Windows provides several ways to find files and folders. There is no one best way to search; you can use different methods for different situations.

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To find a file or folder when you know where to start looking

You're often likely to be looking for a file that you know is stored somewhere in a particular folder, such as Documents or Pictures. Unfortunately, actually locating the file you want might mean browsing through hundreds of files and subfolders. To save time and effort, use the Search box.

Picture of the Search box
The Search box

The Search box is located at the top of every folder (as well as at the bottom of the Start menu). It filters the current view based on text that you type. The search is based on text in the file name and the file itself, tags, and other file properties. It looks in the current folder as well as all subfolders.

To search for a file or folder using the Search box:

  • Type a word or part of a word into the Search box.

    As you type in the Search box, the contents of the folder will be filtered to reflect each successive character you type. When you see the file you want, you can stop typing. You don't need to press ENTER, since searching happens automatically.

For example, suppose you start with a folder that looks like this:

Picture of a folder's contents before typing in the Search box
Folder contents before typing in the Search box

Now suppose that you're looking for your invoice files, so you type "invoice" in the Search box. As you type, the view is automatically filtered and you see something like this:

Picture of a folder's contents after typing "invoice" in the Search box
Folder contents after typing "invoice" in the Search box

For more information on using the Search box, see Tips for finding files.

To find a file or folder using the Search folder

The Search folder is a good choice when:

  • You don't know where a file or folder is located.

  • You want the search results to include files from more than one folder, such as Pictures and Music.

  • You want to search by using more than a single file name or file property.

By default, this search is based on a set of locations called Indexed Locations. This includes all of the folders in your personal folder (which includes Documents, Pictures, Music, Desktop, and other common locations), e‑mail, and offline files. If you commonly store files in different locations, you can add those locations to Indexed Locations. For more information, see Improve Windows searches using the index: frequently asked questions.

  1. Open Search by pressing Windows logo key Picture of Windows logo key +F.

  2. Type a word or part of a word in the Search box.

    As you type, files from a variety of locations on your computer will appear that match your text.

  3. Now do any of the following in the Search pane:

    • Click one of the available filter buttons to show only certain kinds of files, such as E‑mail, Documents, Pictures, or Music.

    • Click the Advanced Search button Picture of the Advanced Search button to show additional filters. To build a more advanced search, enter information in any of the list boxes, and then click the Search button.
    • Click an item in the Location list to choose a different set of locations for your search. The default search is Indexed Locations, but you can choose to search an entire hard disk or any other location.

For more information about creating a search using the Search folder, see Tips for finding files.

Tips

  • The default search, Indexed Locations, is usually the best way to search. Because these locations are indexed, the search is very fast, and it includes all of the most common places for storing files.

  • You can use the location called Everywhere to perform a thorough search of your entire computer. When you search Everywhere, you will quickly get results from Indexed Locations, and then results from outside the index will slowly appear as the rest of your computer is searched.

To find a program or file using the Start menu

You can use the Search box on the Start menu to find programs, files located anywhere in Indexed Locations (which includes your personal folder, e‑mail, and offline files), and websites stored in your browser's history.

Picture of the Search box on the Start menu
The Search box on the Start menu

To find a program or file using the Start menu:

  • Type a word or part of a word in the Search box on the Start menu.

    As you type, items that match your text will appear on the Start menu. The search is based on text in the file name, text in the file, tags, and other file properties. You don't need to press ENTER, since searching happens automatically.