Back in June, Microsoft rolled out Windows Desktop Search 3.01 for Windows XP. Windows Desktop Search is designed to give Windows XP faster, smarter searches on your desktop, and also adds quick access to Microsoft's Live Search website. In our original article, XP Strikes Back with Windows Desktop Search, we suggested giving it a try.
Unfortunately, the price for this freebie was way too high: a lot of readers complained that WDS slowed computers running it to a crawl. In the comments for the original article (see link above), we told you how to boot WDS off your system if you didn't like it.
Now Microsoft Says, "You Will Like It" - and Means It
So, what's Microsoft been up to since June? WDS is still at version 3.01, so it's still slowing down systems. But, like a store that pushes unwanted merchandise out the door with a "buy one, get one free" ad, Microsoft is now shoving WDS at unwilling users with Windows Update. Fortunately, WDS isn't on the list of high-priority updates. Technically, it's an optional software update. However, if your system's configured for the default update setting, Automatic (which downloads and installs everything Windows Update offers you), guess whose Windows XP box will be slowed down next? Yours!
Curse of the Undead Updates
Getting rid of WDS was pretty simple when you installed it yourself (it can usually be uninstalled with Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel). Unfortunately, getting rid of WDS or other programs installed automatically by Windows Update is like playing "Whack-a-Mole, Redmond Edition" - and you don't even get any game tickets.
Uninstall an update provided by Windows Update - and the next time you run Windows Update, it's baaaaack! So, you need to take a multi-pronged approach to blocking any unwanted updates.
Telling Microsoft to "Take That Update and Shove It" - Part 1
If Windows Update hasn't installed WDS yet - good! To keep WDS or other updates you might not want from being installed automatically, open the Automatic Updates icon in Control Panel and make sure the Automatic option (default) is not selected. I use the "Download updates for me" option, but you might prefer the "Notify me" option instead. Either way, you're in control of what gets installed - as long as you also change how you run Windows Update.
Telling Microsoft to "Take That Update and Shove It" - Part 2
Disabling Automatic updates is only half the battle. Regardless of your update settings, if you click the Express button when you run Windows Update, both High-Priority and Optional updates are installed with no chance for you to say, "no way do I want that update!" Instead, click Custom to give yourself the option to say no.
Telling Microsoft to "Take That Update and Shove It" - the Final Chapter
After you click Custom, click the Software, Optional category in the left pane. Clear the checkbox next to Windows Desktop Search so it won't be installed. To prevent it from showing up as a suggested update in the future, click the plus sign to expand the listing. Click the empty checkbox 'Don't show this update again.' Close Windows Update, and the next time you run it, WDS won't be around to bother you anymore. Remember, you can always use the Restore Hidden Updates option if you change your mind.
If you're reading this after installing WDS, cheer up. You can uninstall it or disable it, and then use the preceding sections to prevent it from being reinstalled by Windows Update. WDS runs as a service, so you can disable it by using the Microsoft Management Console:
1. Right-click My Computer
2. Select Manage
3. Click Services and Applications
4. Click Services
5. Scroll down to Windows Desktop Search in the list of services.
6. Right-click it and select Properties.
7. On the General tab, click Stop.
8. Open the Startup type and select Disabled.
9. Click OK.
You can also uninstall it through Add/Remove Programs (as long as you don't remove the uninstall folder). However, if that doesn't work, Microsoft wizard Scott Hanselman suggests a little Regedit magic to to bring back Rover and the rest of the classic XP search gang.