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Windows XP Search 4.0

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Firstly, thanks to everybody who helped with the system restore problem in CCleaner from another thread on this forum.


As a result of a couple of people’s suggestion, I am posting this here. It’s not a Piriform issue.

But you did ask!


I am running Windows XP Workstation Professional SP3 , and it's all up to date as far as it can be (or at least as far as I can see). For a number of reasons I don't want to update this machine to a later OS. Most everything else works just fine, except I have a very large mixed format collection of documents. E.g. pdf, word, text, Mht etc.


I know it's unpopular with some, but quite frankly the most comprehensive search product I have used is Windows Search 4.0. With the indexed locations set to email and particular file locations the overhead in indexing is slight once the index is built, and it can be turned off if necessary. The usual complaint that it “slows the machine down”, in my opinion can be rectified simply by confining what it indexes to certain locations. Also there are configurations in the group policy editor that can improve things.


For general named file finding I would recommend Everything from Voidtools (it works like lightning and is FREE!). For limited content search Agent Ransack ( this is another  excellent free product, but because it doesn't use an index can become slow on a large  document store as it searches the content of individual files one by one ). Like most things in IT, it's "horses for courses".


The Windows Search 4.0 was a late addition to XP, and of course has not been updated much from the initial distribution. It could be that this problem is insoluble without a later OS.

Sadly search 4.0 seems inconsistent in getting results; the problem I've noticed lies in finding mht archive files saved either from Firefox (you need an addon for this) or Internet Explorer. It simply finds only some (actually most) of them from the indexed locations. Strangely if you search for "type:mht" search it doesn't find them all. "Everything" for example finds plenty more. However the problem seems to rest with only certain files and I cannot work out what it is about them that causes them not to be found. I have tried Sysinternal's "streams.exe" to remove “blocked files” from “another machine”, makes no difference. I’ve checked all the security attributes, even removed the “compressed” bit. The mimetype persistent handlers are up to date.

All to no avail. I’ve done lots of searches on the Internet, posted on other forums and cannot find a solution.

An example would be:
Search DOES NOT find: http://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/159865 saved as mht either from Firefox or Explorer (I don’t use Explorer as a rule, just as part of this experiment)
Search DOES find: http://support.symantec.com/en_US/article.HOWTO4400.ht...
Copernic does find the files (but I find the free product has other deficiencies for my purposes)
Agent Ransack does find the files, however not being an indexing program is slow over the whole of my document store (approx 30,000 items). (It’s brilliant for finding bits of code etc when confined to a few directories)


As to why Mht format, it is a good way of preserving a web page with all ( or most) of its content functional. Converting to PDF is useful, but many of the links within a page can cease to function.

I think I’ve done fairly comprehensive research, so if there’s a Windows Search 4.0 expert out there who has an idea it would be just fantastic if they have a suggestion.

Many thanks in anticipation, and if it's a case of "that old chestnut", then forgive me, I must have missed it.

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Have you tried system restore to fix this?  Just kidding :lol:


I spotted a web post today from you from a few months back (July)  searching for an answer to this so it really must be bugging you.


I really have no ideas, but as you've found out we love a good mystery on this forum :)


So a few thing to know if you've tried..


The reg entries in this thread




Also have you read this..



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Thank you Hazelnut, i have seen those.


The problem seems to me to be that the windows search program doesn't even see the files in the file system. Perstistent handlers are used I think to open the file for reading, indexing and of course presenting. .mht appears as a mimetype. i.e. email ( for some bizarre reason ). if you open one it's just text with html style tags.

You'd think the search query "type:mht" would find all .mht extension files in the indexed locations. however it doesn't. using Everything finds those that Search4.0 doesn't. so if you collate one found with Everything and search for it in windows search, it doesn't even find the file by filename. Agent Ransack and Copernic both find them, and I can only presume they use the same persistent handlers. Hence all the nonsense I described with streams.exe and file attributes etc.

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For searching I use NirSoft SearchMyFiles (freeware, doesn't use the registry as all settings are stored in an .ini file therefor making it also portable software), however it doesn't index so the searches may be too long for you. As for Windows Search either the update or original I have no advice for it as I've had little luck with it being it doesn't find some files.

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Thanks Trium, Andavari,

Yes, I have used the Nirsoft search, I forgot to mention it. Splendid suite of software!


But as you say, a little slow for what I have in mind. Having said which, intuitively probably faster than Agent Ransack.

I would be interested if you would elaborate on your comment about having little luck with Windows Search because it doesn't find some files.

