internet and only you are correct.

Better than someone displaying their ignorance of a feature 'in detail' and proclaiming it doesn't work based on their inept ability to use something as simplistic as a freaking search.

Want to search for ANYTHING on Volume C: and don't want to fight with the index aspect, try something as simple as this:

Win Key
Type C:\
Press Enter
Ctrl-F
Type fileextension:dll

This will do a traditional CRAWL search like Win2k and show you every freaking DLL on your C:\ hard drive, no matter if it is indexed or not.

It is missing the 'simple things' like this and then proclaiming that search is lost or broken that makes you look ignorant.

thenetavenger said,

Better than someone displaying their ignorance of a feature 'in detail' and proclaiming it doesn't work based on their inept ability to use something as simplistic as a freaking search.

Want to search for ANYTHING on Volume C: and don't want to fight with the index aspect, try something as simple as this:

Win Key
Type C:\
Press Enter
Ctrl-F
Type fileextension:dll

This will do a traditional CRAWL search like Win2k and show you every freaking DLL on your C:\ hard drive, no matter if it is indexed or not.

It is missing the 'simple things' like this and then proclaiming that search is lost or broken that makes you look ignorant.

So whatever you don't need, you just declare others needing it as doing it wrong! That's fair. /s

Besides having AQS and SQL interfaces, developer accessible, network host query/results, can search INSIDE data stores/files, has service/network interfaces, and can keep millions of documents indexed and accessible instantly...

The author is insanely stupid...

Here Read:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Search

The Search system in Windows Vista, 7, 8 - is using the WinFS Index components, that keeps track of everything on your system. (Microsoft did not use the Database storage aspect of WinFS, which is why it is UNIVERSAL form across networks to even cloud services.)

Portions of Windows NEED the Search system, and when it is disabled, system performance suffers considerably, because it can issue queries to other computers in the network, or ask for data store information that Windows Search has indexed, and on and on...

Wow...

Ranking of documents in Windows Search is still very poor. Another issue is that WS uses a lot of I/O so even on SSD you won't get instant results.

lexp said,
Ranking of documents in Windows Search is still very poor. Another issue is that WS uses a lot of I/O so even on SSD you won't get instant results.

Oh no it uses lots of I/O! So you expect to have a desktop search engine *without* it using I/O to first of all index the files during quiet CPU times???

Having looked at utilizing Windows Search technology in commercial software I agree with the previous commenter that the author simply hasn't got their facts straight. Windows Search performs well up to about 60 million results - which is far more files than your average user is ever likely to accumulate.

thenetavenger said,
Besides having AQS and SQL interfaces, developer accessible, network host query/results, can search INSIDE data stores/files, has service/network interfaces, and can keep millions of documents indexed and accessible instantly...

The author is insanely stupid...


Hi, maybe I have a weak mind but I think there is no reason to call me "insanely stupid" by what I wrote in my editorial.
I am well aware how the indexing engine works in Windows NT6 (Vista) and later.
Infact if you would have read the editorial properly you would see that I am well aware what AQS means, I said this in the article:
"I'm well aware that it's possible to do advanced searches in Windows 7, so much that a link to Advanced Search Query Syntax is at the top of my bookmarks. However, that is the problem right there, how come it needs to be so cumbersome and inaccessible? Why not integrate it into the interface?"

My gripe is with the user interface, here is another quote: "Enter Windows 7 and search has yet again been "improved." Honestly, the search as you type functionality is an obvious usability enhancement, as is the lack of dogs, balloon tooltips and other such nonsense!"

Let me put it simply, look at the screenshot of the default search window in Win2K, you can search for allot of details without resorting to having look up how to search for something using AQS, which by the way I have another huge gripe with: It is OS language dependent, so if it's a US English workstation you would type "from:someone" to find a mail from someone, but "från:someone" if the OS happens to be the Swedish variant, which is yet another reason I never manage to learn the AQS more complex variables.
But then again why should I need to?
It could be easily integrated into the user interface.
You seem hell bent on proving how useful the system is, I'm not arguing with you that the underlying indexing engine is great.
But what is a great engine if you put it into a crappy chassis to use a car analogy?
If the average user can't use the search platform how is it then useful?
Or do you think the 250 employees at my company all know AQS by heart?

I wrote this comment at Techspot for another user but it applies here aswell:
For example I have one file named: dogbone profile.docx
I can find it by searching for just: .docx
And I can find it by searching for: dogbone
But I can not find it by searching for just: bone
To do that I need to add the asterisk, so this works: *bone
And that is what I meant by the quote "That's not so bad you might say, but why make the change, and why isn't it consistent? Why can I find UltraVNC if I search for "Ultra" without an asterisk at the end of the string but not find it if I search for "VNC" without an asterisk at the beginning?"

I am also well aware that the indexing engine works across servers and clients, for example if you have a Win7 client and a Server 2008 machine searches performed on a mapped drive from the client will also be instant because they utilize the index of the server.
But this requires the server to do indexing properly, I work at a company with over 250 employees and saw problems with indexing on our servers years ago when I upgraded from XP to Win7 on my workstation.
I tried to help the IT dept troubleshoot this but we did not find a solution, however 5 months ago I found this link and sent it to them, nothing has been fixed yet though: http://windows.microsoft.com/e...-frequently-asked-questions
I can lead a horse to water but I can't force it to drink.
I think the issue is that some files are not owned by SYSTEM and thus can not be indexed, thus forcing me to login to a OS based on Windows NT5 (Like Win2K or XP) to perform the search, because it's AFAIK impossible to not use the index when searching a network drive where both the client and server supports indexing.
An example: http://hem.spray.se/hanzzzon/Win7Client-2008Server.png

Edited by Per Hansson, Nov 8 2012, 6:22pm :

Am I the only person who never uses Windows search, ever? I have always had numerous partitions and drives and thousands of saved files but I know where I keep every one of them. If I need a file I just go to the folder it's in and get it.

I never search within the contents of a file - only for file names. I have noticed that search speed improved in Vista (I like the Search addition to the Start menu), however, the search in Windows 98 would still do fine for me today.

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