Windows Desktop Search
Windows Desktop Search (or Windows Search) is a 'desktop' indexer for Microsoft Windows. In Windows XP, Search 4.0 (or Search XP) was an add-on. However Microsoft integrated Search into Windows Vista as 'part of the package'.
Windows Search stores its data in:
%Profiles%/All Users/Application Data/Microsoft/Search/Data/Applications/Windows/
Note that '%Profiles%' is dependent on the Windows version.
The search index is stored in a file named Windows.edb. This file is an Extensible Storage Engine Database (EDB).
To access the Windows.edb file (on a live system) the the Windows Search service needs to be deactivated and the necessary access rights are required.
Currently there are not many tools which allow you to 'forensically' analyze the Windows Search database. Some of the available are:
- Windows Search Index Examiner
Other useful tools:
- eseutil (comes with Exchange server) or esentutl (comes with a Windows NT variant which has the ESE engine)
The artifacts in the Windows Search database can be useful in forensic analysis of a desktop Windows system, especially Windows Vista and later. A few applications are:
- to (partial) recover the content of indexed documents and even email messages stored on a Microsoft Exchange server
- to indicate the former existence of files
- time-line analysis
When analyzing Windows Search databases you can come across a 'dirty database'. This is one left in a dirty state. Some of the tools mentioned before fail to open these databases. You might have to resort to repairing the database or use a tools that does not have such limitations.
Obfuscation and compression
Windows Search uses both obfuscation and compression to store some of its data, but according to 'Forensic analysis of the Windows Search database' this is easily circumvented.
libesedb Open Source library and tools to read the Windows.edb