How to Search Files in Windows 10 and 11

Contents

1. SeekFast
2. File Explorer
3. Everything
4. Listary
5. Findstr
6. Conclusion

 

 

In this article, I will show you the easiest ways to search your files in Windows 10 and 11.

 

 

1. SeekFast

 

When it comes to searching for text in your files, I recommend SeekFast - a popular and convenient program for textual search on your computer. It supports all versions of Windows from Windows 7 up, as well as macOS. It offers a free and paid version.

 

The tool can search both the file names and in the text of the files.

 

The main advantage distinguishing SeekFast from similar tools is the intelligent search, which allows you to search for combinations of words that occur in different places in the text. SeekFast analyzes the results and ranks the most relevant at the top.

 

SeekFast can search in all popular document types – MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, WordPerfect, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, LaTeX, RTF, email files, and all types of text files.

 

To use SeekFast, you need to follow these steps:

 

1. Download and install SeekFast.

 

2. Press the "Browse" button to select a folder to search.

 

SeekFast browse for folder

 

 

3. Type a search word or combination of words in the search box and click "Enter."

 

SeekFast type search words

 

 

4. In the search results you see both the names and folders of the found files and the sentences containing the search words. Click on the file name to open the file or on the sentence to see a larger context without opening the file.

 

SeekFast view document text or open file

 

 

You can load previously searched folders instantly:

 

SeekFast choose folder to search

 

 

Some other essential features of SeekFast are:

  • Load a list of search terms from a text file.
  • Save the search result to a CSV or text file.
  • Sort results by relevance, date, or file name.
  • Fine-tune the search using the "Case sensitive," "Match word," "Any of words," and other options.

 

Advantages

  • You can search both in the text and the file names.
  • The search is very fast.
  • The tool supports all commonly used document types.
  • You can sort results by relevance.
  • Convenient and easy to use interface.
  • The program has a free version.

 

Disadvantages

  • The free version can only search up to 50 files at a time.

 

 

2. File Explorer

 

File Explorer is the built-in file manager in Windows. It offers good capabilities for searching both the file names and the text of files.

 

The interface of the search options in Windows 11 is drastically different from that of Windows 10, so we will present separate images for each version.

 

 

Search by file name

 

1. Open the folder you want to search. If you choose "This PC," you will search all drives on your computer.

 

2. Click on the search box and type the name or part of the name of the file you are looking for.

 

Windows 10

File Explorer in Windows 10 type search words

 

Windows 11

File Explorer in Windows 11 type search words

 

 

The more files in the folder, the longer it will take for the search to complete.

 

 

Search text in documents

 

You can also use File Explorer to search the text content of files. If you want to find a document whose name you don't remember, search for words that you think are in the file's contents.

 

To search the text of the documents:

  • In Windows 10, click on "Advanced options" -> "File Contents."
  • In Windows 11, type the search words and click on the "Search options" -> "File Contents."

 

Windows 10

File Explorer in Windows 10 search file contents

 

Windows 11

File Explorer in Windows 11 search file contents

 

 

This helpful feature also has some disadvantages – it takes a long time to find all the files, especially if you search in a larger folder. Another disadvantage is that you can't see the found text until you open the file and search for the same words again.

 

 

Useful File Explorer options

 

Once you've clicked in the search box and typed the search words, you'll see the various options you can apply to your search.

 

Search in subfolders – Check or uncheck this option to include or exclude subfolders.

 

Windows 10

File Explorer in Windows 10 include or exclude subfolders to search

 

Windows 11

File Explorer in Windows 11 include or exclude subfolders to search

 

 

Filter by date modified – Click the "Date modified" button and select a date. For example, if you check today's date, only files that were changed today will be displayed.

 

Windows 10

File Explorer in Windows 10 serach file by date modified

 

Windows 11

File Explorer in Windows 11 serach file by date modified

 

 

File types – Select the type of files you want to search – such as photos, videos, music, games, and more.

 

Windows 10

File Explorer in Windows 10 select kind of files to search

 

Windows 11

File Explorer in Windows 11 select kind of files to search

 

 

Search by folder name – To search by folder name, select "Kind" -> "Folder."

 

 

Search by file size – Click on the "Size" button to filter the files by size.

 

Windows 10

File Explorer in Windows 10 filter the search by file size

 

Windows 11

File Explorer in Windows 11 filter the search by file size

 

 

Finally, let's take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of File Explorer in terms of searching files.