Do you mean it's inconsistent, or just doesn't work properly?


It's funny Trium, I hesitated to update to Search 4.0, but I did so, probably a couple of years ago. It was before I had accumulated so much data. I presume uninstalling Search 4.0 would revert to the classic version. I could always put it back again. Backing up would be a bit of a major task though. have to look into it.


I do remember when I tried a Vista installation ( on a separate disc ) the problem was not reproducible and it found the files. Could just be they hadn't quite got all the bugs worked out on XP.


To clarify: I really want to use this for a content search. The description I gave was to indicate it wasn't even finding some named files even though I knew they were there.

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Meaning it often doesn't find what I'm looking for. I don't know if it's the filetype(s) that I've searched for or what the issue is why it refuses to find some files. It's the reason I rarely if ever use it because I can't rely upon it, and have instead used that NirSoft tool I mentioned because it will find the files either by filetype or filename.

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It's funny Trium, I hesitated to update to Search 4.0, but I did so, probably a couple of years ago. It was before I had accumulated so much data. I presume uninstalling Search 4.0 would revert to the classic version. I could always put it back again. Backing up would be a bit of a major task though. have to look into it.


Due to how Search puts its hooks into various OS areas, I remember whenever I uninstalled it that a window pops up with a couple of handfuls of listed effected programs.

Can't remember if the message was "these will also be downgraded" or "these may simply be impacted", but uninstalling Search 4.0 never caused an issue onto itself.

Maybe the list of effected programs could be a show-stopper for you.  But as you say, you can always put it back on.

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I remember whenever I uninstalled it that a window pops up with a couple of handfuls of listed effected programs.Can't remember if the message was "these will also be downgraded" or "these may simply be impacted", but uninstalling Search 4.0 never caused an issue onto itself.


yes, i think ms wants to make the users anxious to make this or another "Update" not uninstalled.

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OK, well ... just for fun, I uninstalled windows search 4.0

Before this I created a system restore point.

(I already had a full system disc image)


I uninstalled windows search 4.0, and as commented upon above received warnings regarding numerous programs that would be affected. Essentially it indicated a huge list of programs installed on the machine.

The uninstallation appeared successful, and seemed to resort to the (Classic) windows desktop search, complete with animated dog.


Frankly, some of the processes running after the uninstallation appeared to be the same as those that were running under Search 4.0. e.g. cidaemon.exe, cisvc.exe. These may of course be part of Windows Desktop Search, I’m not sure.

However even after configuring the indexer this search engine was not that great, so I decided to revert to Search 4.0, by re-installing. This did not work.

I then did a system restore from the restore point created as above.


The system restore indicated it was successful. However windows search 4.0 was not functional after this. i.e. the system restore did not restore to the point that it was taken. (As I've suggested before, a system restore point is not a backup). The WindowsSearch.exe program that is inserted into the start-up registry entries did not run (the search magnifying glass icon search window).  Attempts to run the program from windows explorer did not start the program.


I attempted to reinstall search 4.0 from the installer, it ran, however eventually reported "a previous version of search is not installed. Windows search cannot be installed on this system". However there was evidence that a partial install had taken place.


Searches on this on the internet indicated that others have had a similar problem. One suggestion was that the windows update system was damaged. There is a diagnostic program from Microsoft Fixit that claims to repair such problems. MicrosoftFixit.wu.MATSKB.Run.exe version


Available here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/kb/971058


I ran this program and it reported some problems. I accepted the “fix the problems” option. An attempt to reinstall windows search 4.0 again failed.


Different attempts to reinstall failed.


Eventually, there was nothing for it other than to restore a disc image.

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Perhaps one of those issues when using System Restore to undo something makes matters far worse by partially restoring a program but not fully. I personally never use System Restore in that way to restore a program, to aid in the removal of a program I just uninstalled such as an antivirus, etc., I've tested yes I'll use it to restore the registry and remove left-overs which even Total Uninstall was unaware of.

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  But as you say, you can always put it back on.


Or maybe not, it would appear.

Phew, thank goodness for disk images.


Personally I really only started using them as part of my backup regime about 3 years ago.  Used to use Nortons Ghost which took many, many hours to image the disk, then the same if you ever had to restore.

I never understood why disk imaging was so popular.

Then, after joining this forum, I heard about Macruim Reflect and found out just how useful a decent disk imaging/cloning software can be, to the point I have even bought it.


Glad you're back up again (but with the same initial issue I take it) <_<

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Thanks Andavari, mta!


