How can I enable and use Microsoft Office Outlook 2007’s Instant Search feature?

Q: How can I enable and use Microsoft Office Outlook 2007’s Instant Search feature?

A: One of Outlook 2007’s most empowering new features is called Instant Search. This feature is the extension of Windows Desktop Search (WDS) into Outlook 2007. WDS is included in Windows Vista; however, if you install Outlook 2007 on Windows Server 2003 or Windows XP SP2, you must download and install WDS to take advantage of Instant Search. In either case, Instant Search is enabled through Outlook 2007. The current version available for Windows 2003 and XP SP2, both 32-bit and 64-bit, is WDS 3.01.

If your company has deployed centralized application management, you can use regular application distribution methodologies to install WDS 3.01. You can include WDS in a default XP SP2 workstation image, or you can use management applications such as Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS). You can also use Group Policy and the administrative template DesktopSearch30.adm, which comes with the WDS 3.01 download, to deploy and configure WDS.

When you download and execute WDS 3.01, it extracts files to a temporary folder such as C:\f543c5eadfd957a6f2980c30191. You can find the template DesktopSearch30.adm in a folder called \update within that temporary folder. In order to retrieve the .adm file, you need to copy it from the temporary location before WDS installation is complete, because the temporary folder is automatically removed after WDS 3.01 is installed. After the .adm file is imported into the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC), you can find the configurable settings within \Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Search.

If you install Outlook 2007 on Windows 2003 or XP without WDS, you’ll see the prompt Click here to enable Instant Search, as Figure 1 shows. Although the prompt seems to suggest that there’s a simple toggle switch, there isn’t. Clicking the prompt directs you to Microsoft’s WDS 3.01 download page for either Windows 2003 or XP SP2, depending on the OS being used. The Microsoft article “Description of Windows Desktop Search 3.01 and the Multilingual User Interface Pack for Windows Desktop Search 3.01” ( describes WDS 3.01 and maintains the URLs for WDS downloads for the different platforms (i.e., Windows 2003, 32-bit and 64-bit; and XP SP2, 32-bit and 64-bit).

Companies tend to discourage users from downloading and installing software, including taking steps to prevent them from doing so. Administrators can disable the Instant Search prompt to prevent users from downloading WDS. To do so, select Tools, Options. Select the Other tab, and click Advanced Options. Under General Settings, clear the Show prompts to enable Instant Search check box. This setting changes the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Outlook\Search registry subkey’s DisableDownloadSearchPrompt DWORD value to 1.

You can also use Group Policy to push this value out to clients. Outlook 2007’s Group Policy template, called Outlk12.adm, is part of Office 2007’s administrative templates. To obtain Outlk12.adm, go to its download page on Microsoft’s downloads Web site ( Download and install AdminTemplates.exe to use Outlk12.adm and the other Office 2007 administrative templates.

WDS adds several components to the local workstation to index information and to efficiently access that index. Figure 2 shows the processes running on an XP workstation with WDS 3.01 installed. SearchIndexer.exe is highlighted, but SearchFilterHost and SearchProtocolHost were also added by the installation. While the workstation content is being indexed, WDS uses available resources to complete the index as quickly as possible. Initially, you might experience a slight performance loss accessing workstation resources, until the indexer returns resources to the system. If the user no longer needs the resources, the index can assume them if necessary. Busy workstations with lots of Outlook email traffic or significant file changes can exhibit some loss of performance as WDS struggles to index new changes.

Outlook’s classic search interface, called Advanced Find (Ctrl+Shift+F), is no longer available in folders’ context menus. In Outlook 2007, you can access this feature by selecting Tools, Instant Search—even if Instant Search isn’t enabled. When WDS is installed and Instant Search is enabled, the Advanced Find option remains available, but only as an alternative interface to the Instant Search index. If you execute a search before a complete WDS index of Outlook items is built, the search interface generates the alert that Figure 3 shows. If you click for more details (or if you go to Tools, Instant Search, Indexing Status), you’ll be advised that indexing is still occurring, as shown in Figure 4.

Instant Search seems to suffer from poor performance, as does Outlook 2007 in general, when dealing with a large .pst or .ost file. Microsoft released a patch to help alleviate this problem. To download the patch, see the Microsoft article “Description of the update for Outlook 2007: April 13, 2007” ( This performance patch is a must for all Outlook 2007 users.

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