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Full-text indexes in Microsoft Exchange make it possible to perform quick and efficient searches of large message databases. Since searching individual message stores is still slow and inefficient (and Exchange administrators are cautioned against keeping messages in Outlook PST files anyway), it makes sense to use full-text indexing to make message stores searchable when possible.
One of the downsides of full-text indexing is that the indexes themselves tend to be kept hidden from view; they're meant to be "set and forget," and not dealt with unless absolutely needed. Unfortunately, there do come times when an index needs to be managed or examined -- for instance, to determine if it needs to be deleted and recreated if it's been damaged.
Microsoft has a free program called the MSSearch Administration Tool, designed to assist administrators when dealing with full-text indexes in Exchange stores. You can determine which Exchange stores in the current domain have full-text indexes, find out the status of existing indexes, pull additional details about indexes, repair indexes after renaming the domain or changing the primary SMTP for the Default Recipient Policy, and perform many common administrative actions on full-text indexes through the command line.
One of the functions that can be done through this tool from the command line is resetting an index -- i.e., wiping it clean and forcing it to repopulate from the beginning. Microsoft recommends this only be used as a replacement for manually removing and deleting a full-text index if it's been damaged. (It's usually far easier to wipe an index and reset it through this tool than it is to manually remove it.)
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows 2000 Power Users Newsletter and a regular contributor to SearchExchange.com.
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