After the iFilter pack - re-index or not?

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Do you need to reindex your computer after installing new plug-ins for Windows Search?

” After I install the October 08 iFilters pack do I have to reindex my computer? The download page doesn’t say. Thanks. ” Billy M – Ohio, USA.

That’s a good question and there’s no clear answer. Our best suggestion is to re-index your computer after installing any iFilter plug-in – keeping in mind the time and trouble that can take.

After installing a plug-in for Windows Search the system has the ability to index more documents on your hard drive or perhaps index them in a deeper fashion than previously. However it’s not clear whether Windows Search will look for and index older documents that it can now support (following an IFilter update) or only index new or modified documents in those new formats. This is an important question because you might have many new indexable documents on your computer and if they are not indexed you won’t find them in future searches of your computer.

For example – you have a Windows XP computer with Windows Desktop Search 3.1 (which doesn’t recognize the Word 2007 .docx format) but you have .docx documents in folders or as email attachments in Outlook. You now install the iFilters pack with .docx support. Will Windows Desktop Search re-check your hard drive for the newly supported .docx files and index them? Or will it only index new documents you save or modify in .docx format plus documents that arrive via email?

As we’ve mentioned before, the documentation for Windows Search is so piss-poor (pardon my Anglo-Saxon) or nonexistent that it’s hard to give clear advice. The current docs are so ordinary that a Ouija board might be more help.

Since Microsoft is silent on anything beyond the bare bones of the iFilter existence it seems best to take the prudent course of action and force a re-index of your computer. This will erase the current index and build a new one from scratch.

The problem with this approach is that Windows Search can take a long time operating in the background – even a day to re-index a working computer with many files and emails. In the meantime the search mechanism might not find everything you expect. But at the end of the indexing you can be fairly sure that searches will find everything they are supposed to.

Happily Office Watch has an article with steps to faster indexing with Windows Search Force Windows Index to run faster it’s not simple and you have to undo the settings to return to normal operation afterwards but it’s better than anything provided by Microsoft.


From the ground up

If you’re new to indexing and searching (in our view it’s a sadly under-appreciated part of modern computing) or use it a lot – the arrival of the new iFilters pack might be a good opportunity to re-build your index & search infrastructure from the ground up.

If you don’t have Windows Search 4 then this is an opportunity to update your computer. If you don’t know if you have WS4 then check out our Windows Search 4 feature. While we’re scathing about the inadequacies in both WS4 itself and the loathsome documentation that’s no reason not to use it (while wishing it could be better).

Immediately after installing WS4, install the October 2008 Ifilters pack and any other extras. The highly recommended extra iFilter is for PDF files – that filter can be downloaded from Adobe.com but is probably already on your computer because it comes with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader v7, 8 or 9.

After all the necessary iFilters are installed then let Windows Search index your computer. Leave Outlook 2003 or 2007 running so all you email, appointments, contacts etc will also be indexed.

When all that’s done you’ll be able to find stuff on your computer much faster than in the past.

Some past Office Watch articles have more specific information and tips:

Windows Search 4

Force Windows Index to run faster

Windows Search 4 is barely ready for beta testing

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