 

Advantages

  • You don't need to install anything – it is built into Windows.
  • It offers a wide variety of options.
  • You can search in the text of the documents.

 

Disadvantages

  • The tool doesn't show the found text – you need to open each file separately and search for it again in the document.
  • You cannot search for word combinations.
  • Searching the text of files is slow unless you enable the indexing option.

 

 

3. Everything

 

If you need to search only the names of the files, Everything is a very suitable program for you – it is fast, convenient, and is made just for this purpose.

 

I do not recommend Everything to search the text of your documents because it is relatively slow for this kind of search. In addition, you will not be able to see the text of the sentences found without opening the file itself.

 

 

How to use Everything

 

1. Download Everything.

 

2. When installing the program, in the "NTFS indexing" options, leave the default option "Install Everything service" so that your searches can be fast.

 

Install Everything search tool

 

 

3. Start the program and enter the word you are looking for in the search field.

 

How to search files with Everything

 

 

4. Click on a folder or file to open it.

 

Open file ro folder with Everything

 

 

Search within a specific folder

 

By default, Everything searches your entire PC. If you only want to search a specific folder, follow these steps:

 

1. Go to "Search" -> "Advanced Search."

 

2. Click the "Browse" button and select the desired folder.

 

Choose a specific folder to search with Everything

 

 

3. Leave "Include subfolders" checked if you want to search in subfolders.

 

4. Click "OK" to close the Advanced Search.

 

5. Type your search word to the right.

 

 

Search the text of documents

 

Everything can search the text of almost all types of documents, but the search is very slow. I recommend you use it only in a specific folder with a small number of documents.

 

To search the text of documents, follow these steps:

 

1. Go to "Search" -> "Advanced Search" and select the search folder as described above.

 

2. In the "A word or phrase in the file" field, enter the search word.

 

Search text in documents with Everything

 

 

3. Click "OK" to close Advanced Search.

 

Advantages

  • Completely free.
  • When searching by file name, it shows the found files instantly.
  • The interface is simple and easy to use.

 

Disadvantages

  • Searching the text of the files is slow.
  • The tool does not show the sentences found in the text.

 

 

4. Listary

 

Listary is a handy tool for searching by file name on your computer. It has a free and paid version.

 

In addition to searching for files, with Listary, you can open applications, copy and move files between folders, and perform other operations.
 

 

How to use Listary

 

1. Download and install the program.

 

2. Open File Explorer and double-click the "Ctrl" key.

 

3. Enter the search word in the search box.

 

Search files with Listary

 

 

4. Click on the file or program you want to open.

 

You can add favorite folders using the icon to the right. You can also view the recently opened and modified files.

 

From the last icon on the right, you can display a context menu with other useful program features.

 

Advantages

  • The tool has a free version.
  • Quickly finds files and programs.
  • Easily to open with a shortcut key.

 

Disadvantages

  • The tool cannot search the text of the documents.
  • The free version does not offer advanced search, filters, and other valuable features.
  • There is no standard graphical interface.

 

 

3. Findstr

 

If you are okay with working from the command line without using a graphical interface, findstr is a good choice. It is a built-in Windows tool with excellent search capabilities, but requires some knowledge. It is similar to the grep tool in Linux. The findstr commands resemble the grep commands – you can see them in the article about searching files in Linux.

 

It is important to note that findstr can only search in plain text files, such as *.txt, *.html, *.xml, *.csv, and others. If you want to search complex file types such as MS Word, Excel, or PDF documents, it will not work.

 

The most significant advantages of findstr search are the wide range of options and the ability to use regular expressions.

 

To use the tool, open the Search Box, type "cmd", and click on "Command Prompt" – it is the working environment for findstr, where you will write the commands.

 

 

Search for a word in a folder

 

Finding a word in the text files in a folder is easy. For example, if you want to search for the word "painting" in the "books" folder located on drive D, your search should look like this:

findstr painting "D:\books\*"

 

 

Search subfolders

 

To search in subfolders as well, you need to add the /s option:

findstr /s painting "D:\books\*"

 

 

Search for files with a specific extension

 

To search only for files with a specific extension, add the extension after the asterisk. For example, to search for ".txt" files, enter:

findstr /s painting "D:\books\*.txt."

