When it comes to file searching in windows particularly in Windows XP all we have on our disposal is windows built-in searching capability that is not very good as it does a real time search for files based on your specified criteria. Biggest disadvantage to this approach is that it is really slow and may take a whole lot of time if you have a large hard disk and a lot of data is stored on to it. Windows XP does have a file indexing service but it does not have a suitable front end interface that some one can use. You may download the Windows Desktop Search to eliminate this problem but still one problem remains. That is the slow indexing speed and the reason that it continuously runs in the background to cripple your system performance. It has slow indexing speed because it uses content indexing of all the files in addition to meta data it indexes for the files(meta data includes filename,time stamp,size etc.). Also because of the content indexing your index file will be very large in many cases greater than 1 GB. Memory consumption is also higher in most cases.Content indexing is useful if you want to search something that resides in the contents of the file and you do not remember any part of the filename that you want to search. These undesirable characteristics that I mentioned are applicable to any program that uses content indexing including Copernic Desktop Search and Google Desktop Search.In practice not many people need the content indexing from a search program. If you do not need it then why allow to cripple the performance of your system form a software that is using content indexing? As far as Windows Vista is concerned it does have indexing feature built-in but I am not sure about its utility for general purpose use and more importantly its impact on performance because I have not used Vista that much .
Other type of indexing that many file searching utilities support is indexing that excludes the contents of the files, so this type of indexing is a kind of a subset of content indexing . Utilities that falls in this category usually only index meta data associated with the files. As a result index will be smaller and index building process will be very fast. Disadvantage is that you cannot search files based on contents. But in my opinion content indexing is not for every one and you rarely need it. May be useful in some cases for example if you are doing some research and have a lot of research papers stored on your hard drive and you want to locate some text in contents of these papers for example.In these cases I think the use of content indexing is justified. In contrast normal file indexing(excluding contents of the files) is very useful as you can quickly search files and more importantly your index building time will be minimal along with the smaller index file size.
Locate32 is a searching utility that does only file indexing excluding contents and will allow to search any file based on a number of criteria such as its name,size, date and extension etc. It is very powerful and also supports regular expressions for specifying search criteria.To index my two hard drives (80 GB and 40 GB) it only takes about 2 minutes. Once the file index is built for your whole hard disk you can search any file in lightning fast manner(fraction of a second). Searched files can be sorted on a number of criteria such name,size,date,residing folder, residing file system,checksum and many others. Program supports extensive amount of features and gives you full control on what should be indexed and what not and GUI can be customized to your preferences. You can specify shortcuts for many common commands and has a built in scheduler.Also has the shell extension support to quickly open the Locate32 dialog from the windows file explorer to search a file in a folder. Please note that if you have a lot of changes in your file system on the hard drive such as shuffling of files and folders or introduction of new files and folders then you will probably need to reindex your hard drive for the accurate searching.
I have a very positive experience with this search utility and I use it daily at least 15 to 20 times to search files that I require at that time(mostly software but you can search for multimedia files and documents as well of course). It is not that I am unorganized and my files are scattered on the whole hard disk, but because I feel it easier and faster to just search something that I want rather then to open windows explorer and navigate to the required file/folder. This is a highly recommended utility if you have a large hard disk with a lot of files on to it and you feel it difficult to recall where you have exactly placed a file or simply you are like me and want to search everything rather than to navigate to it.
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