Desktop search tools existed before Google jumped into the fray with their Google Desktop Search, but they have exploded in both popularity and controversy since then.
Hard drives are great for storing gigabytes upon gigabytes of data, but they are not nearly as functional at helping you retrieve it. When the need arises, the odds of you locating a spreadsheet or document you created two years ago and saved in some obscure folder you no longer remember are pretty low.
Desktop search tools like X1 or the Google Desktop Search index and catalog all of the files on your computer so that you can retrieve them with blinding speed just by entering key words as if you were looking for something using a Web search engine.
The controversy arose when some critics pointed out that the information catalogued by such tools might expose otherwise sensitive or confidential information and make it easier someone to steal your identity or hack your system. While it is true that desktop search tools should probably not be used on multi-user or public systems (such as in libraries or coffee shops), the truth is that the information being indexed would be available to an attacker anyway. The desktop search tool doesn't uncover hidden data, it just makes finding the unhidden information much faster.
That said, I find the desktop search tool to be indispensable. The convenience of entering a couple keywords and getting the instant gratification of finding what I am looking for with blazing speed are worth the relatively minor security concerns to me. Here are links to a variety of desktop search tools you can use:
- Copernic Desktop Search (http://www.copernic.com/en/products/desktop-search/index.html)
- X1 Desktop Search (http://www.x1.com/products/xds.html)
- Google Desktop Search (http://desktop.google.com/)
- Yahoo Desktop Search (http://desktop.yahoo.com/features)
- MSN Desktop Search (http://toolbar.msn.com/tour_suite/pc.aspx)
Tony Bradley is a consultant and writer with a focus on network security, antivirus and incident response. He is the About.com Guide for Internet / Network Security (http://netsecurity.about.com), providing a broad range of information security tips, advice, reviews and information. Tony also contributes frequently to other industry publications. For a complete list of his freelance contributions you can visit Essential Computer Security (http://www.tonybradley.com).