Archive for the ‘Windows Search’ Category

Everything vs Agent Ransack vs SearchMyFiles vs File Finder   3 comments

  • This is not a performance/benchmark comparison.
  • I have been looking for the ultimate 3rd party search tool. I have tried Everything, Agent Ransack, SearchMyFiles, and File Finder.
  • Some of these search tools are a great alternative to using Windows Search, however, some are much better than the others.
  • In my opinion, a useful 3rd party search tool must have the following features:
  • search for files by filename.
  • search for files by file content.
  • limit the scope of the search to a specific folder (including all sub-folders).
  • limit the scope of the search to specific file types, for example, search for *.h and *.cpp files containing the text “hello”.
  • search within Microsoft Office file content (this may require an iFilter plugin, thats acceptable).
  • search within PDF file content (this may require an iFilter plugin, thats acceptable).
  • a nice, clean, and well organized UI.
  • if searching for file content, it should showing a portion of the content where the matching criteria is found.
  • the user should not have to read a farking manual or learn regular expressions to figure out how to use any of the above mentioned features.
  • and last but not least, it needs to be FAST!
  • If you don’t want to read the entire article then use Agent Ransack, its the best.

Agent Ransack (highly recommended):

  • Link (download and install and use at your own risk): http://www.mythicsoft.com/agentransack
  • search by filename = yes
  • search for file content = yes
  • limit scope to specific folder = yes. Also, subfolders are optional, and you can select multiple folders.
  • limit scope to specific file types = yes
  • search within Office files = yes (worked without any iFilter plugin)
  • search within PDF files = yes (worked without any iFilter plugin)
  • intuitive UI = yes
  • shows portion of found file content = yes. You have to select the search result item, and it displays a portion in the bottom right corner of the window
  • fast = yes
  • too many options = no
  • too few options = no
  • Conclusion: its very fast, searches by filename and file content, searches within Office and PDF files. Very good!

SearchMyFiles (partially recommended):

  • Link (download and install and use at your own risk): http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/search_my_files.html
  • search by filename = yes
  • search for file content = yes
  • limit scope to specific folder = yes. Also, subfolders are optional, and you can select multiple folders
  • limit scope to specific file types = yes
  • search within Office files = yes (worked without any iFilter plugin)
  • search within PDF files = no (still did not work even after installing the iFilter plugin)
  • intuitive UI = yes
  • shows portion of found file content = yes. A portion is displayed with each search result
  • fast = yes
  • too many options = yes. The initial search window is very cluttered
  • too few options = no
  • Conclusion: its very fast, searches by filename and file content, searches within Office documents but not PDF files. Very good, but Agent Ransack is better.

File Finder (partially recommended):

  • Link (download and install and use at your own risk): http://www.mcrenox.com.ar/filefinder/
  • search by filename = yes
  • search for file content = yes
  • limit scope to specific folder = yes
  • limit scope to specific file types = yes
  • search within Office files = no (still did not work even after installing the iFilter plugin)
  • search within PDF files = no (still did not work even after installing the iFilter plugin)
  • intuitive UI = yes
  • shows portion of found file content = no
  • fast = yes. Its the only 3rd party search tool that I know of that specifically mentions that its multi-threaded. It is very fast at searching for filenames. It has been my experience that the search results appear almost instantaneously after clicking search
  • too many options = no
  • too few options = yes. It does not remember the selected folder, filespec, or file content keywords between instances
  • Conclusion: its very fast, searches by filename and file content, but does not search within Office documents nor PDF files. Except for Everything, its faster than all the others at searching by filenames.
  • I still partially recommend this app even though it has some issues. I like the fact that its almost as fast as Everything but does not index my files. I like the fast that its multi-threaded, although I’m not sure if that causes any extra wear and tear to the harddrives. Overall it seems to be a very well designed app that just needs a few minor fixes.

