How to Search for Files & Folders in Windows 7

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If you know a file's exact name, a simple search in Windows 7's search bar hunts it down without trouble. When you've built up thousands of documents over the years, however, searching by name can return a huge list of results -- and that's assuming you remember the name at all. To track down the file you need, use search filters that look for files by their type, author, date of modification, size or other statistics.

Use search filters to find all files of a type, or to narrow search results.
(Image courtesy of Microsoft)
Step 1

Press "Windows-E" or click "Computer" in the Start menu to reach a search bar that scans your entire system. To limit your search to a particular folder or library, open that directory instead.

Open a directory to search.
Image courtesy of Microsoft
Step 2

Type part of a file or folder's name to search. Double-click an item in the search results to open it, or right-click an item and choose "Open File Location" (or "Open Folder Location") to open the folder containing the item.

Search by name.
Image courtesy of Microsoft
Step 3

Type an asterisk, a period and a file extension to "search by file type." Common extensions include DOCX for Word documents, XLSX for Excel spreadsheets, JPG or PNG for images and MP3 or M4A for music. If you don't know the extension you need, you can also search by the item's type, as listed in the Type column of the search results. For example, the search "type:Microsoft Excel Worksheet" finds Excel files.

Search by type.
Image courtesy of Microsoft
Step 4

Type "kind:" to select what sort of file you're looking for, if you don't know a file's exact type. Options include categories such as "Picture" and "Music."

Search by kind.
Image courtesy of Microsoft
Step 5

Click "Size" in the search box's filters to search by file size. In addition to the options listed, you can type an exact file size, such as "size:110KB". Alternatively, use the less-than or greater-than symbols to find a range of sizes, such as "size:<1MB".

Search by file size.
Image courtesy of Microsoft
Step 6

Search from within a library, such as Music, Documents or Pictures, to see additional filters. For example, in the Music library, the search bar offers filters to search audio files by album, artist, genre and length. Even though Windows doesn't show these extra filters outside of the libraries, you can still use them: type any filter's name followed by a colon.

Apply media filters.
Image courtesy of Microsoft
Step 7

String together multiple filters to narrow your search. Separate each filter -- and the file name, if you include one -- with a space. If you need more space to see your entire search string, drag the bar between the search bar and address bar to the left.

Use multiple filters.
Image courtesy of Microsoft

Tips & Warnings

  • Place a multi-word file name in quotes to avoid finding files that happen to contain each word separately.
  • Other filters include "datetaken" and "tags" for photos and "authors" for documents.
  • If you don't want to remember filter names, enable natural language searching: From within any folder, press "Alt-T," click "Folder Options" and turn on "Use Natural Language Search" on the Search tab. With this option, a simple search for "pictures" finds your photos without the need to type "kind:pictures." The downside is that this search also finds other files with the word "pictures" in the name.
  • Use the operators "NOT" or "OR" in a search to find files that don't contain specific terms, or that contain one of two terms, respectively.
  • To search installed applications and run a program, type in the search bar in the Start menu. This search bar also works to search for documents by name.
  • Searching your entire computer takes a long time. Whenever possible, search inside a specific folder to reduce this search time.

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