Why Exchange 2013 doesn’t need the Microsoft Office Filter Pack

For space reasons, this text is another bit that was cut out of my Exchange 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox and High Availability book. FWIW, here it is…

If you’ve ever installed Exchange 2010, you’re probably aware of the need to install the Microsoft Office Filter Pack 2.0 (the latest version is SP2). The iFilters in the filter pack are important to Exchange as they are used by the MSSearch component to create the content indexes for mailbox databases. The indexes are used for searching by online clients (Outlook configured in cached Exchange mode uses Windows Desktop Search) and eDiscovery. They’re also used by the transport system if access is necessary to message content, such as when a transport rule needs to identify content as messages pass through the pipeline.

Exchange 2013 swaps MSSearch for the Search Foundation, a component shared with SharePoint 2013. The Search Foundation has no need of the Office Filter Pack because it includes its own filters. Unfortunately, until SP1 came along, the Exchange 2013 Setup program overlooked this fact and stated that the Office Filter Pack was a prerequisite. Setup would install if the Office Filter Pack was missing, but who’s going to ignore a warning issued by Setup. In any case, that warning seems to have finally been suppressed.

Search Foundation includes an impressive array of filters. As you’d expect, all of the common Microsoft Office formats are supported, and then you find pretty well all of the other formats that are usually encountered as attachments to messages, including Adobe PDF and ZIP files.

Even graphic formats such as JPEG, GIF, and TIF are included. However, Search Foundation doesn’t index the graphic contents (which would be a good trick) and opts to settle for the metadata instead.

Exchange marks items that cannot be processed by Search Foundation as “unsearchable items.” You can view the items in a mailbox, database, or server that are deemed unsearchable by running the Get-FailedContentIndexDocuments cmdlet. The metadata for unsearchable items is stored in content indexes, which allows those items to be found during eDiscovery searches.

A set of cmdlets are provided to allow administrators exert some control over the formats supported by Search Foundation. The Get-SearchDocumentFormat cmdlet lists all of the formats known to the Search Foundation. You’ll see output like that shown below if you run the cmdlet.

[PS] C:> Get-SearchDocumentFormat

Identity     Name                                Enabled
--------     ----                                -------
zip          ZIP Archive                         True
gif          Graphics Interchange Format         True
jpeg         JPEG                                True
html         Web Page                            True
mhtml        Web Archive                         True
eml          Email Message                       True
msg          Outlook Item                        True
obd          Microsoft Office Binder             True


The Set-SearchDocumentFormat cmdlet is used to enable or disable a format. By default, all known formats are enabled when a mailbox server is installed. For example, to disable any attempt to index information for JPEG images, you’d run the command:

[PS] C:> Set-SearchDocumentFormat –Identity JPEG –Enabled $False

The other cmdlets are New-SearchDocumentFormat and Remove-SearchDocumentFormat and were added in Exchange 2013 SP1. I doubt that many administrators will add new formats or remove existing formats. This might be done by a third party software vendor who provides a filter to support a specific format used by their product.

The bottom line is that the day of the Office Filter Pack is past. Search Foundation is now king of the hill and you can drop this particular task from Exchange deployments.

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna


About Tony Redmond

Lead author for the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook and writer about all aspects of the Office 365 ecosystem.
This entry was posted in Exchange, Exchange 2013 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why Exchange 2013 doesn’t need the Microsoft Office Filter Pack

  1. Michael says:

    Hello, Tony
    Do we need Filter Pack for transport rules (to parser attachments)?

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