Windows desktop search
Windows Desktop Search (or Windows Search) is a 'desktop' indexer for Microsoft Windows. In Windows XP, Search 4.0 (or Search XP) was an add-on. However Microsoft integrated Search into Windows Vista as 'part of the package'.
Windows Search stores its data in:
Note that '%CommonApplicationData%' is dependent on the Windows version.
E.g. on Windows XP
C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\Search\Data\Applications\Windows\
E.g. on Windows 7
The search index is stored in a file named Windows.edb. This file is an Extensible Storage Engine Database (edb).
To access the Windows.edb file (on a live system) the the Windows Search service needs to be deactivated and the necessary access rights are required.
Currently there are not many tools which allow you to 'forensically' analyze the Windows Search database.
The artifacts in the Windows Search database can be useful in forensic analysis of a desktop Windows system, especially Windows Vista and later. A few applications are:
- to (partial) recover the content of indexed documents and even email messages stored on a Microsoft Exchange server
- to indicate the former existence of files
- time-line analysis
When analyzing Windows Search databases you can come across a 'dirty database'. This is one left in a dirty state. Some of the tools fail to open these databases. You might have to resort to repairing the database or use a tools that does not have such limitations.
Obfuscation and compression
Windows Search uses both obfuscation and compression to store some of its data, but according to 'Forensic analysis of the Windows Search database' this is easily circumvented.
- Wikipedia entry on Windows Desktop Search
- Wikipedia list of Desktop search engines
- Forensic analysis of the Windows Search database