Everything (partially recommended):

  • Link (download and install and use at your own risk): http://www.voidtools.com/
  • search by filename = yes
  • search for file content = no
  • limit scope to specific folder = yes, but the usage is not very intuitive. I had to read the FAQ to figoure it out
  • limit the scope to specific file types = yes, but the usage is not very intuitive. I had to read the FAQ to figure it out
  • search within Office files = no
  • search within PDF files = no
  • intuitive UI = no (the usage for some features in explained in the FAQ and there is absolutely nothing in the UI to hint about how to use it)
  • shows portion of found file content = no
  • fast = YES!!! It is very fast. It has been my experience that the search results are sometimes displayed as I type
  • too many options = no
  • too few options = yes
  • Conclusion: it doesn’t search for file content, so in my opinion its useless. The UI sucks, all you get is 1 editbox to enter the search criteria. There is nothing intuitive about it. However, if you just want to search by filename it is very fast.
  • I still partially recommend this app only because it is very fast at searching for filenames, but thats it. If you want to do anything else then don’t waste your time with this one.

Conclusion:

  • If you are looking for a 3rd party search tool to replace use of Windows Search, to search by either filenames or file content, then I recommend Agent Ransack or SearchMyFiles.
  • Agent Ransack has less options than SearchMyFiles but the UI is much cleaner and more intuitive.
  • SearchMyFiles has more options than any of the others, but the initial window where you type in your search criteria has all the options on it, its cluttered, and in my opinion overly complicated for any non-super-user. SearchMyFiles does not search within PDF files, even with the iFilter plugin.
  • So if you want simple then use Agent Ransack. If you want every conceivable search option and don’t care how overly complicated the UI is, then use SearchMyFiles.
  • File Finder also does very well at searching by file content, however it does not search within Office documents nor PDF files, even with the iFilter plugins.
  • If all you care about is searching for filenames, then I would recommend Everything or File Finder.
  • Everything is fast because it indexes the files.
  • File Finder is fast because its multi-threaded.
  • In my opinion, File Finder is much better than Everything, however that is just from my own personal tastes. I like the File Finder UI much better, and even though it has some issues I like the fact that it produces almost instantaneous search results without having to index my files.

TODO:

Windows 7 search explained   Leave a comment

This is the missing manual on Windows 7 search. I have tried to separate this article into 2 sections: 1) how to use Windows 7 search for the typical non-super-user, and 2) everything you ever wanted to know about Windows 7 search (and then some).

I am documenting with exhaustive detail how to use it, what the expected behavior should be, why sometimes it doesn’t work as expected, why sometimes it completely fails, and what can be done to improve the results. I know because I have a PhD in Windows Search :)

Windows Search can be very finicky. I have had some minor issues, but overall I have had very good luck with using it. It is not 100% reliable. It is not kickass. I neither recommend it, nor recommend avoiding it. For me it works, and it works very well, so I am sharing my knowledge on the subject. I honestly feel that the Microsoft team responsible for this feature took a major step in the wrong direction. It is much faster than the Windows XP search, but it is not as reliable. They should have just kept the search feature as it was in Windows XP and used the “query the catalog” feature that was already in Windows XP to obtain instantaneous results.

UPDATE 8/14/2013:

  • I have discovered a technical issue with Windows 7 search which might explain why it does not work as expected.
  • If you initiate a search and are prompted “Searches might be slow in non-indexed locations: X. Click to add to index…” do not click!
  • When you add a location to the index, that location is not available for searching until the SearchIndexer.exe has finished scanning all the files in that newly added location (including all sub-folders). Depending on how many files are located in the newly added location, it may take a few hours for the search indexer to finish scanning.
  • The search indexer is fast, however, if you add a location that contains a huge amount of files, it could take a long time to finish scanning, and the search indexer pauses during user activity.
  • If you attempt to do any searching within the newly added location(s) while the search indexer is still scanning, there will be no search results.
  • I can replicate this 100% on demand.
  • My suggestion is to avoid adding additional locations to the index if you are planning on searching those locations anytime soon. If you do add additional locations, be sure to allow the search indexer plenty of time to finish scanning the newly added locations (including all sub-folders).
  • If you do something like add a location which contains a huge amount of files, just leave the computer on for a few hours without using it. The search indexer will only scan you files when you are not using your computer. Moving the mouse around counts as user activity so don’t do that.

Alternative 3rd party software:

  • I still use Windows 7 search and prefer it over any of the 3rd party search tools I’ve ever used. However, not everyone has had the same good luck with using it that I have.
  • I’ll mention this now, in case you are just looking for an alternative to Windows 7 search.
  • I have reviewed a few 3rd party search tools. Read all about it here.

