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June 3, 2008

Windows Search 4.0 Released to Web

Not necessarily a “Windows Experience” (although it does improve the Windows Experience) – I’m making this post on behalf of the Windows Search Team. Oh and I am really excited for this release.

Today we released the final version of Windows Search 4.0 to Microsoft Download Center. Windows Search 4.0 updates search in Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Home Server. This release comes after a public Windows Search 4.0 Preview, which was a success thanks to great community participation – with around 300,000 downloads.   Since the Preview was released, a number of quality improvements have been made to the product based on feedback provided by the community.

Download: Windows Search 4.0 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 (x86)

Download: Windows Search 4.0 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 (x64)

More download packages are available on

So, what’s new in this release?

First and foremost: we’ve introduced some performance and reliability improvements. Queries are faster, as is indexing – how much faster depends on your machine and your data. Improved reliability means that system failures won’t get in the way of the indexer and all of your data will be scanned and available for searches.

We’ve also extended remote index discovery, also known as PC-to-PC searches, which allows data to be searched quickly and efficiently across machines running Windows Search 4.0. This means that Windows Vista-to-Windows XP or Windows Vista-to-Windows Server 2008 queries are now possible.

Additionally, Windows Search 4.0 offers manageability improvements that IT Pros should take note of.

For starters, we have extended Group Policy to control more aspects of search functionality and made this control more granular with per-user policies. You can use Group Policy Objects to control how desktop search accesses remote resources – such as Microsoft Exchange Server resources or file shares – to manage network utilization.

Speaking of accessing Microsoft Exchange Server – if your organization selects not to use Microsoft Office Outlook in cached mode, you can set a Group Policy to index Exchange in online mode.  Windows Search 4.0 will then index with minimal impact to the server. Our internal testing of this configuration shows significant decrease in the load on the server and the network as compared to Windows Desktop Search 3.01.

IT Pros can deploy a new link that will be added to the Instant Search UI of Windows Vista (or Windows Search UI on Windows XP) on client PCs and allow the query entered in the search box to access your company’s search server, by opening the search UI of the server in your browser and executing the query in it. With this functionality, users get a single launch pad for all of their searches. For more information on how to add customized links into the instant Search UI, click here.

Based on a large amount of customer feedback, we have added support for indexing files encrypted with EFS. Users in an organization can now encrypt files and still be able to search their contents. When running on Windows Vista, they also can get an additional level of data protection by using BitLocker and storing their index on the protected drive.

Today, Windows Search 4.0 can be downloaded for installation (download links from Microsoft Download Center listed above). If you need Windows Search 4.0 deployed in a large organization, you can use System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or other infrastructure solutions.

In the future, we will make Windows Search 4.0 available on Windows Update as well. At that time you will be able to install Windows Search 4.0 off the update site directly or deploy it in your organization using WSUS.

Once Windows Search 4.0 becomes available on Windows Update various Windows users will experience the following:

  • Windows XP users will see it as an “optional” update, which requires users to select the update for installation.
  • Users running Windows Vista will see the update as “recommended.” By default, recommended updates are installed automatically; however, users can prevent automatic installation of Windows Search 4.0. We will publicly post specific instructions prior to publishing Windows Search 4.0 on Windows Update.
  • On Windows Server 2008, the update will be applicable only if the File Server Role is enabled.

More on the improvements in Windows Search 4.0 can be found here: