Windows Search Across The Network

Windows 7 has Windows Search built in, but it will only index locations on the local PC or folders that you have made available offline.

What about the rest of your network? An error you might see because of this is “This network location can’t be included because it is not indexed”. If the servers also get an install of Windows Search on them then Windows Search on the client can talk to the Windows Search instance on the server and produce one set of search results, covering all network locations and local folders.

How do you tell the client which servers to communicate with for search results? You need to add the folders that you are interested in querying the index for to your Libraries on Windows 7. Let’s walk through this process.

Install Windows Search on your servers

If you are running Windows 2008 then add the File Services/Windows Search Server role. You probably have some of the File Services role already installed, and in that case use Add Role Services to add the Windows Search Service role.

If you are running Windows 2003 Server then you can install Windows Search 4.0 as a download from Microsoft.

The installation in Windows 2008 will ask for the storage locations to index, and you need to include the drives that contain your shared folders.

Once installed the index for the search will begin to be created. This can take some time initially, and if you want to be able to index content other than the default content (see for the default filters installed) then you should install these filters as soon as possible (to save the index needing to redo files it does not know first time around). Most importantly you need to install Adobe Reader iFilter if you want to filter .pdf documents and the Microsoft Office 2010 Filter Pack if you want to index the new file formats for Microsoft Office.

Adobe have a free filter (download the correct one based on the version of your server) and Foxit Software have a paid for one, which is more reliable than the Adobe one. Adobe are on version 9 at the time of writing and can be downloaded from for the x64 version (which is the one needed if you are running SBS 2008).

The Microsoft Filter Pack can be downloaded from

Other iFilters for other document types exist. If you are running a 32bit version of Windows then an installation of Adobe Reader will include the 32bit iFilter. A search of Google for “iFilter” will show you others.

Finally, via Control Panel > Indexing Options > Advanced you can set the location where the search index data is to be stored. This can total up to 40% of the size of the indexed content and so should be placed on a suitably sized disk. You need to restart Windows Search to move this index.

Configure Windows 7

Once the search is configured, you can add the shared folders to the Libraries feature in Windows 7. To do this open Explorer to Computer and under Desktop you will find Libraries. Create a new Library called “Network” (or a name of your choice)” and add the shared folders on the server that is now indexed to the library. Note you cannot add shared folders that are not included on a server running search to a Library.

Now you can go to Start and type keywords into the Search bar and find documents on the local machine or on remote servers!

Configure Legacy Clients

Windows XP and Vista can have Windows Search installed, but do not support Libraries. For a legacy client to search a network location they need to open the network location (either via mapped drive letter or directly with the \\server\share UNC path format. The client will query the search server remotely and return quick results. There is no way on the legacy clients to do a single search from the Start Menu or Taskbar search box of all your locations in one go, unlike Windows 7.

If you have many servers then consider Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint instead.







One response to “Windows Search Across The Network”

  1. Duncan Smart avatar

    “If you are running Windows 2003 Server then you can install Windows Search 4.0” – AFAIK, Windows Search 4.0 for Windows 2003 is just a client, not a search service that can be remotely queried.

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