In this article I will show you the easiest ways to search your files in Windows 10 and Windows 11.
If you're running macOS, see the article about searching files on Mac.
1. 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.
Search by file name
1. Open the folder you want to search. If you choose "This PC," you will search in 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.
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 documents, click on "Advanced options" -> "File Contents."
This useful feature has also 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 the same words again.
Search in scanned documents
When you want to search text in scanned documents, the methods described above will not work. Typically, scanned documents are in PDF format. Before you can search them, you need to use OCR software to convert them to text. For more information on searching scanned PDF documents, see our article explaining how to search in a PDF file.
Useful File Explorer options
Once you've clicked in the search box, 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.
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.
File types – Select the type of files you want to search – such as photos, videos, music, games, and more.
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.
Finally, let's take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of File Explorer in regard to searching files.
- 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.
- The tool doesn't show the found text – you need to open each file separately, and to search for it again in the document.
- You cannot search for word combinations.
- Searching the text of files is very slow, unless you enable the indexing option.
SeekFast is a popular and convenient program for searching text in files 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 in the file names and in the texts of the files.
The main advantage that distinguishes SeekFast from other similar tools is the intelligent search, which analyzes the results found and ranks the most relevant at the top.
SeekFast can search in all popular document types – MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, LaTeX, RTF, 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.
3. Type a search word or combination of words in the search box and click "Enter."
4. In the search results you see both the names and folders of the found files and the sentence of the text that contains the searched words. Click on the file name to open the file, or on the sentence to see a larger context without opening the file.
You can also use the toolbar icons to work with the program.
The most important of these are:
Select a folder to search – Opens a Browse dialog window to select a folder to search.
Save results – Saves your search result to a text file.
Reload – If you have made changes to the files in the current search folder, click on this button to make the program reread them.
Home – Shows the home page, displaying the most important instructions for using the program.
Find – With this option you can search for a word in the search results themselves. You can also activate it by pressing Ctrl+F.
Print – Prints the search result.
Options – Opens a window with program settings, from which you can change the maximum size of the files you are looking for, types of files to search, and much more.
Help – Displays the Manual for using the program.
License – Click on it to enter your license key if you have purchased a license for the program.
There are also some important options below the search box:
Order – You can sort your results by relevance, by date (the most recent will be displayed at the top) and by file name.
Case sensitive – Click on this option if you want to perform a case sensitive search.
Match word – Allows you to search only the exact words you have entered.
- Can search both in the text and the file names.
- The search is very fast.
- Supports all commonly used document types.
- Sorts the results by relevance.
- Convenient and easy to use interface.
- Has a free version.
- The free version can only search up to 50 files at a time.
If you don't mind working from the command line without using a graphical interface, findstr is a good choice. It is a built-in Windows tool that has great search capabilities, but requires some knowledge. It is similar to the grep tool in Linux. The findstr commands are similar to the grep commands – you can see them in the article for 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. But if you want to search complex file types such as MS Word, Excel or PDF documents, it will not work.
The biggest 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, in which 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\*"
To search in subfolders as well, you need to add the /s option:
findstr 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 painting "D:\books\*.txt."
Case insensitive search
To ignore case, use the /i option. For example, if you're looking for "painting," you'll also find "Painting":
findstr 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 painting "D:\books\*"
You can find more useful information on using findstr in the official findstr user guide.
- 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.
- No graphical interface.
- Can only search text files.
- Knowledge of command line options is required to work with the program.
If you need to search only in 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 for this kind of search it is rather slow. 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.
3. Start the program and enter the word you are looking for in the search field.
4. Click on a folder or file if you want to open it.
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.
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 would recommend you to use it only in a specific folder that has 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.
3. Click "OK" to close Advanced Search.
- Completely free.
- When searching by file name, it shows the found files instantly.
- The interface is simple and easy to use.
- Searching the text of files is very slow.
- Does not show the sentences found in the text.
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 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.
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 features of the program.
- Has a free version.
- Quickly finds files and programs.
- Easily to open with a shortcut key.
- Cannot search the text of documents.
- The free version does not offer Advanced Search, filters, and other useful features.
- No standard graphical interface.
Cortana is a voice assistant created by Microsoft that is distributed with Windows 10 and later versions. You can use Cortana for many different tasks such as asking it what the weather will be for actual events, or to set up a reminder.
With Cortana, you can also search for files on your computer.
To find a file using Cortana, do the following:
1. Press Windows+S to open the search box.
2. Write the search word.
3. Click the appropriate file in the results to open it.
- Built into Windows.
- You can use it with voice commands.
- It can perform various types of tasks.
- Overlaps with the features of File Explorer.
- Not convenient for searching the text of documents.
I hope this short guide to searching for files in Windows was helpful to you.
Now I would like to hear from you – which task do you have to do more often – search by file name, or search in the text of your documents?
Which of these programs is most convenient for you?
Let me know by leaving a comment below!