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Windows desktop search tool gets upgrade

As analysts say desktop search's time has come in corporate environments, Microsoft tries to stay in the game with its own tool.

As search tools the likes of Google infiltrate corporate desktops, Microsoft attempts to woo users with the latest version of its own free tool.

Microsoft's Windows Desktop Search 3.0 allows users to find and preview content on their PCs including email, documents, files, music and photos. The company is building the same functionality into Vista, due out this November.

WDS 3.0 supports 32-bit versions of Windows XP with Service Pack 2, all 64-bit versions of XP, Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 and all 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003.

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The search tool is akin to Google's free desktop search utility in which desktop files can be searched for and displayed in a Google search page. In this latest version of the Microsoft product, the company accelerated the indexing process and extended the types of files that can be searched.

Tom Olzak is the director of information security for HCR Manor Care Inc., a short- and long-term health care provider headquartered in Toledo, Ohio. He said that desktop search tools are making their way into his corporate environment of 60,000 users, but he would like to see security measures built into such tools.

The time has come for desktop search, Olak said. "It's a big reason to move to Vista, which will have desktop search built in, as long as two major problems with such technology is addressed," he said.

At issue for Olzak is how to manage any technology that proliferates beyond the IT department. "We have no control over any vulnerability that might be in it," he said. "We don't know who has it on their machine, and we can't make sure there's a patch for it."

But the even bigger issue is how Google desktop search saves copies of email and files long after they've been deleted from the mailboxes or hard drives – creating a security risk. "Images of the documents stay in the Google desktop database," Olzak said.

As employees download desktop search tools like Google's and X1 Technologies' to their desktops, most corporations haven't even begun to think about rolling out a desktop search tool across their organizations, said Stephen Kleynhans, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.

"This just shows how the desktop search market is starting to mature into tools that corporations can look at -- and probably should," Kleynhans said.

Margie Semilof contributed to this story.

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