Why can't I find the file I'm looking for?

Here are some solutions to try when you have trouble finding a file on your computer.

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Make sure you spelled the search term correctly.

It's possible that you misspelled the word or phrase you're searching for.

Make sure that the search term appears at the beginning of a word.

The Search box only finds text that appears at the start of a word. For example, if you type cycle, it will find cycle, cycles, my cycle, and new-cycle, but it will not find bicycle. When searching, Windows considers a new word to occur after any of these characters:

Name Character
Name

Space

Character

Name

Period

Character

.

Name

Dash

Character

-

Name

Underscore

Character

_

Name

Ampersand

Character

&

Name

Parenthesis

Character

( ) [ ] { }

Name

Slash

Character

\ /

It is also possible to use the wildcard * to represent any letter or word when you search. You can use the wildcard to search for characters anywhere in a word, or for any word in a phrase. Here are some examples of using wildcards in a search:

Example What it does
Example

*

What it does

Finds every file in this search location

Example

*.txt

What it does

Finds every file with the TXT file name extension

Example

*cle

What it does

Finds every file with the characters cle, such as cycle, bicycle, and new-cycle

Make sure you're looking in the correct location.

It's possible that your search term is accurate, but the files you're looking for are in another location. After completing a search, Windows gives you the option to expand your search to additional locations by displaying links in the file list.

Picture of the expanded search option
The expanded search option

To quickly broaden your search, you can click a new location that might contain the files you're looking for.

Search everywhere.

Usually, your searches only include files that are indexed. The index improves the efficiency of your searches by keeping track of file names and important file properties for most of the files stored on your computer. If you want to find files that are not in the index, such as files outside of your personal folder or system files, you can change the search location.

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

  2. Click Advanced Search

  3. Click the Location list, and then click Everywhere.

  4. If you want to search for hidden and system files, select the Include non-indexed, hidden, and system files check box.

Simplify your search term.

The shorter your search term, the more likely it is that you'll get useful results. If you search for "November invoices," you will find only files that include both of those words, and not see any files that include just "November" or "invoices."

Make sure you capitalize AND or OR.

If you use special terms like AND and OR in the Search box (for example, you might search for invoices from November by typing "November AND invoice"), you must type these special terms in all capital letters. Otherwise, the Search box will look for "and" and "or" in file names. This is what a search for reports from November looks like in the Search box:

Picture of a search for files containing Nov and report
Example of a search for files containing Nov and report

If you turn on natural language search, you don't need to capitalize AND and OR. For more information, see Tips for finding files.

Check to see if the file belongs to another user.

For privacy reasons, only your own files are added to the index, and so by default only your own files are searched. If you find out that the file belongs to another user, here is how to modify searches so files that belong to another user appear in your search results:

  1. Open the folder that contains the user's files you want to search. Typically, this is C:\Users\User, where User is the name of the user whose files you are looking for. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  2. Perform your search. This user's files will now appear in your search results.