When Windows Search Doesn’t

March 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm Leave a comment

Whaddaya mean you can't find it?!I’m sending this out to all the other Computer Cats out there to see if any cat (or dog) has experienced this problem too. Windows 7 has been out for a couple of years now.  And while I consider Windows 7 to be a big improvement over Vista (and from what I seen, the new Windows 8), there’s been one issue that bugs me more that a pesky flea in my fur.  And that is the way Windows 7 handles searching for programs and documents.

If you haven’t used Windows 7 or Vista, one of the biggest changes Microsoft made from XP is what I call “Universal Searching”. Relying heavily on indexing everything in the computer, (and don’t get me started on indexing) if you type a name in the Search box that’s in the Start menu or the Explorer window, Windows automatically look for programs, files, and even inside documents for that name. Pretty neat, huh? Well, you’d think so until you realize Search doesn’t entirely search your hard drive. Windows 7 decides what you can and won’t find. And that’s the problem I have with Windows 7.

People familiar with using XP’s (or Windows 98 and older) Search know that if you tell XP to search for a file, in the C: drive, XP checks the entire drive. XP doesn’t second-guess you. XP figures you know what you’re doing, that you’re in the driver’s seat, and you don’t need XP for a nanny. Another nice feature of XP’s Advanced Search was the use of wildcards. For you non-geeks, wildcards was a way to force the computer to only look for things that contained certain letters or numbers. For example: typing cat*.doc* would tell XP for only find files that start with the word cat and were either .doc or .docx files.  A very useful and quick resource for us über-geeks and UNIX freaks.

Windows 7 has other ideas about our intelligence. Windows 7 figures you don’t know what the heck you’re doing, and it’s going to be not just your nanny but your prison warden. I found this out when I installed some software and tried to find where in the hard drive it got installed to. “No problem”, I said, “I know the exact name of the executable that runs it. I’ll just have Windows 7 search for that exact name.” Windows 7 had other ideas. After waiting several minutes for the green Search Results to fill up, Windows 7 tells me “nothing’s found”.  At this point my tail starts twitching back and forth.  “Okay, let’s see what if finds if I tell it to Search only my C: drive.” More minutes pass. Nothing found. I had to manually go to the actual directory where the file was before Windows Search finally “found” it!  It wouldn’t be so frustrating if it didn’t happen so often with me.  After much digging, I found out in Microsoft’s “Microsoft 7 Resource Kit” book, that Windows 7 blocks search access to certain directories/folders even if you are the Administrator!  These are mostly the directories used to run Windows and programs–the exact places where I usually have to get at on a regular basis. And Microsoft makes it difficult to remove “Warden Mode”.  Makes troubleshooting computers running Windows 7 a major pain. It’s one thing to be blocked from a file when you have limited permissions, but for Window 7 to block the Administrator level is insulting the intelligence of the IT administrator!  No wonder so many computer techs will just erase your drive and reinstall Windows when you have problems.

While I see lots of accolades on the Internet about Windows 7 Search being much better than Vista, I don’t see any Windows IT administrators mentioning Win 7’s “Warden Mode” and search restrictions. I guess they must have memorized where all their files are and don’t need to use Windows Search.



Entry filed under: computer help, Technology. Tags: , , .

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