How to use Windows 7 search for the typical non-super-user:

  • First, decide if you want to use Windows 7 search for file and folder name searches, or file content searches.
  • For file and folder name searches, just open My Computer, browse into the most likely hard-drive, and type in your search criteria (you can use ?  and * wildcards) into the search box. Results may appear as you type, or may take a few minutes, depending on where the file is located. Its that simple!
  • For file content searches with a single keyword, within files such as Word documents, RTF, or TXT files, located in your user folder or any subfolder (such as Documents, Pictures, etc), or within your Outlook/Mail messages, just click Start and type a single keyword in the search box. Results should appear as you type, or within a few seconds.
  • If you want to search within PDF files, you must have either Adobe Acrobat Reader v8 or an Adobe or 3rd party iFilter plugin. Get the Adobe iFilter plugin 64-bit version: PDF v9: here, PDF v11: here. If you have Adobe Reader v8 or later installed, you do *NOT* need to install an iFilter plugin.
  • If you want to search for multiple keywords, within other files which are not recognized as plain text files, or within files that are located outside your user folder or any subfolder, then it can get more complicated. Read the section “Searching for file content” below.

Windows 7 vs XP:

  • Searching for files (and file contents) in Windows XP was horribly slow, unless you used the little known search option in Administrative Tools, Services, Search/Indexing Service, [Catalog], Query the Catalog, and used the advanced search option, with the correct advanced search syntax.
  • If you used “Query the Catalog” with the advanced search option with the correct advanced syntax the results were literally instantaneous. Unfortunately, this fast indexed search capability is *NOT* available through the normal Windows XP search!
  • An example of Windows XP advanced search syntax is “@filename=keyword”.
  • The biggest issue with “Query the Catalog” in Windows XP is that its almost completely undocumented, and the search results are not listed within Windows Explorer so you cant right-click and get any useful context menu.
  • The biggest issue with normal Windows XP search (from the start menu) is its horribly slow. I remember waiting sometimes 30-45 minutes for the search results in XP (content search, 7200 RPM harddrive with about 80GB of data).
  • Indexed searching in Windows 7 has basically the same instantaneous performance as “Query the Catalog” in Windows XP.
  • Unfortunately, Windows 7 does not have anything close to the UI from the normal Windows XP search. Windows 7 basically forces you to use search filters, which must either be typed in or some of them can be selected in the search box drop-down menu.
  • Some of the most important search options that were in Windows XP are not available in Windows 7, such as: case-sensitive, include hidden folders, index files without extensions.
  • Instead of having to use very limited and undocumented advanced search syntax in Windows XP, you can choose from a huge list of search filters in Windows 7. These search filters are not officially documented anywhere that I can find, but it is a huge improvement over the advanced search syntax in Windows XP.
  • Some (not all) of the search filters can be selected by using a UI, you don’t have to memorize the syntax or type them in.
  • The syntax of the new search filters is fairly intuitive and easy to use.
  • You only need to memorize a few search filters, such as “folder:foldername” or “content:keyword” to find exactly what you are looking for.

Indexed (fast) vs Non-Indexed (slow) searching:

  • Windows automatically indexes file directories and file contents based on the settings in Control Panel, Indexing Options.
  • Some files will be indexed for file and folder name searches. Out of those files, some of them will also be indexed for file content searches.
  • The content indexer service runs automatically in the background, and pauses automatically during user activity so you shouldn’t notice it slowing down your computer. The method used by Windows 7 search to pause during user activity is much improved compared to XP. I have never noticed it doing anything when I’m using my computer, never noticed it causing my computer to run slower.
  • Windows Search will automatically first attempt to find the search criteria within the indexed content. This is extremely fast.
  • If you are searching for a file, and that file has been indexed, the search results should appear almost instantaneously.
  • After searching the indexed content, it will automatically begin a non-indexed search of the same location.
  • Searching non-indexed locations and file types can be very slow.
  • There are special requirements for both indexed and non-indexed searches.
  • If these requirements are not met this will prevent the search from finding anything. Read carefully!

