How to Find Anything on your Computer with Windows Search

windows searchThe built-in desktop search tool is one of my favorite features of Windows. Unlike Google Instant, Windows Desktop Search cannot predict your search queries in advance but it can find relevant documents, e-mails, programs and other files almost as fast as you can type characters in the search box.

Windows search can be accessed from a variety of places on your computer. This includes the Windows Start Menu, Windows Explorer or press the “Windows key + F” to open a standalone search window. The latter option is more useful as it offers hints as you type and thus you can easily construct complex search queries without knowing the exact syntax.

Windows Desktop Search Tips and Tricks

Windows Search supports simple operators to help you narrow down search results and find the exact file or email message that you’re looking for. Some real-world examples:

1. Find presentations (ppt files) that contain a particular word.

  • ext:ppt sales {Search for the word “sales” in file names as well the content of documents}
  • ext:ppt filename:sales {Search only file names, don’t look inside the file content}

2. Find documents that were created or modified this week.

  • ext:doc date:this week {replace doc with xls, ppt, etc. for other file types}

In addition to “this week”, you may use values like today, yesterday, last week, past month or even “a long ago” with the date: search operator. It also works with date ranges as in the following examples.

  • date:13-09-2010..24-09-2010 {find files added /modified in this date range}
  • kind:pictures date:>23-09-2010 {find all photographs that were captured after this day}

3. Find files that are taking lot of space on your system.

The following search query will instantly find gigantic video files that are larger than 128 MB in size. If you replace the value “gigantic” with “empty”, you’ll see all the files are 0 KB in size.

  • size:gigantic kind:video {find large video files like mp4, mov, wmv, avi, etc.}
  • size:>500MB {all files that are larger than .5 GB}
  • size:500MB..800Mb {find files that are in this particular size range}

4. Find files within a specific folder.

Windows Desktop Search, by default, will find files across all folders that have been added to the search index. If your search results are cluttered due to this, you can quickly narrow them down to select folders as in the following examples:

  • todo folder:documents {search your My Documents folders}
  • folder:desktop ext:pdf date:today {find PDF documents that you saved today}
  • adobe setup.ini folder:c:\program files {search a file in Adobe’s installation folders}

5. Find Emails with Windows Search

Other than documents and files, Windows Search is an excellent tool for searching your Outlook emails and it works more or less like search commands in Gmail. Some examples:

  • from:aryaman date:this week {find emails from Aryaman that you received this week}
  • isread:false importance:high {find all your important but still unread emails}
  • hasattachment:true size:>5mb {find emails with bulky attachments}
  • subject:“credit card” from:bank.com {find all Credit Card related emails from the bank}

These are just a few useful examples but you should also check out MSDN for a complete list of advanced search operators that are supported by Windows Desktop Search.

Also, if you have trouble getting your files or your emails in the search results, chances are that you have not added the locations to your Windows Search Index. Go to Control Panel – > Indexing Options and modify your Indexed Locations.

Related: Stack your Files in Windows Explorer

Amit Agarwal

Amit Agarwal

Google Developer Expert, Google Cloud Champion

Amit Agarwal is a Google Developer Expert in Google Workspace and Google Apps Script. He holds an engineering degree in Computer Science (I.I.T.) and is the first professional blogger in India.

Amit has developed several popular Google add-ons including Mail Merge for Gmail and Document Studio. Read more on Lifehacker and YourStory

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