How to Search for Files in Windows 10

Quick and easy ways to locate any file on your PC

This article describes the two primary ways to search for files on a Windows 10 computer, plus suggestions for third-party search apps and helpful tips for making better file searches.

Use the Taskbar Search Bar for a General Search

The search bar permanently located at the bottom of the screen is the go-to search method for most people, and it's effortless to use. Go this route if you have no clue where to find a file or if you need to open an app or email.

  1. Press the WIN key, or select the search bar from the bottom-left corner of the taskbar, near the Start button.

  2. Start typing the name of the file, app, or another item you’re looking for, but don’t press Enter just yet.

    "Wedding" search results in Windows 10 taskbar search
  3. The results appear instantly. Notice the categories at the top; this is where you can filter the results by things like Documents, Email, Folders, Music, Photos, etc. The More menu is where you’ll find most of these.

    Photos in Windows 10 search results
  4. Select the item you want to open. You can do this via touch, the mouse, or by highlighting it with the up and down arrow keys and pressing Enter.

    Not sure if that's what you want to open? While viewing the results, use the arrow next to an item to see its details, like the last modified date and its true location on your computer.

Run a File Search in a Specific Folder

This method is a hyper-focused way to search Windows 10 folders. It’s useful if you already know where the file is located.

  1. Open the folder you want to search through. One way to start drilling through your various folders is to search for File Explorer from the taskbar search bar. If the folder is already open, skip this step.

    File Explorer in Windows 10 search.
  2. Select the search bar at the top-right of the window.

    File Explorer search box
  3. Type the search term and press Enter.

    Rescue search results showing two files

Tips for Searching for Files Faster

File Explorer has hidden search options that provide tremendous help if you're unsure what the file name is or if you need to narrow down the results. For example, if you have hundreds of files in the Documents folder, you can slim the results by looking only for files modified last month.

Here are some examples showing how to filter the search results:

  • datemodified:last month
  • datecreated:2021
  • *.mp4
  • size:>10 MB
  • kind:music

You can even combine these if you need to, plus add text to also search by name:

  • datecreated:2020 *.jpg width:160 vacation
  • *.pdf payment size:<100KB

Similar to those are sorting options. Along the top of a folder, just above the list of files, are clickable headings. Select one to sort the entire list by that criteria. Consider a folder full of hundreds of music files. You want to locate the largest one because it's taking up too much space. You could search using "size" like above, but what's better in this situation is to select Size to rearrange the list of songs by size, which makes it simple to visualize the biggest ones.

There are lots of other ways beyond size to sort a list of files. Right-click a column heading to access all of them.

Something else to remember is to go as far into the folder structure as you can so the computer isn't looking through more than it has to. For example, if you know your file is somewhere in the Downloads folder, open the Downloads and start your search there. It's unnecessary to use the taskbar search bar and search your entire computer when you know where it is. Doing this also prevents finding files in other folders with the same name.

Using Third-Party File Search Tools

Another option for faster file searches in Windows 10 is to use a third-party program. There are lots of free file search tools which do a great job; Everything is one example. After the first few minutes Everything takes to catalog everything, you can run a search through all of your hard drives in mere seconds.

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