The term desktop search is used to describe a type of search engine that is used to search the files contained on an individual’s computer. Most search engines are used to search websites on the Internet, but a desktop search engine is specifically used to search the files physically stored on one’s computer, such as those stored in a hard drive or on a compact disc. Some such programs are built right into a user’s operating system while others can be obtained from third parties. They may be used to search personal computers or on networked systems of computer used for business purposes.
The size of file storage devices such as hard drives, discs, and flash drives is constantly increasing as file storage methods become more efficient and less expensive to produce. The hard drive on a computer can contain millions of files or more. If those files are not well organized, it may be extremely difficult to find where they are located within the computer’s storage system. This problem is compounded if one needs to find a specific file that is located on a network of computers. Desktop search methods provide an effective counter to this ever-increasing complexity by indexing and quickly searching for specific files by such criteria as name, modification date, file type, and file size.
Desktop search engines are often expected to search through many hundreds of gigabytes of information in a short period of time. To achieve this level of speed and efficiency, the search engines need to create and constantly update index databases that sort the data based on several different criteria for rapid data retrieval. Indexing can, however, be somewhat taxing on the computer’s resources and can reduce the speed at which other applications run. To deal with this, most desktop search applications are set to index files only when the computer is not being used for any other purpose.
Different desktop search applications have different features and different levels of functionality. Some have more efficient file indexing methods than others, allowing for faster searches. Others allow one to search only specific areas of the computer to make the search more efficient. Many search engines also allow the computer user to search through his saved e-mails or Internet browsing history directly from his computer desktop. All of the different desktop search applications are, however, very similar; one should simply choose the one with features that he finds to be the most useful and convenient.