Requirements for any search:

  • The indexing service is enabled and running.
  • You are not running 3rd party software which is known to interfere with the indexing service, such as McAfee anti-virus.
  • You are using the correct search syntax.
  • You must select a valid location for the scope of the search. “My Computer” does not seem to be a valid location, you must browse into a hard-drive or other location.
  • The file you are looking for must be located in the selected location (including subfolders). For example, if a file you are looking for is located on Drive D, but you initiate your search from Windows Explorer in Drive C, it will not find it.

Requirements for Indexed (fast) search:

  • The indexing service has already indexed the files you are looking for. The content indexer service is extremely fast at indexing files, however, it pauses during user activity.
  • If you have just created, renamed, or moved a file, you may have to wait a few seconds without doing anything, before the content indexer service will index the file.
  • The files you are looking for (file/folder name *OR* file content) must be located within locations listed in the Control Panel, Indexing Options, “Included Locations” list.
  • For file content searches the file types containing the data you are looking for must be listed in Control Panel, Indexing Options, Advanced, File Types, and the option “Index Properties and File Contents” must be selected for that file type.

Requirements for Non-Indexed (slow) search:

  • The files can be located anywhere.
  • For file content searches the file types containing the data you are looking for must be listed in Control Panel, Indexing Options, Advanced, File Types, and the option “Index Properties and File Contents” must be selected for that file type. Yes, this does apply to non-indexed searches!

Before you begin:

  • When searching, you are technically always specifying at least 3 things, even if you are unaware of it:
    • # 1 Location scope of the search (where to look in).
    • # 2 Search criteria (what to look for).
    • # 3 Is the search criteria file/folder names, file content/properties, or both?
  • If you can properly identify these three things before initiating your search, it will help you identify which search filters to use.
  • Windows 7 search, by default, searches for both file/folder names and file content only in indexed locations. Searches in non-indexed locations are file/folder names only, not file content, unless you use a search filter.
  • Windows 7 search, by default, uses “loose” matching, meaning it will search for matches that *CONTAINS* your search criteria, not an exact match. For exact match you must use a search filter.
  • Initiating a search from Start Menu, will only search the Start Menu, your user folder and all subfolders, Outlook messages, and the Control Panel.
  • Initiating a search from Windows Explorer in “My Computer” location, does not seem to find anything. No joke!
  • Browse into the most likely hard-drive and initiate your search from there.
  • If you don’t find what you’re looking for and want to search other hard-drives, click the “custom…” link below the search results and select other drives.

Initiating a search:

  • Click Start and use the search box, this will default to location scope to the start menu, your user folder and all subfolders, Outlook messages, and the control panel. (not recommended).
  • -OR-
  • Launch Windows Explorer and browse into a hard-drive or other location (recommended).
  • -OR-
  • Press Win+F and select a hard-drive or other location in the address bar.
  • -OR-
  • Click on the desktop, press F3, and select a hard-drive or other location in the address bar.

Initiating a search from the Start Menu:

  • You can search from the start menu, however, the start menu only shows a limited number of search results.
  • You must click the “See more results” link which opens Windows Explorer and then shows the full search results.
  • It does not search your entire computer, it only searches within the start menu, your user folder and all sub-folders, and the control panel.
  • I personally find it faster and more convenient to just initiate the search from Windows Explorer and browse into the most likely hard-drive.

Searching for file and folder names:

  • To search for file or folder names, go to Windows Explorer, browse into the most likely hard-drive, and type in “name:keyword” (without the quotes) in the search box and press enter.
  • Using “name:” is optional, however, it makes searching much faster because it prevents Windows Search from also searching the indexed locations for file content.
  • If the files or folders you are searching for are located within the Control Panel, Indexing Options, “Included Locations” list, then the search results should appear almost instantaneously.
  • If the files or folders you are searching for are located outside the “Included Locations” list, then the search will be very slow.
  • You can use ? and * wildcards.
  • Anything you type in will use used for loose file and folder name matching, unless you use a specific search filter.
  • If you don’t find what you’re looking for and want to search other hard-drives, click the “custom…” link below the search results and select other drives.

Searching for file content:

  • To search for file content, launch Windows Explorer, browse into the most likely hard-drive, and type “content:keyword” (without the quotes) in the search box and press enter.
  • Using wildcard characters (such as ? and *) does work with content searches, however they cannot be used to substitute part of a word. For example, using content:*melon will *NOT* find files containing “watermelon”.
  • It is unnecessary to use ? or * wildcard characters unless you are searching for a phrase, which is described in the next section below. For example, content:keyword is the same as using content:*keyword* or content:”*keyword*”
  • The file types (based on file extension) of the file(s) containing the content you are looking must be listed in Control Panel, Indexing Options, Advanced, File Types *AND* the option “Index Properties and File Contents” must be selected for that file type.
  • If the option “Index Properties only” is selected for a specific file type, then file content searches will not work with that file type.
  • All registered file extensions should be listed in file types list, however, most files are automatically set to “Index Properties Only” not “Index Properties and File Contents”.
  • Only some files types which are know to contain plain text are automatically set to “Index Properties and File Contents”.
  • Just because a file contains plain text does not mean that “Index Properties and File Contents” will automatically be selected for that file type. For example, xhtml files are automatically set to “Index Properties Only” even though xhtml files contain plain text.
  • Do not assume any file types have “Index Properties and File Contents” selected, always check.
  • If you don’t find what you’re looking for and want to search other hard-drives, click the “custom…” link below the search results and select other drives.
  • More search filters are explained in the table below.

Change search behavior to always search both file/folder names and content:

  • You can change the search behavior to always search both file/folder names and content.
  • Go to Control Panel, Folder Options, Search tab.
  • This makes no distinction between filenames and file content.
  • If this option is enabled, it automatically applies the content filter to your search criteria.
  • For example, with this option enabled, if you type in “keyword”, it is essentially the same as “content:keyword OR name:keyword”.

Narrowing results by location:

  • If you want to narrow the results of your search by location, simply browse within Windows Explorer to the folder you want to search within.
  • This will limit the scope of the search to the current folder and all sub-folders.
  • If you want to search all your files, then open Windows Explorer and browse into the most likely hard-drive, perform the search, then click the “custom…” link below the search results, and add other drives.
  • I am not aware of any better way to do this, because initiating a search from “My Computer” does not seem to do anything.

Searching for newly created, renamed, or moved files:

  • If you just recently created, renamed, or moved the file which contains the content you are looking for, you may have to wait a few seconds without doing anything, for the content indexer service to index the file.
  • This also applies to renaming or moving folders which are anywhere up the file path tree of the file you are looking for.
  • If you have already initiated a search on a newly created, moved, or renamed file, the search may show “No items match your search.”
  • However, it is possible that the search is still working. You can check this using Task Manager. If Explorer.exe is taking up unexplained CPU time, then most likely the search is still working and you may get results within a few minutes.
  • Sometimes its just easier to cancel the search, try waiting 2-3 seconds without doing anything (including moving the mouse around), then try your search again.
  • It doesn’t make sense why it shows not results but its still working. This may explain the numerous reports of Windows Search failing to find files which are known to exist.

Searching using filters:

