What Is a SEARCH-MS File?

How to open, edit, and convert SEARCH-MS files

Screenshot of SEARCH-MS files in Windows Vista

Tim Fisher / Lifewire

A file with the SEARCH-MS file extension is a Windows Vista Index Search Data file that enables you to perform file searches through the Windows operating system.

Searches made in Windows Vista work because the Windows Vista Search Index Data module monitors changes made to files and stores those changes in a SEARCH-MS file, which is then used to quickly find those files throughout the computer.

SEARCH-MS files are based on the XML file format, which means they are text files that contain just text entries.

SEARCH-MS files are different than MS files, which are either Maxwell or 3ds Max script files. They're also unrelated to files that end with XRM-MS.

How to Open a SEARCH-MS File

The tool that actually uses SEARCH-MS files is included in Windows Vista, so there's no need to download anything to make the file work. Neither is there any reason to manually open a SEARCH-MS file for the intent of "running" or "starting" the file like you would with other types of files (like EXE application files or MP3 audio files).

The SEARCH-MS files are stored in Windows Vista in the C:\Users\<username>\Searches\ folder. In it are various files that all have the .SEARCH-MS file extension; named Everywhere, Indexed Locations, Recent Documents, Recent E-mail, Recent Music, Recent Pictures and Videos, Recently Changed, and Shared By Me.

Opening any of these SEARCH-MS files will launch a file search using those specific settings. For example, opening Recent Documents.search-ms will show your most recently used documents.

Microsoft has some examples of the contents of various SEARCH-MS files. Since they're purely text files, you can use any text editor to open them, like Notepad in Windows.

To open a SEARCH-MS file in a text editor, you can't just double-click (or double-tap) the file and expect it to open in that program. Instead, you have to open the text editor first and then use its Open option to find the SEARCH-MS file you want to read.

If you need to open an .MS file instead, that's in either the Maxwell Script format or the 3ds Max Script format, try Maxwell or 3ds Max. These MS files might open in a text editor, too.

How to Convert a SEARCH-MS File

Changing the file type of a SEARCH-MS file will make that particular search function cease to work. There shouldn't be any reason to change the file extension or do a conversion of a SEARCH-MS file to make it work in Windows.

The only scenario where you may want to convert a SEARCH-MS file is if you want to have a copy of the contents of the file under a different format.

For example, you can open a SEARCH-MS file in Notepad++ and then save the open file as a TXT file if you want to easily read the contents in a text editor. Dedicated file converters may then be able to convert that TXT file to other formats like PDF, CSV, XML, or a variety of image file formats.

More Information on SEARCH-MS Files

SEARCH-MS files look like folders, and they're each labeled "Search Folder" in Windows Explorer as the file type. However, these are still files like any other, as you can see in Microsoft's examples linked above.

Indexing can be turned off in Windows Vista by stopping the "Windows Search" service. This can be done through the Services shortcut in Administrative Tools.

Need to convert an .MS file? Those are most likely able to be converted with the Maxwell or 3ds Max program mentioned above.

Remember that files that end with .MS are not the same as ones whose suffix is .SEARCH-MS. Look again at the sections above that talk about MS files if that's the kind of file you're needing to open.