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How to Search for Specific Files and Programs

Different ways to find files and apps in Windows 10.

Discover Windows 10 Search

A quick look at the search options in Windows 10.
Windows 10 lets users search for files and folders in a number of ways. There is no ideal method to run a search. It's mainly a matter of personal preference and the circumstance of the search. Some of the ways you can search include:

  • Using the search box in the Start Menu.
  • Using the search box in File Explorer.
  • Using Cortana's search box.
  • Using the Windows Search Folder, which you can access with the Windows key and F.

Advanced Search Options

Obtain greater control over your searches with advanced options.

Windows 10 allows you to run searches with advanced options that will make your searches more precise. Some of the ways you can do this are as follows:

Search with Filters

You can use filters to narrow down the search. Windows 10 will allow you to use date modified and file size as filters. To add a filter, click on the Search box in Windows Search or File Explorer. If you want to use Date modified, select it and then choose the date when the file was modified from the drop down menu. You can then add the Size filter and select the range in which your file falls. Now, enter the keyword and hit Enter.

Note that different folders will offer different filters, such as the Picture folder allowing you to use Date taken, Tags, and Type filters.

Search with Operators

You can use three operators, namely AND, OR, and NOT to refine your search. Always enter them using capitals and with more than one keyword. For example, "chocolate AND eggs NOT milk" will display all files that contain both chocolate and eggs but not milk. You can use a ? as a wildcard for one character, or an * for a number of characters. For example, if you want to search for all files with a jpeg extension, you would search for *.jpeg.

Searching with Keywords and Special Filters

You can use certain special filters that are more advanced than those offered in the search box. You'll have to type the keyword and then the correct operator. Some of these filters are as follows:

  • System.FileName:~<"red" - will return files that start with red.
  • System.FileName:="blue widget" - will return files with the exact blue widget string in their names.
  • System.FileName:~="pro" - returns files that have pro in the name, either as a word or a string of characters.
  • System.FileName: <>picture - will return files that aren't pictures.
  • System.DateModified:04/28/2016 - will return files that were modified on that date.

Saving Your Searches

Make your life easier by saving common searches.
Windows 10 gives you the option to save searches, which is useful if you used lots of advanced filters to find files and would rather avoid going through that again. To save a search, when the results are displayed, click on Save Search at the top of the screen. A dialog box will open, where you'll have to choose the folder where you want the search saved. Give it a name and save. By default, the search will be saved in the User Documents\Searches folder, but you can change the location if you want.

Search Faster by Indexing Folders

Speed up searches in Windows 10 by indexing all your hard drive's folders.

You can speed up your searches by indexing folders, which means Windows creates an index of your files and scans that rather than the entire system. To index a folder, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Control Panel and type Index Options in the Search box.
  2. Click on the button labeled Indexing Options, which will open the corresponding button.
  3. Click Modify and add the folders you want to be indexed.

If you want to index your entire hard drive, then follow Steps 1 and 2 above, but in Step 3, click on Advanced → Settings → Troubleshooting → Rebuild.

Rebuilding will take a while - it can take hours sometimes, so it's usually a good idea to rebuild when you aren't in front of your system.