Preview of new Windows Search adds cross-PC indexing

A typical lexical search engine creates a single, indexed repository of addressable content, which can get pretty cumbersome to search through unless your name is "Google." Now, Microsoft is shedding a little more light on an alternative.

One very seldom noted project at Microsoft is an offshoot of the old WinFS file system project, and which is slowly seeing the light of day, just through another route: It's the ability for one PC's local search engine database to access another PC's index. Imagine a kind of peer-to-peer distributed search environment rather than a centralized repository, a more "open" approach compared to the more organic, nuclear model that Microsoft attributes to Google.

This morning, Microsoft opened the shutters just a bit more, giving users a peek at how distributed search might work, at least on a very local scale. The feature is being tested in the wild for the first time as part of its Windows Search 4.0 Preview (the "Desktop" moniker is being dropped, perhaps in response to consumer confusion over whether there's a "laptop version").


Windows Vista product manager Nick White this morning introduced "Remote Index Discovery for PC-to-PC search to work on every supported version of Windows. This makes finding information on other PCs running Windows Search 4.0 quick and less resource-consuming. Now Windows Search can find information shared on a remote PC by accessing an index on that PC -- and you will open files only when relevant to your search."

Windows Desktop Search today can find files on remote computers in a local network, but only if they're locally indexed. That hasn't always been the plan, but it was the most expedient way to launch the local Search feature at the time. The new system will enable remote indexes to introduce themselves and share contents over that local loop.

The supported Windows versions to which White referred are: Vista Service Pack 1, XP SP2 or later (assuming that day ever comes), Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 SP2, all earlier 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003, and Windows Home Server.

Another key feature uncovered through a check of the release notes is support for Microsoft's Encrypting File System (EFS), which has a moderate footprint in many businesses. All versions of the Windows Search 4.0 Preview may be downloaded from this page.

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