Selective searching in Windows XP: When search all doesn’t search all

A company I do work for upgraded their desktops from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows XP a few weeks back. Recently, one of the workers at this firm came to me with a problem. He used to use the “Find Files” feature in Windows NT 4.0 to search for files based on file content. In Windows XP, he does the same with the “Search for a word or phrase in the file” feature… but he doesn’t find files under XP that he used to find under NT.

A quick little Google search (using the keywords "windows xp" search "word or phrase in the file" "not found") landed right on a Microsoft Knowledge Base article, 309173: Using the "A word or phrase in the file" search criterion may not work. Apparently, Windows XP “improved” the file content search feature by not actually searching for the content in all the files and file types you specify. As a result, doing a content for search in files with extensions like .SQL or .CSS will not work.

OK, I can handle a feature change, but they probably should clarify exactly what they mean when you are searching for “a word or phrase in the file” when your file criteria is *.*. Even more, the resolution to the problem (as outlined in the support article) is about the most obscure “fix” I’ve ever seen. At least they documented it!

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