After rolling out a preview in March, Microsoft rolled out the production version of Windows Search 4.0 last week (see KB940157 for download links). It's a 5.3MB download that runs on Windows XP SP2 and SP3, Windows Vista, Windows Home Server, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008. Both 32-bit and 64-bit editions of these operating systems are supported (which should make XP Professional 64-bit users very happy).
After the performance fiasco that was Windows Desktop Search 3.01, Microsoft has created a very different search tool in Windows Search 4.0. How different?
First, it performs searches much faster. Enter search text, and you'll see matches immediately.
Second, it searches metadata as well as more obvious information such as filenames, extensions, and text contents in files. This is useful for tracking down pictures taken with a particular digital camera. For example, if I search for Kodak, it finds all of the pictures taken with my Kodak digital cameras over the years as well as folder names, filenames, and file contents containing the word Kodak.
Third, it's intelligent. You won't see (or feel) big hits on desktop performance with 4.0 the way you did with 3.01. WS 4.0 achieves far better system performance than its Windows XP predecessor by running as a service and incorporating a back-off feature that slows down indexing as you use the system, and speeds up indexing during idle times, using methods based on the Search feature in Windows Vista.
Fourth, it can search either the current user's folders (desktop) or the web. On Windows XP, WS 4.0 installs a search window on the right side of the toolbar, next to the notification area. Enter text, and it finds results on your system, but click a blank search window, and you can choose whether to search your system or the web for the text you enter next. If you've been looking for a comparable search tool to Vista's for Windows XP, give Windows Search 4.0 a try (it also boosts Vista's search performance). If you don't like it, it's easy to remove through Add/Remove Programs.
Windows Search isn't the only goodie to come out of Redmond this month. To learn what's new for Windows Home Server users, go to page 2.
Windows Home Server Power Pack 1, Data-Corrupting Bugs 0
One of the best potential features in Windows Home Server is its ability to dynamically allocate and deallocate multiple drives to the server, meaning that you can plug in and remove drives as desired to improve storage capacity. Unfortunately, serious data-corruption problems (see KB946676) on WHS systems with more than one hard disk made this a show-stopping bug for many users. Today, ZDNet's Ed Bott reports that the release candidate for WHS Power Pack 1 is now available, and the data-corruption bugs appear to have been squashed - thoroughly.
What's Else Is New
PowerPack 1 also includes many new features:
File paths with more than 240 characters are now supported
Improved storage balancing performance
Improved file copy performance
Proactive health checks for all files during migration
Better checking for orphan shadow copies
More accurate measurement of available storage space
Support for x64 Windows Vista clients
Checks to assure that matching versions of Windows Home Server and Connector (client) software are in use, with automatic updates to correctt mismatched client and server versions
New Windows Home Server Data Backup to backup specified shared files to an external hard disk
Improved Remote Access usability, performance, and reliability improvements
Improved backup reliability
Restore CD now features boot options for systems with 512MB of RAM or more and under 512MB of RAM
Improved music media sharing
Server-specific power management setting enabled by default
Trying WHS PowerPack 1
Because PowerPack 1 is a public beta, you need to visit the Microsoft Connect page for WHS and log in using a Microsoft Hotmail, Passport or Windows Live ID (you can get one free) before you can download WHS PowerPack 1. If you don't have a copy of WHS, you can also download an evaluation version from the same website.
Be sure to download the documentation (available in PDF or MS Word .DOC formats), which also describes tests Microsoft is asking users to run to assure that Power Pack 1 is ready for prime time.