 

 

Case insensitive search

 

To ignore the case, use the /i option. For example, if you're looking for "painting," you'll also find "Painting":

findstr /s /i painting "D:\books\*"

 

 

Write the line number

 

If you want to see the line number in which the search word is located, add the /n option:

findstr /s /i /n painting "D:\books\*"

 

You can find more useful information on using findstr in the official findstr user guide.

 

Advantages

  • You do not need to install anything as the program is built into Windows.
  • You have a wide variety of search options.
  • You can use regular expressions.

 

Disadvantages

  • There is no graphical interface.
  • The tool can only search text files.
  • Knowledge of command line options is required to work with the program.

 

 

6. Conclusion

 

I hope this short guide to searching for files in Windows was helpful to you.

 

If you're running macOS, make sure to check out our article about searching on Mac.

 

Now I would like to hear from you – which task do you have to do more often?

 

Which of these programs is most convenient for you?

 

Let me know by leaving a comment below!

About the author
Hanaan Stamenov
Hanaan is a hardware and software specialist from Sofia, Bulgaria. For the last two years, he has contributed some of the most resourceful guides on our blog.
9 comments
  • Rahmat says:

    Awesome! It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’m a teacher, and I spend the majority of my time checking to see if my students are copying each other’s answers. The majority of the take-home tasks or exams are designed for students to learn while working on the activity, and I consider them to be learning if they discuss or work together on the questions with their peers after class. However, there are always a few pupils who seek to cut corners by copying and pasting answers. I used Windows Explorer’s advanced search feature to look for duplication of text chunks. It requires patience since it takes time (perhaps because of the slow hard disk). I’m thinking about trying out some of the suggested apps to see which ones work best on my outdated computer. Cheers

  • John says:

    Great software for studying. I use SeekFast when studying, researching, to remind myself of certain concepts/topics. Sometimes they can be spread out across multiple files, so SeekFast is a great tool to know where each concept is and refresh my memory on them.

  • Al Scot says:

    EVERYTHING also failed ( as did Windows 11 File Explorer) in finding a file name containing a keyword.
    Stop wasting my time!

    • Dimitar Stamenov says:

      Hi Al,

      Have you tried SeekFast (mentioned in this article)? The tool can search both the names and contents of Windows 11 files.

  • Sudharshana says:

    Brilliant, thank you for your sharing!

  • Ben says:

    Tried seekfast. Unfortuantely failed in search text within the image file

  • nutzboi says:

    Yo, thank you so much. Helpful article. Do you guys know how to make findstr search a string with spaces, though? When i enter a phrase it just finds matches for the first word and ignores the rest. Any ideas?

  • Dave Slomer says:

    DOS suggests that FINDSTR is a built-in command. But it does not follow one particular convention.

    (1) I have a space in my “Google Drive” folder name, which is not supposed to be a problem because of the well-documented resolution “… paths with spaces require quotation marks….” around the entire path.

    So I put the entire path inside double quotes like so:
    FINDSTR “find this” “C:\Users\Dov\Google Drive\*.bas”

    But DOS tells me this:
    <>
    Where did my quotation marks go? I assume FINDSTR did it. Why?

    (2) But EVEN WORSE is that, before I remembered to put the entire path inside double quotes, DOS threw “Out of Memory” errors.

    Yes, that was my error/fault (now corrected) but WHY did those attempts NOT give the <> error?
    What was FINDSTR DOING to run me out of memory? (I have 32 GB on a 64-bit system.) It certainly wasn’t trying to open any file since the “cannot open” error wasn’t thrown.

    I Googled “Findstr out of memory” and found an interesting recent thread at https://www.dostips.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=10543, dated Oct 2022. One suggestion was that FINDSTR moves on to the next file without closing the previous handle. This is reasonable. The “*” wildcard character pretty much has to be is used. If the search node has enough folders and files beneath it, out of memory will happen.

    Toward the end of the thread an opinion held that “this should be reported to Microsoft (with all the steps required” to cause the error). I wholeheartedly agree. (All I had to do to get “out of memory” was to have a space in a path name that was not inside quotes. Just doing this could be revealing.)

    My very unsatisfactory temporary workaround was to rename my “Google Drive” folder to “Google_Drive” and leave the quotes off the path name in the FINDSTR command. FINDSTR then produced correct results.

    But that folder has to be renamed back to “Google Drive” for everything (like opening a file!) to work.

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