Thursday, October 29, 2009

Windows search is useless

So, one of the worst things about vista is the new search in folders, which doesn't return any matches even when you know they exist. I'm not sure what the logic is there. We recently had a bug report where one video in our app would not play with the WMP control, and the WMP control default view was changed. I fixed the latter issue, but still cannot repro the former on XP. In my attempts to do so, I ran every Windows update available ( I usually never run them because they have broken my PC more often than any malware ever has ). So, today I right click on a folder and choose search and a new dialog appears. I vaugely recall 'windows search' being on that upgrade list....

The new dialog tells me I cannot search the folder I want to as it is 'not indexed'. Funny, I used to be able to just search my hard drive. And there's no UI to help you, you have to go and read the help, then open a dialog, then work out how to add the folder you want to search to the index. Nice one, that makes like SO much better. Well worth the update.

Having indexed my source code folder ( which happens instantly, it seems and therefore seems like something that I could have been asked instead of being told I just plain can't search my own file system ), I now find that the search cannot find the files I want. I KNOW there's some files there that match my search, I just can't see the one I want. A bit more digging and I find out that the actual UI is just a mess. There's a text box, whose purpose I am not sure of, but if I type my term in there, it searches and tells me there were no matches. Maybe it searches the desktop and the UI under searches where I wanted to search ? Either way, yet another piece of totally useless UI and an update that makes things worse, not better.

Stop the presses. There's a button at the bottom called 'search companion'. The 'companion' is the old search, the one that actually works. So if you've accidentally installed this mess, just push that and you'll get a working search again.


  1. Hi Christian,

    I never understood your "...Microsoft, who make their living on average products that copy other ideas but improve the UI, can ..." in the CD burning rant, as I'm seldom impressed by their UI stuff:
    - why can't new Explorer features (modifications to task bar, notify area, ...) not be selectable; as it is a new OS forces its users to a new desktop.
    - why are utilities dumbed down all the time? since Vista disk defragmenter does not offer options any more (and it does no longer move the files to the low end of the partition allowing a partition shrink)?
    - why are user preferences not memorized (such as details view in OpenFileDialog)?
    - why are choice controls (e.g. ComboBox) showing only a small number of items and a scroll bar, using only a fraction of the screen?

    So IMO yes there is an "ease of use issue".


  2. Hi Luc. I guess what I mean is, Microsoft have never been leading edge in any meaningful way, but they have tended to have easy to use UI, although things like the ribbon bar in Office and Vista in general fly in the face of that. In the past, I'd say that Microsoft's success was tied to creating products that were easy to use and had decent UI. Nowadays, I'm not sure what they are doing. I agree with all of the points you raise.

  3. Bravo! I'm not a Microsoft basher for the sake of bashing but the Windows Vista and now 7 search is so bad as to make it untrustworthy so you must use some third party search like ransack or the find in files feature on any non-microsoft text editor.

  4. Basically Windows 7 search is completely useless. Two examples. I have a Word file I use frequesntly with a unique name containin the letters zz. For a long time if I put zz into the search files and folders window in the start menu, the file would be found. suddenly it stopped doing so although the file had not been moved. When I try to search for folders on an external hard drive, the search rarely returns anything for than a very partial result. It is time Micrisoft issued a "fix" for this dire piece of software.

  5. Update the Index by: First click Start and start typing index as you do look at the top for Index Options and click that, then click in the Modify button, usually lower left, if it asks click continue or the password anywhere it pops up, at the Index Locations window click Show all locations once to the Indexed Locations click your hard drives NOT the factory partition click ok the click Advanced then REBUILD ok then I leave it alone until it tells me it's done, if ya got alot on the drives it is going to take awhile and when it is done it will show you how many files where indexed. Enjoy

  6. Guys, you're not alone !!! I don't think that the win vista search is more powerful. It's a sad joke. It doesn't find my files. It's not performing in any way. I had the same problems. But I can't find any helpful tut. For that reason I use a tool ( which enhances the Search. Hopefully Microsoft will improve it quickly. It is unfortunately more and more complicated and third party software is not cheap.