  • Most of the search filters listed in this table are easier to create using the nice user interface in Windows Explorer, instead of typing the text in manually.
  • By simply clicking in the search box, a pop-up menu appears with links for creating filters based on date, size, etc.
  • Some of the search filters listed in this table only make sense when combined with other filters. For example, it doesn’t make sense to search for “type:=directory” unless you also combine the criteria with at least one other filter, such as “type:=directory AND name:help” (not a very good example, keep reading).
  • When combining filters, you should also check to see if there is a single filter that would accomplish the same thing. For example, instead of “type:=directory AND name:help” you could use “folder:help”.
  • Windows Explorer will colorize search filter text in blue as you type, so if the text turns black as you type you probably misspelled something.
  • All search filters (except for operators AND OR NOT) are case insensitive.
Criteria Syntax/Example
“Loose” File/folder name matching just type it in, can use ? * wildcards
or
name:filename
or
name:foldername
“Loose” folder-only name matching folder:foldername
or
folderpath:foldername
File/folder name (exact match) name:=filename.ext
or
name:=foldername
Specific file type type:=.ext
or
type:=directory
or
type:=registered file type description
example:
type:=compressed (zipped) folder
File content content:keyword
or
content:”search for a phrase
or
content:search?for?a?phrase
Date created (exact date) datecreated:8/2/2012
Date created (range) datecreated:8/2/2012..8/3/2012
Date created (before) datecreated:<8/2/2012
Date created (after) datecreated:>8/2/2012
Date created prior to the current year datecreated:a long time ago
Date created within the current year datecreated:earlier this year
Date created within the current month datecreated:earlier this month
Date created within the current week datecreated:earlier this week
Date created yesterday datecreated:yesterday
Date created today datecreated:today
Date modified (exact date) datemodified:8/2/2012
Date modified (range) datemodified:8/2/2012..8/3/2012
Date modified (before) datemodified:<8/2/2012
Date modified (after) datemodified:>8/2/2012
Date modified prior to the current year datemodified:a long time ago
Date modified within the current year datemodified:earlier this year
Date modified within the current month datemodified:earlier this month
Date modified within the current week datemodified:earlier this week
Date modified yesterday datemodified:yesterday
Date modified today datemodified:today
Size in megabytes (larger than) size:>1MB
Size in megabytes (smaller than) size:<1MB
Size in megabytes (approximate) size:=1MB
Size in kilobytes (larger than) size:>1KB
Size in kilobytes (smaller than) size:<1KB
Size in kilobytes (approximate) size:=1KB
Size (range) size:>1MB<1KB
Size is 0KB size:empty
Size is 0-10KB size:tiny
Size is 10-100KB size:small
Size is 100KB-1MB size:medium
Size is 1-16MB size:large
Size is 16-128MB size:huge
Size is >128MB size:gigantic
Category of file here is a partial list:
kind:=calendar
kind:=communication
kind:=contact
kind:=document
kind:=email
kind:=feed
kind:=folder
kind:=game
kind:=instant message
kind:=journal
kind:=link
kind:=movie
kind:=music
kind:=note
kind:=picture
kind:=program
kind:=tv
kind:=saved search
kind:=task
kind:=video
kind:=web history

Combining multiple filters:

  • You can use multiple filters, by separating them with operators.
  • You can optionally separate the keywords by AND, OR, or NOT.
  • Using operator AND is optional, it is the default operator.
  • You can combine AND with NOT, but you cannot combine OR with NOT.
  • Operators are case-sensitive and must be entered in all uppercase.
datemodified:8/2/2012 AND content:DebugBreak
datemodified:8/2/2012 content:DebugBreak
datemodified:8/2/2012 OR content:DebugBreak
datemodified:8/2/2012 AND NOT type:=.cpp
datemodified:8/2/2012 NOT type:=.cpp

Searching for multiple keywords:

  • You can search for multiple keywords by surrounding the keywords with parenthesis.
  • You can optionally separate the keywords by AND, OR, or NOT.
  • Using operator AND is optional, it is the default operator.
  • You can combine AND with NOT, but you cannot combine OR with NOT.
  • Operators are case-sensitive and must be entered in all uppercase.
  • The first two examples are the same, you can omit AND because it is the default operator.
content:(keyword1 keyword2)
content:(keyword1 AND keyword2)
content:(keyword1 OR keyword2)
content:(keyword1 NOT keyword2)

Searching for phrases:

  • There are 2 ways to search for phrases, either surround the phrase with quotes, or separate each word with a ? wildcard character.
  • It is my experience that the first example doesn’t always work as expected. I sometimes get too many results, as if it was searching for each word independently. This issue is intermittent, sometimes it works properly, sometimes it doesn’t, not sure why.
  • The second example, using the ? wildcard character in-between each word seems to be more reliable.
content:"the quick brown fox"
content:the?quick?brown?fox

Searching for a partial word:

  • Normally the file content filter will search for a partial word, but only if you specify the beginning of the word.
  • You can only search for the beginning of the word. I have not found any way to search for the middle or ending of a word.
  • For example:
  • content:water will find files containing “watermelon”.
  • content:melon will *NOT* find files containing “watermelon”, because the beginning of the word must be specified.

