Windows Desktop Search was installed when I tried out Windows Live Photo Gallery as Photo Gallery depends on Search for discovering images. Since then my system has slowed noticeably on start up and logon. I used to briefly see the warning balloon about Firewall and AV not started, but now it stays there for about 30 seconds or more. Even when the system has apparently settled, the disk continues to churn away as it walks through all the files to check for changes. My system is just about a year old, a Core 2 Duo 6600 with 2GB RAM, so it’s not as if it normally struggles to deal with Windows (XP) and is still in the mid range of systems sold now. So why put put a piece of software that makes such an impact on a system and the user experience? Why prioritise loading these functions above security functions? I have to consider whether this is the component that makes people complain so much about Vista being slow as Desktop Search is a core component. I can appreciate that the search tool can be really useful, and the idea of being able to get a short list of matches as you type is nice, but given the option, I’d prefer less impact on the system at start than the shortlist.
I was also concerned about the potential security risks with search. As you search for documents, you are given a preview of the content. Again, a useful feature, but by default it will index and present results from all users documents. What happens when the children are playing on the computer with their friends and come across sensitive documents (financial details, personal journals etc) or maybe your wife finding out about the birthday surprise you just ordered by stumbling across the confirmation email – what a spoiler. OK, so even with the old search you could find stuff like this, but it’s just easier now. You don’t even have to open the document.
I know there is the ability to declare your documents folder private, but this is not a default option. Most people just end up configuring all users as admin level, not just because it’s the default, but also because something usually breaks if you don’t – maybe a game or virus scanner update. Microsoft has been criticised for security issues in the past, and they continually have to walk the line between securing a system and making it usable, but I think they could improve this substantially. I thought they would have learnt from the early IIS search, where you may not have rights to view a document but you could see an excerpt in search results. This caused a few awkward situations in some companies. They fixed that in later releases.
I would suggest that they guide users through the configuration of the search, maybe adding a tool for setting the privacy options on the “My Documents” folder. Or even better, make the default behaviour to search only the current users documents and the shared documents, with an option to share contents with all other users if the owner specifically sets it. I would also suggest that they delay the startup of the search function until at least core security functions are active.