What Is a SEARCH-MS File?

The Windows OS uses this file to store saved searches

What to Know

  • A SEARCH-MS file is a Windows saved search file.
  • Windows handles these files automatically, so there's no need to manually open one or convert the file.

This article explains what a SEARCH-MS file is.

What Is a SEARCH-MS File?

A file with the SEARCH-MS file extension is a Windows saved search file that enables you to perform file searches through the Windows operating system.

Searches made in Windows work because the Windows Search Index monitors changes made to files and stores those changes in a SEARCH-MS file, which is then used to quickly find those files throughout the computer. The file type is also used when a user saves a search to view the results later.

These files are based on the XML file format, which means they are text files that contain just text entries.

Screenshot of SEARCH-MS files in Windows Vista
SEARCH-MS files in Windows Vista.

SEARCH-MS files are different than MS files, which are either Maxwell or 3ds Max script files.

How to Open a SEARCH-MS File

The tool that actually uses SEARCH-MS files is included in Windows, so there's no need to download anything to make the file work. Neither is there any reason to manually open a SEARCH-MS file for the intent of "running" or "starting" the file, like you would with other types of files (like EXE application files or MP3 audio files).

SEARCH-MS files are stored in the %userprofile%\Searches folder. In it are various files that all have this file extension. In Windows 11, these are named Everywhere and Indexed Locations, while Windows Vista also includes Recent Documents, Recent E-mail, Recent Music, Recent Pictures and Videos, Recently Changed, and Shared By Me.

Opening any of those files will launch a search using those specific settings. For example, Recent Documents.search-ms will show your most recently used documents.

Since they're purely text files, you can use any text editor to open them, like Notepad in Windows.

To open a SEARCH-MS file in a text editor, you can't just open it and expect it to launch in that program. Instead, start the text editor first and then use its Open option to find the file you want to read.

How to Convert a SEARCH-MS File

There shouldn't be any reason to change the file extension or do a conversion to make the file work in Windows.

The only scenario we can think of where someone would want to convert anything related to a SEARCH-MS file would be if when you run a particular search, it shows a file that you'd rather have in a different format. For example, maybe you run a saved search, and it shows an MP4 on your desktop.

Instead of converting the SEARCH-MS file, you'd want to convert the actual file you're dealing with, the MP4 video in this case. There are lots of file converters that can do all types of conversions between formats.

More Information on SEARCH-MS Files

SEARCH-MS files look like folders, and they're each labeled "Search Folder" in File Explorer as the file type. However, these are still files like any other.

Indexing can be turned off by stopping the "Windows Search" service. This can be done through the Services shortcut in Administrative Tools.

Some of the same SEARCH-MS files in Vista are available in newer versions of Windows, too, like, Windows 11, in the same %userprofile%\Searches folder. You'll need to show hidden files and folders to see them. Windows 7 and newer also use this folder to store the similar SEARCHCONNECTOR-MS files.

Remember that files that end with .MS are not the same as ones whose suffix is .SEARCH-MS. Look again at the sections above that talk about MS files if that's the kind of file you're needing to open.

  • How do I search for files on Windows?

    Select the magnifying glass in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen and start typing the name of the file. You can also search for files in a folder or use third-party file search tools.

  • How do I fix Windows search not working?

    When Windows search isn't working, potential fixes include restarting the Windows Search service or rebuilding the Windows search index. If you're still having problems, try running Windows Troubleshooter.

  • How do I open Windows File Explorer?

    Type WIN+E, or select the folder icon in the taskbar. Alternatively, right-click Start and select File Explorer. File Explorer is just a different name for Windows Explorer.

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