Searching saves a huge amount of time, but not just on the Web. Windows offers very useful search features that launch programs, open files, and hunt down settings much more quickly.
Windows Search 101
You can start typing a search in the Start menu on Windows 7 and Vista, or from the Start screen on Windows 8. To access the Start menu or Start screen, press the Windows key once.
Then just start typing. When you see search results, either keep typing to narrow down your results, press the Enter key to launch the selected result, or use the arrow keys to select a result before pressing Enter.
For example, to quickly launch Firefox from your keyboard, press the Windows key, type Firef, and then press Enter. If you want to launch a file named Resume.docx, press the Windows key, and type Resume. Resume.docx should appear as the best search result — press Enter to open it. To quickly locate settings buried in the Control Panel, type the name of the settings — for example, type “firewall” to see different firewall settings you can access.
You can also launch websites using Search. Press the Windows key, type ehow.com, then press Enter to open eHow’s front page in your web browser.
Unfortunately, Microsoft made a bizarre change with Windows 8, opting to search only your installed programs by default. You’re forced to click among different categories to access files and settings. Thankfully, Windows 8.1 fixed that broken search feature and allows you to search everything at once. So definitely upgrade to Windows 8.1 if you’re still using Windows 8 — it’s free and makes Windows 8 much less annoying.
On Windows 8.1, you can also press Windows Key + S to start a search without the Start screen taking over your desktop.
Search for Files
It’s also possible to perform a more advanced file search from the File Explorer application on Windows 8.1 or 8, or the Windows Explorer application on Windows 7.
Open a folder window and navigate to the folder you want to search — you can select This PC or your C: drive if you want to search your entire hard drive. Type a search into the search box at the top-right corner of the window. Use the options to narrow down your search by file type, size, date modified and other details.
Control What Windows Searches
Windows can search for your files so quickly — notice it finds everything in just seconds — because it uses a search indexer. The indexer runs in the background, watching your files for changes and building up a database on your computer. It’s a bit like Google or any other search engine — when you perform a search, you’re searching the search engine’s database. Google doesn’t open every Web page and examine the entire Web to find the best page for you; that would take much longer!
By default, important data directories like all the folders inside your “C:\Users” folder are indexed by Windows. If you have other locations you want to index, it’s easy to add them. To access the indexing options, tap the Windows key, type Indexing Options, and press Enter. Use the Modify button here and add additional folders you want Windows to keep track of.
Bing Search on Windows 8.1
Windows 8.1 has built-in Bing search features. When you perform a search from the Start screen or search charm and press Enter, you’ll see a large search results screen with information from Bing. Bing results will also appear as suggested options when you’re typing a search. To do this, Windows 8.1 sends your searches to Bing as you type them. Windows 8.1 offers surprisingly attractive search results pages for some types of searches — try searching for the name of a city:
You can also disable Bing search if you don’t like it. Tap the Windows key and type Bing to search. Select the “Choose whether to include search results and suggestions from Bing” option. Disable the “Use Bing to search online” option here. Windows 8.1 will no longer send your searches to Bing or show you Bing results unless you open your browser and head to Bing’s website.
Image Credit: Microsoft