Yes, imaging is the only way to go. And back up your backups! (like I said mta, your slogan is a little optimistic)


I have 5 hard drives so things can get complicated.


I use Paragon Backup and Recovery 2014 Free. (How up to date is that?!)

Having said which, there appear to be two versions of this, the slightly older one allows you to restore individual files and folders from the resultant image.

Also, you can generate an ISO bootable image which will boot the machine in a mini linux based environment (don't worry, it's a GUI, but the disc names can be confusing for Windows users). You can perform all the archiving/restore functions having booted from this disc. This is in fact a little quicker as the machine is not running windows and does not need to run vss.

Paragon compresses the data also, so that a 250Gb boot drive with 100Gb (approx) free space can be archived to about 100Gb. There is a facility to check the archive integrity. You can also back up Linux partitions from within Windows. You can also configure the backup to split the archive into 4.5 Gb chunks so that these can be backed up to DVD (perhaps for the paranoid with plenty of time on their hands), could also be useful for the cloud for those with plenty of money and time.


The Paragon suite is a bit inscrutiable at first, but it is worth persisting with it.


Easus also do a Disc Copy product which is effectively a bootable iso image that will copy from one disc to another, but no compression. Ideal for disc cloning ( again free)


I also use Syncback, a very useful (free) utility indeed, you've likely heard of it. This is great for data backup of files and folders, and keeps track of changes. e.g. you might want to back up your mail folders and Firefox profiles. You can set up a group of backups that will copy any changes since the last backup. Syncback is a very flexible piece of software.


CAVEAT, even an image backup can leave you with minor problems. Time sensitive programs such as Virus Checkers, and for that matter Windows Search think something is out of kilter if they know about data on other discs.


It was nostalgic as the restore took me back to the point just before I fixed the CCleaner invisible System Restore points! Hey ho!

As I've been doing bugger all else (nearly) since that point it wasn't much of a problem ;-)

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Back on the Windows Search 4.0 track ...


I think something has changed. I am still getting inconsistent results, however a type:mht search now does return the correct number of files, compared to the number returned by Everything for example. The tweaking.com thing may have had some effect, also the Fixit thing.


However content searches (i.e. searches containing text in the document) are more unpredictable.


I think this is something to do with the content filters that search uses.


mimefilt.dll resides in directory %SYSTEMROOT%\system32 and this is the mime-type filter used for indexing and presentation of many types of documents including mht files. There are a number of versions of this, currently I am experimenting with the one for vista 32bit, with more encouraging results.

I am still working on this, and was experimenting with different registry entries for the filter, before I was so rudely interrupted by the restore issue.


I'll let you know what transpires.

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Was the Paragon a full restore or some kind of incremental?  How long does the it take?  Thanks.


Fwiw, here on win xp I tried all those searchers you listed, in case some software on your system was slowing something down.  

They behave here just as you described.  

Didn't find one that really beats Nirsoft for my needs.

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Hi ISO-Later

Yes the paragon restore was a full partition restore of my system drive, takes about 2-3 hours, obviously depending on size. I set it for overnight, there is an option to turn off the PC when complete. There is an option for Differential Backup, but as yet I haven't tested it properly. It does seem to take just as long and make equally big archive. Honestly not too experienced with that feature.


There are a whole suite of Paragon programs, many of which are free. Paragon Rescue Kit, Paragon Drive Copy for XP. Paragon Virtual Clone.


Whether they are all still available for download I don't know, but I'm sure they will be about somewhere. It's not that long ago since I saw them. I recommend the PDF manuals as well if you want to try them out.


Yes I like the Nirsoft stuff, that in association with the Sysinternals and Hirens Boot CD gives a pretty complete set of system utilitities. Been so obsessed with the promises of the Windows search. If it worked properly it would beat all of them. However if ( as I somewhat suspect ) it's simply not finished on XP and has deficiencies, it needs to be abandoned (by me that is).


But, I still have some faith, watch this space,


The other thing I've tried is Copernic. This is quite nice, but doesn't use the USN journaling as do Everything and Windows Search. Hence it has to perform an index on a schedule. Also I've found it does some strange things with the mouse interface. Things seem to hang when it's in use. Also ( for what it's worth ) I don't like it cosmetically. Also it doesn't search mail unless you get the paid version. I tried their support pages, but they don't seem to be very active.




WARNING to others: Most virus checkers start sounding off if you download the Nirsoft utilities. This is because they contain tools that can be used by hackers.

Read about them and judge for yourself.

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As I suspected (more recently), there was a problem with the iFilters in Windows.

