I think I found something that fixes the problem with XP’s windows explorer search for cases where you are searching for text inside a file. You may have noticed in the past, that it doesn’t return results that you know it should return.

The fix that seems to be working so far is referenced as method #2 in the MS Knowledge Base article KB309173. The article includes the following recommendation:

Method 2
To configure Windows XP to search all files no matter what the file type, obtain the latest service pack for Windows XP and then turn on the Index file types with unknown extensions option.
If you use this method, Windows XP searches all file types for the text that you specify. This can affect the performance of the search functionality. To do this:
  1. Click Start, and then click Search (or point to Search, and then click For Files or Folders).
  2. Click Change preferences, and then click With Indexing Service (for faster local searches).
  3. Click Change Indexing Service Settings (Advanced). Note that you do not have to turn on the Index service.
  4. On the toolbar, click Show/Hide Console Tree.
  5. In the left pane, right-click Indexing Service on Local Machine, and then click Properties.
  6. On the Generation tab, click to select the Index files with unknown extensions check box, and then click OK.
  7. Close the Indexing Service console.

Important This section, method, or task contains steps that tell you how to modify the registry. However, serious problems might occur if you modify the registry incorrectly. Therefore, make sure that you follow these steps carefully. For added protection, back up the registry before you modify it. Then, you can restore the registry if a problem occurs. For more information about how to back up and restore the registry, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

322756 (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/322756/) How to back up and restore the registry in Windows

Network administrators can configure this setting by modifying the registry. To do this, set the FilterFilesWithUnknownExtensions DWORD value to 1 in the following registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\ContentIndex

 

I opted to edit the registry key directly because I couldn’t get to the stuff in the first part. From my testing, it seems to work well, but I have seen some articles saying that even this doesn’t fix the issue. You’re mileage may vary.

Alternatives

The alternative to changing this behavior is to use the command line utilities to do your searches. You can use things like FIND or FINDSTR to search for text in a file. These work well (or better) that windows explorer and offer some advanced features, but the explorer search option is pretty convenient for standard stuff.