Tech update #3: last word on Vista...

... until something else comes up.

I am a fan of OfficeWatch, an Australian-based online journal that is a friendly-but-fearless critic of Microsoft's mainstay products. It's friendly because Office and related software are its bread and butter. It's fearless because that is why people read it and not just company brochures.

Its latest issue concentrates on a topic much on my mind recently: the mystifying slowness and incredible resource-hunger of Windows Vista. The article contends that an important cause is a design failure in Vista's new and heavily touted "instant search" feature. According to OW, this new Vista indexer does not "scale" well:

The problem seems to be the Windows Vista indexing service when used with a lower level of physical RAM (in this context 'low' can mean 2GB!) and a lot of items to be indexed (documents and especially emails in Outlook).

Our informal tests suggest the Vista indexing services grabs more and more resources (especially RAM) as the number of indexed items grows. For most people the majority of indexed items are in Outlook.

Vista runs fine when there's little to be indexed but once you put any kind of reasonable load on it, the indexing system starts bogging down the entire works. Once you get a few hundred thousand indexable items, the Vista indexing service drags the entire system down.

A few hundred thousand items sounds like a lot -- but I just checked via the indexer I actually use and like, X1, and found that its "all" list of every email, document, JPEG, GIF, etc on my disk came to about 200,000 items. (Again, interestingly, these items together, plus all program, DLL, and other files of any sort, come to less than 50GB, which leaves another 50GB on my hard disk mysteriously consumed by Vista.) Especially since the new indexer is being touted as a way to get at all your information all the time, it sounds as if it is not prepared for the loads it is supposed to carry. I should note that X1 scales with no apparent drag on the system.

I had been aware of some of the tips offered in this newsletter for reducing the Vista indexer's drag. I hadn't known about the most drastic step it describes, which is a way to disable Windows search altogether. (Microsoft has agreed to make this step easier in the next release of Vista.) I'm ready to try anything, so I'll give that a go.