Searching for partial words of a phrase:

  • Normally the file content filter will search for partial words but only if you search for 1 keyword.
  • If you want to search for partial words of a phrase, you use content:$<”part1 part2″.
  • This will work if the words are separated by either a space, tab, or comma in the file.
  • It does *NOT* work if there is a period in-between the 2 words in the file.
  • You can only search for the beginning of the word. I have not found any way to search for the middle or ending of a word.
  • For example, if you wanted to find a file which might contain “Mister Potatohead”, but perhaps it was spelled wrong or abbreviated, you could use content:$<”Mist Pota”.
content:$<"partialword1 partialword2"

Searching for file names beginning or ending with…:

  • Normally, file name searches will match criteria anywhere within the file name.
  • The fist example searches for file names that begin with specified text.
  • The second example searches for file names that end with the specified text.
name:~<text
name:~>text

Reserved characters:

  • The following characters are reserved as wildcard characters and it is impossible to search for them as literal characters in file content searches or file and folder name searches:
  • I have not found any way to escape these characters to search for them literally.
  • There are probably a lot more, these are the ones that I am aware of:
? * [ ] ( )

Searching within a files’ properties:

  • Properties are different depending on the file type, and you need to know if the property is text, date, or number.
  •  For example, you can search image files by dimensions by searching for “dimensions:=1024×768″.
  • Since each file type has its own properties, its impossible to list them all here.

Searching for unspecified properties:

  • You can search for unspecified properties using =[] however, I’m not sure how useful this is.
type:=.doc AND subject:=[]

Date format:

  • When entering dates, use the date format which matches your control panel, region and language settings.
  • There is one exception to this, years should always be entered as 4 digits.

Indexed (fast) searching of network folders on file server:

  • There is only one proper way to do this: using the Windows Search Service on the server.
  • If the network folder is a shared folder on Windows Server 2008 or later, make sure the Windows Search Service is installed and make sure the shared folder is listed in the Control Panel, Indexing Options, “Included Locations” list.
  • Windows Server 2008, by default and depending on which roles were selected during initial install, may not have the “Windows Search Service” installed.
  • To install Windows Search Service (on the server):
    • Go to Start, right-click Computer, select Manage.
    • Right-click the File Services role, select Add New Role.
    • Select the Windows Search Service, click next.
    • Do *NOT* select any volumes, click ok.
  • After a few minutes of user inactivity, the content indexer will start indexing the files in the default locations, which will include any shared folders.
  • Adding new shared folders on the server may not automatically add the folder to the Control Panel, Indexing Options, “Included Locations” list. You should always check the list after adding a new shared folder.
  • You may have to wait (a few hours) until the content indexer finishes indexing the contents of the files which contain the data you are looking for.
  • Once the content indexer has finished the initial indexing, any subsequent changes to the files in the shared folder should be indexed almost immediately. User activity (on the server) will pause the content indexer.
  • Open Windows Explorer (on your local workstation), browse to the shared folder, and type in your desired search criteria in the search box and press enter. Its that simple!
  • You can use any search filters you want, including the file content (content:keyword) filter.
  • Prior versions of Windows Server have “Indexing Service” which may not be remote compatible with Windows Search on your local workstation. I have not tried remote indexed searches on Windows 2003 Server with Windows 7, so I don’t know if its possible.

Indexed (fast) searching of network folders on Ethernet drive or NAS:

  • If the drive has a USB/Firewire connection, plug it directly into a PC (Windows 7 or Windows 2008 server or later) and setup the drive as a shared folder. Read the above section about searching file servers.
  • If its Ethernet only, throw it away or donate it to someone who has no desire for indexed searching of its contents.
  • Some other people have recommended copying the contents of the shared folder to your offline files folder. I think this is a horrible idea. If you have multiple people doing the same thing on your network, and the contents of the drive change often, you will most likely bring your network to a crawl and burn our your Ethernet/NAS drive. Even if you’re the only person on your network doing this, and the contents of the drive don’t change often, I still cannot recommend doing this.

Locally index contents of a network folder:

  • Causing your local workstation to index the contents of a network folder is a horrible idea.
  • I cannot believe the number of people who want to do this, or think this is a good idea.
  • This cannot be done! Accept that as the answer and stop researching.
  • Even if it was possible, and even if I did know how to do it, I wouldn’t publish the answer.

Non-indexed (slow) searching of network folders:

  • Launch Windows Explorer and browse into the network folder.
  • It does not matter if the network location is a mapped network drive or not.
  • Perform your search. Its that simple.
  • Take a coffee break. Or go to lunch.
  • The best way to improve the speed is to browse as far into the network folder as you can, so that you are limiting the location scope of the search.

