Understanding the Microsoft Office FindFast Utility

Q    Every once in a while, my hard disk seems to go crazy with activity. I’m usually
doing something simple like editing a Word document, so
I don’t think I’m causing it. The annoying thing is
that it slows my computer down. What’s going on?

— D.G.

A   FindFast is probably what is going on. You mentioned that you are a Word user, so
you probably have Microsoft Office on your
computer. When you perform a typical Office installation,
the setup program loads the FindFast utility onto
your computer and adds it to your Startup folder.

FindFast periodically scans your hard drives
for Office and Web documents. When it finds files,
it reads them and creates an index of the words,
titles, and other system information. FindFast stores
this information in hidden index files on your hard drive.

The purpose of these index files is to speed up
the search process when you use the find features of
the Open dialog in an application like Word. For
example, suppose you are running Word and want to find all documents containing the word
estimate. You choose File|Open and Word displays the Open
dialog box. One of the search criteria is Text or
property. Enter the word estimate and click the Find
Now button. Without FindFast, Word would have to
look through all of the files in that directory for the
word you seek, and that would take time. Instead, Word
is able to take advantage of the index file produced
by FindFast, so it already knows which documents
have which words. Scanning the index is much faster
than scanning all the documents.

If you rarely use the advanced search features
of Word and you want to get rid of FindFast, don’t
be tempted to just delete the shortcut from your
Startup menu. Word continues to use the index files,
which become more and more out of date, so your
searches start failing or taking even longer to run. You
must run Control Panel, select FindFast, and delete all
of the indexes it shows. Then you can safely remove
the shortcut from your startup menu.