I can’t honestly precisely explain all the problems I’ve had, but some combination of all the above fiddling around has contributed to sorting it out. I would repeat the process in a more careful and logical way, but as you cannot it seems uninstall Windows Search 4.0 and then reinstall it readily, I’m not going to try. I know that in the world of Microsoft software, the order in which things are installed can be important, and older machine configurations like mine can exhibit strange problems.


Re-installing didn’t obviously work however applying the hotfix indicated below seems to have done. The hotfix updates iFilters for different mimetypes. I’m pretty sure I’ve done this done before, however there are other hotfixes that apply to older versions of the search program. Microsoft documentation and web pages can be pretty confusing on the issue as to what applies to which version of the software. So it could in fact be the first time I’ve applied this particular fix. The mists of time are particularly cloudy on this one, and it reinforces the argument for keeping a precise system log. It’s also the reason I keep laboriously typing Windows Search 4.0 like some obsessive, it’s just to avoid confusion.


In a nutshell this means that particular file types were being incorrectly filtered by the search indexer. I applied the hotfix, but this didn’t sort out all searches involving PDF documents - Some were found and some were not. (The windows hotfix does not claim to do this). Solution for this below.


In Summary.

  • I applied the Windows Search 4.0 Hotfix (link below)
  • I had a very old version of Adobe Acrobat installed (version 5.0) this I uninstalled alongside the modern Adobe Reader, I also have a free version of PDF Exchange installed. (I left that alone).
  • I uninstalled the up to date Adobe Reader Version XI (11.0.08),
  • I then re-installed the same version of Adobe Reader XI, this re-installed the Adobe PDF iFilter. There are known issues with the 64bit version of the PDF iFilter for later versions of Windows. A download of the separate (64Bit) iFilter is available at Adobe.com.
  • It’s quite likely that all this PDF soup was responsible for the PDF part of the issue. Again beware. There may be all sorts of ramifications for non-Adobe PDF readers. I don’t know. The important thing is that a current iFilter is installed I suspect.
  • Re-index the Windows Search 4.0 index. This can be found in control panel, or by right clicking the Magnifying Glass icon that appears in the Notification Area at the bottom right of the taskbar in Windows XP. Advanced Options -> Rebuild.


CAVEAT  I haven’t yet done comprehensive testing, however things look much, much better.

But don't speak too soon, for the wheels still in spin ( in the words of the Zimmerman)


Useful Links:


Hotfix for iFilters:


The above link takes you to a Microsoft site that invites you to give them an email address. The hotfix link is mailed to you.


MHTML Support

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/mozilla-archive-format/ Support for MHTML and MAFF archives for Firefox. (note, Windows Search does not support the MAFF format archive, however there are I believe some fiddle factors that can be applied in the registry to do this.) MAFF is a variant of a zip file, so changing its handler to Zip format should work.

( MHTML support is built into Internet Explorer, but modern security is not. Internet Explorer should not be used on windows XP).

There are similar addons for Chrome etc.


Description of Windows Search 4.0


Advanced Query Usage:



For the more technically minded:

Or how to program your way out of this mess:



Download Windows Search 32bit version 4.0 for XP SP3


WARNING: there is a rather cryptic note in the details section of the download webpage that reads:

“Note The WS4 installation process automatically upgrades Windows Desktop Search (WDS) 2.6 or later versions of Windows Search technologies. Windows XP users who have an earlier version than WDS 2.6 installed, use the Add or Remove Programs tool in the Control Panel to remove the earlier version before installing WS4.”

I personally did not follow this advice (not having noticed it) could have led to my problems .. who knows? I don’t even know which version was on before, back in 1842. The fact that trying to re-install WS4 comes up with the message "a previous version of search is not installed. Windows search cannot be installed on this system" makes it all the more confusing.


Thanks again for all contributions in this thread. Hopefully the above detail will be of use to others.

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Thank you Hazelnut,


However, in testing I have found a problem. Text documents are not found in Content Searches.


eg. "hello there" type:txt


does not find a file of extension ".txt" containing the phrase "hello there"

( even though the text file does exist )


whereas: "hello there" type:pdf  finds an appropriate PDF file.


If the string is contained in the file-name it is found in the case of text files also.


I've even tried saving as different text formats, e.g. Unicode, ASCII, UTF-8


The option to content search is switched on. Could be my system.

If I find out, I'll post it here.



Don't know why, It's not the end of the world for me, but is a minor fly in the otherwise fairly pleasing ointment.

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I could be that they haven't been indexed yet, iirc indexing is pretty slow especially on XP

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