Microsoft releases public beta of Windows Search 4.0

Microsoft has just released a public beta of Windows Search 4.0, an update to the existing search technologies in Windows XP and Windows Vista. The knowledge base article lists the main updates as:

  • Support for the Encrypting File System (EFS)
  • Reduced affect on Microsoft Exchange when you index e-mail in online mode, and there is no local cache (.ost) 
  • Support for indexing online delegate mailboxes
  • Support for client-to-client remote query to shared indexed locations (ie you can search other PCs running Windows Search 4.0)  
  • Improved indexing performance
  • Faster previewer updates for Windows XP
  • Per-user Group Policy settings
  • Windows software updates for Watson errors
  • Support for the following new enterprise Group Policy objects:

While this is definitely an update aimed at the enterprise market, most probably removing some disincentives for adoption of Windows Vista too, there are some significant performance benefits to be had for consumers as well.

Installation on Vista took me just a few minutes, and after a reboot the first thing you’ll notice is that nothing has changed. No new icon in the system tray, no splash screen on startup, nadda. You’ll know something is different when you start a search from the taskbar, as results load significantly quicker. Unfortunately I’m unable to search for music files at the moment, but hey that’s why the beta tag is on. If you have your personal folders (Documents/Music etc) mapped to another location, you’ll need to manually add it to the indexer via the Control Panel (thanks Brandon).

This technology is something we’ve spoken about before over a year ago when Steve Ballmer demoed it as Windows Live Search Center. (Quick recap, it was also called OneView and Casino). As Microsoft PR tell MJF, Windows Search 4 provides an "update to Windows search functionality, while Casino was a research project." It just happened to be a research project demoed at the Worldwide Partner Conference. 

Download Windows Search 4.0 Preview