Things to avoid: re-indexing the database:

  • If you make changes to the file types listed in Control Panel, Indexing Options, Advanced, File Types, you will be prompted to re-index the database. This can take a few hours, and will only run during user inactivity.
  • Until your files have been re-indexed, any searches will be slow non-indexed searches, file content searches will be extremely slow.
  • The solution is to click *CANCEL* when prompted to re-index the database.
  • If you click cancel, the database will remain intact, your File Type changes will still be committed, and you avoid immediately re-indexing the entire database. The database will be updated automatically during user inactivity. The difference is that it doesn’t have to re-index all your files all over again which could take a few hours.
  • The only time I recommend re-indexing the database is for troubleshooting purposes, or if you have renamed or moved a folder which contains thousands of files which is located in an indexed location.

Permissions???

  • The required file/folder permissions for Windows Search are not officially documented anywhere that I can find.
  • I have not figured out exactly what permissions are necessary.
  • My guess is: for the file(s) which contain the content you are looking for, at an absolute minimum, the following permissions should be allowed (*AND* not denied) on both the parent folder and the file itself:
    • read
    • list folder
    • read data
    • read attributes
    • read extended attributes
    • read permissions
  • Windows Search will still display results from within folders which “list folder contents” has been denied for your windows user account. This doesn’t make sense to me.
  • The Windows Search Service seems to run as SYSTEM, and the search results do not seem to take into consideration your Windows user account permissions. This means you can do content searches within other users’ “private” non-encrypted files which you do not normally have access to. Oops!

Troubleshooting:

  • If Windows Search is not working as expected, here are some things to try:
  • If you have recently moved, renamed, or modified the file, then wait a few seconds without doing anything, then try again. Windows needs to detect a undocumented duration of user inactivity before it will rescan files for the content indexer. Moving the mouse around counts as user activity, don’t do that. Try waiting 2 seconds and try again.
  • Try initiating your search from the root directory of the most likely hard-drive, not a subfolder, not from My Documents, not from within a Library.
  • Check the registry enty:
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced\Start_SearchFiles = 2 (type = DWORD).
  • Check the registry:
  • KEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer for any entries beginning with “NoSearch” and delete them.
  • Make sure the indexing service is running. Press Win+R, type “services.msc” and look for “Windows Search”. The status should say “Started” and the startup type should be “Automatic (delayed start)”.
  • Make sure to create exclusions in your anti-virus software for the search executables and data directory:
    • c:\windows\system32\searchfilterhost.exe
    • c:\windows\system32\searchindexer.exe
    • c:\windows\system32\searchprotocolhost.exe
    • c:\program data\microsoft\search
  • Disable all resident anti-virus, resident anti-spyware, resident backup, and resident file/folder synchronization software. I am only suggesting this as a troubleshooting step to determine if your anti-virus or other software is interfering with the content indexer service. Something to try if all else fails.
  • There are numerous reports of McAfee anti-virus interfering with Windows Search. If you have McAfee you should try uninstalling it. This is what other people have reported to work.
  • It is possible that a virus or “Zero Access” rootkit has tampered with your file permissions and file ownership preventing the indexing service from accessing those files and folders which contain the information you are looking for.
  • Verify you are using the correct search syntax. Be very careful when using the equals symbol ( = ). The equals symbol only works with a few specific search filters. This changes the search filters from a loose match to exact match. If you use the equals symbol with a search filter that does not support it, it will not find anything. There is no warning to inform you of something wrong.
  • If you are attempting to perform a search while the search services is currently indexing files, you may get unpredictable results. You should know if the search service is currently indexing files or not by the constant 100% hard-drive activity. The search service is extremely fast at indexing files, so just wait a few seconds and it will probably be finished, then start your search.
  • If you’re a power user, and you do not want to wait for the content indexer service to index newly created, renamed, or moved files, do some research on “DisableBackoff” and try enabling it, its disabled by default. Do this at your own risk. Dont mess with any of the other registry entries.

REF:

Windows 7 search – does not return file contents – continued

Advanced tips for searching in Windows

Find a file or folder

Posted August 2, 2012 by Ed Nafziger in Windows Search

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