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Search Everything Runs Rings Around Windows Search

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If you're like Ed Tittel, creator of the Exam Cram series of certification prep books, you have thousands upon thousands of files on your desktop and notebook machines, and are always looking for a better way to find stuff. As good as Windows Search may be, the freeware search engine from Voidtools known as Search Everything or “the Everything search engine” beats the pants off built-in Windows Search, both in terms of speed and the performance hit on your system.
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David Carpenter is the man behind Voidtools, the company that provides the excellent Windows freeware program that appears as Search Everything on the Start menu. This compact little program runs like the dickens, and shows none of the fits, stutters, and occasional performance drains that built-in Windows Search can sometimes evince. As shown in Figure 1, the installer download is a mere 334KB (a portable ZIP version consumes just 272KB), while a quick look at Program Files in Explorer reveals that the program’s on-disk footprint is only 2.33MB!

Figure 1

Figure 1 Snippet from the Voidtools home page sizes everything right up.

As Figure 1 also proclaims, Search Everything is compatible with all Windows versions since Windows 2000 (which means it also works on XP, Windows Server 2003 and 2008 versions, and Windows 7 as well; it even runs as a desktop app inside the current Windows 8 Developer Preview). The .exe file version works with Windows Installer, while the ZIP version provides ready-to-run code that you can stash on a USB flash drive and run anywhere you like without installation.

What makes Search Everything such a terrific Windows tool? The program is tiny, easy to install, simple to operate, and runs unbelievably fast. Once the initial drive indexing is complete (and that, too, is much faster than Windows Search), the program usually completes its search as you complete typing your search string into its input window. For example, in looking for “Reliability Monitor” on my Windows 7 desktop, it shows me 92 objects as I get to “reli”, 15 by the time I get to “reliab”, and 10 as I finish typing “reliability”, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Figure 2 By the time I type “reliability”, all filenames with that string included are already showing.

Installing and Using Search Everything

At the Voidtools download page, users download a 334KB file named Everything- (or whatever version is current by the time you read this story). Download and installation are quick and easy, and the program itself is extremely easy to use.

Figure 3 shows the Choose Components screen from the Search Everything installer, which provides checkboxes to select among a variety of options. The items checked in this figure show my preferred configuration for the program, wherein I turn off “Update Notification and Run at Startup, and also turn on Choose Volumes. I generally don’t like to add more things to my startup, and rely on update monitoring software to keep track of program status on my machine. I do, however, sometimes like to scope my searches (the default is to search all drives) when looking for certain things, so I like to turn this option on.

Figure 3

Figure 3 You can choose among a variety of install components for Search Everything.

The program is so small it installs in a flash—so fast, in fact, that I couldn’t capture the Installer progress bar that monitors actual installation when all the configuration options are set. Of course, anything that small isn’t going to take long to set up and configure!

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