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MS Knowledge Base Search Tips

Daniel Petri


How to Query the Microsoft Knowledge Base
The Microsoft Knowledge Base is a primary Microsoft product information source that Microsoft support professionals use to help customers. This source is also available to Microsoft customers. This comprehensive database includes more than 250,000 detailed articles containing technical information about Microsoft products, fix lists, documentation errors, and answers to commonly asked technical support questions. These articles are also available through the Microsoft TechNet CD and the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) CD.

Tips for Obtaining the Best Search Results

Use more than one word, and then check for correct spelling. Good examples:

  • Setup requirement RAM
  • no sound volume mute

Bad examples:

  • how much RAM is needed to run Windows 2000? (too specific; too many words; may return no results)
  • sound (too general; will return too many results)

Find and Use the Commonly-Used Terms

When you are reading the search results, look for commonly-used terms, and then use them in your search. At the bottom of each article there are two sections that might help: Additional Query Words and Keywords. Using words in either of these sections may help you to find similar articles.

Boolean and Proximity Operators

The English mathematician, George Boole, developed an algebra of logic, which has become the basis for computer database searches. Boolean logic uses words called operators to determine whether a statement is true or false. The most common operators are AND, OR and NOT. These three little words can be enormously helpful when doing online searches. Boolean and proximity operators can create a more precise query.

To Search For Example Results
Both terms in the same page access and basic Pages with both the words “access” and “basic”
Either term in a page cgi or isapi Pages with the words “cgi” or “isapi”
The first term without the second term access and not basic Pages with the word “access” but not “basic”
Both terms in the same page, close together excel near project Pages with the word “excel” near the word “project”


  • You can add parentheses to nest expressions within a query. The expressions in parentheses are evaluated before the rest of the query.
  • Use double quotes (“) to indicate that a Boolean or NEAR operator keyword should be ignored in your query. For example, “Abbott and Costello” will match pages with the phrase, not pages that match the Boolean expression. In addition to being an operator, the word and is a noise word in English.
  • The NEAR operator is similar to the AND operator in that NEAR returns a match if both words being searched for are in the same page. However, the NEAR operator differs from AND because the rank assigned by NEAR depends on the proximity of words. That is, the rank of a page with the searched-for words closer together is greater than or equal to the rank of a page where the words are farther apart. If the searched-for words are more than 50 words apart, they are not considered near enough, and the page is assigned a rank of zero.
  • The NOT operator can be used only after an AND operator in content queries; it can be used only to exclude pages that match a previous content restriction. For property value queries, the NOT operator can be used apart from the AND operator.
  • The AND operator has a higher precedence than OR. For example, the first three queries are equal, but the fourth is not:a AND b OR c c OR a AND b c OR (a AND b) (c OR a) AND b

For a more extensive discussion of Boolean logic, with illustrations, click here (.pdf article).


Wildcard operators help you find pages containing words similar to a given word.

To Search For Example Results
Words with the same prefix comput* Pages with words that have the prefix “comput,” such as “computer,” “computing,” and so on
Words based on the same stem word fly** Pages with words based on the same stem as “fly,” such as “flying,” “flown,” “flew,” and so on

Avoid the Use of Exact Text

When you type the exact text that is provided in the product’s Help or the exact text from an error message, you may not receive any results. Instead, use a few of the words, not the exact text.

Look Around the Web Site

Explore the Web site to learn more about the tools that are available. Another good way to find answers (as well as more search words) is to use the Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) pages. There is a list of FAQs that are specific to each product.

Using Keywords

Read 250581 for a list of Windows 2000 related keywords. Read JSI TIP 1169 for tips on how to use Exchange 2000 keywords.

Work with Q numbers

Microsoft assigns each article a unique identification number. If you know the ID number for the article, search can take you right to it. Type the Q number (for example, 126449) in the For solutions containing box, click The exact phrase entered in the Using box, click Article ID, and then click Search now. If the article is not listed in the search results and you have a Microsoft product or technology selected under Search (KB), change the search criteria to All Microsoft Search Topics. If you do not see all of the options that are mentioned, click Show Options to display them.

Compile your own URL

As of November 7, 2002, prefix letters were phased out of all Knowledge Base (KB) articles worldwide making it easier for you to request an article in a language other than the one set in your browser. Today, KB articles are published in 21 languages, but each had an unrelated number scheme and a prefix letter. By eliminating the prefix and changing the numbers of some articles, all translations of an article will have exactly the same content number. Customers worldwide can view localized versions of articles by passing an Internet standard for language locale and the content identification number.
The new method to reference KB articles is with the following URL
where n is the identification number of the article. This interface will automatically detect your browser’s language settings and show you the right article.
You can also download this KB Registry Hack, unzip it and double click the INSTALL.BAT file in it. You will then be able to open Internet Explorer, and in the URL box type “KB” (no quotes) followed by the MSKB article number to go directly to the article (Script updated to reflect the November 7 changes stated above).

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