Microsoft Previews Windows Search 4.0

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2008-03-27 Print this article Print

The update to Windows Search fixes most of the bugs users have reported since the system was released to manufacturing, a product manager claims.

Microsoft has made a public preview of Windows Search 4.0, the next version of desktop search for Windows, available for download.

Windows Search is the desktop search engine for Windows Vista and Windows XP, and allows users to search for files, photographs, e-mail and Word documents on their PCs.

Microsoft released on March 27 the Multilingual User Interface Pack and Windows Search 4.0 Preview for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, all of which can be downloaded here.

"With Windows Search 4.0, the Windows Search Team has fixed most of the reported bugs causing a majority of distractions users have seen since Windows Vista was released to manufacturing-many of those bugs were reported by you," Nick White, a product manager, said in a post on the Windows Vista team blog.

Improving desktop search has become increasingly important to Microsoft, particularly as it lags behind Google on this front. If Microsoft succeeds in its bid to acquire Yahoo, that could help close the gap with Google in desktop search and advertising and, thanks to Yahoo's strong mobile presence, could possibly even help Microsoft gain an advantage over Google.

According to a Knowledge Base article published March 27, the search engine in Windows Search 4.0 is a Microsoft Windows service that is also used by programs such as Outlook 2007 and OneNote 2007. "You can use this search engine to index a program's content and to obtain instant results when you search in a particular program," it said.

Windows Search 4.0 brings improvements both for consumers and IT professionals managing enterprise environments, including improved performance when indexing Exchange in online mode, with fewer packets being sent and fewer RPC (remote procedure call) calls being made. This has the added benefit of putting less load on the Exchange server, White said.

Sources say Microsoft is taking aim at Google with a not-so-secret project code-named Albany. Click here to read more.

Support for Group Policy settings has been extended and improved, and a per-user policy is now supported. Windows Search 4.0 also now supports EFS (Encrypting File System) and will index encrypted files.

"A user can search for them in the same user interface and through the same user experience as seen with regular, unencrypted files. IT professionals can expect a smooth deployment for Windows Search 4.0 and easier support," White said.

Microsoft has been doing a lot to improve the performance and reliability of Windows Vista since the operating system was made widely available in January 2007. In December 2007, the Windows Serviceability Team released a preview update to be included in Vista SP1 that the team said improved Vista's performance and reliability.

On the consumer front, Windows Search 4.0 also brings improved performance, with even this preview version having a query response time about 33 percent faster than search queries in Windows Vista, while Remote Index Discovery for PC-to-PC search has been extended to work on every supported version of Windows, White said.  

"This makes finding information on other PCs running Windows Search 4.0 quick and less resource-consuming. Now Windows Search can find information shared on a remote PC by accessing an index on that PC-and you will open files only when relevant to your search. This will also work if the user's profile is redirected," White said in the blog post.

Rollback Recovery is another feature that has been added, allowing the search index to roll back to the last known good state, which is useful for handling disc write errors, he said, noting that if an error occurs, only the newly changed files are added to the index, making recovery from system errors less disruptive to the machine or the user.

"With Windows Search 4.0, the Windows Search Team has taken the next step in improving the PC search experience in Windows ... I encourage folks to try out the Windows Search 4.0 Preview and let us know what you think," White said.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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