NOTE: If you're finding this post, and having a terrible time setting up Windows Search features in Windows 7, particularly to index network file locations, I feel your pain!
Windows Desktop Search 4.0 in Windows XP was, in my opinion, a legitimate competitor to Google Desktop Search. Using this product, you can easily build search indexes for your desktop as well as networked file locations.
In Windows 7, Microsoft (in its infinite wisdom) chose to more deeply integrate this search technology with the core of the operating system. It works, kind of, although it seems to be lacking in documentation and strangely more complex, even though I think MS intended it to be easier, actually.
Anyway, the subject of today's post is how to have indexed network file locations searchable in the Windows 7 search box on the Start Menu. I am still experimenting with it, but here is what seemed to work for me. Please note, all this is being done with a Windows 2008 R2 file server, with a Windows 2008 R2 Active Directory, and a Windows 7 domain member. I think the same setup would apply to a Windows 7 box with a networked attached storage device (NAS, something like you might have set up at home) with all the machines on the same workgroup.
First, I enabled the Windows Search Service Role in File Services on the Windows 2008 R2 file server. This caused the network file shares to be indexed.
Second, I created a library on the Windows 7 desktop whose sole purpose was to be a pointer to the network file share. This key step seems to be what "simplified" and made searching the network file share much easier.
With these two steps completed, I could now search both the local machine (after including relevant locations in the index), and the network file shares, and the results showed in the Start Menu's search area.
Note that with the Search Service role enabled on the server, it also seemed that I could navigate to the network share via Windows Explorer, and use the integrated search box presented there, and that also seemed to use the server's search index automatically. This would NOT require you to set up a library locally on the client, although that step seemed to make the search results appear in the Start Menu search area as I mentioned above.
Now to figure out how to automate the creation of the Windows 7 library creation via Group Policy..... if possible!