We have found several compelling reasons to love Windows 10, including small things like new features in the Task Manager and the introduction of Quick Access. But one of the biggest improvements is the new Start Menu and improved search functionality.
Windows Search has always had a number of neat tips and tricks you could use, but it was never quite on par with the search features of OS X and Linux. And while Windows 10 did lessen the gap in a lot of ways, it’s still slow and imperfect.
If you find yourself constantly searching for files and folders throughout your system, you may be better off switching to one of these third-party tool instead. Windows Search is only good for basic and casual use.
Everything is consistently lauded as one of the fastest search tools for Windows. Using it is as simple as it gets: install it, open the program, and give it a bit to index your entire system. (It can index a fresh Windows install in under a minute.)
Once that’s done, all you have to do is type anything into the text field and you will get instantaneous results as you type. And as long as you allow Everything to sit in the background and monitor system changes, it will always be instantaneous.
Best of all, it’s lightweight and takes up less than 5 MB of RAM and 1 MB of disk space. This is the absolute best tool to use for old and slow computers.
Lookeen does the same thing as Everything, but is a more full-featured solution. It can search for content beyond just file names and it does so with speed. The search window can also show previews of certain file types, even allowing you to edit text files directly.
Lookeen can also search external drives in addition to local ones, and there are a few filter options you can use to narrow down files further than with text queries only.
If you visit the Lookeen site, you’ll have a hard time finding the free version — but rest assured because a free version does exist! Don’t fall for the 14-day trial of the business version.
Of all the software on this list, Listary is probably the most unique. Not only is it extremely minimal in design, but it stays completely out of your way until you need it. When you want to search, just start typing! It’s as easy as that.
And as you type, Listary will show a list of all files on your system that match the query — in real-time. In addition, Listary can execute commands like “Open Folder” and “Copy Folder Path”. You can even use Listary to quickly hop into a different folder just by typing its name.
Some of its best features require Listary Pro which is $20. But even with Listary Free, you get a lot of power and flexibility.
Back when I was a serious programmer, grepWin was one of the most useful tools I had at my disposal. With it, you can search through any directory tree and it will find files by matching contents with your search query (regular expression are supported).
If you’ve ever used Linux, it’s basically the “grep” command for Windows. So the next time you need to search for a specific line of code or a specific line of documentation, this will cut your search time by orders of magnitude. It’s really that useful.
AstroGrep is a great alternative to grepWin in case the latter doesn’t fit your fancy for whatever reasons. It does the same thing — finds files that match your search query by content rather than file name — but is slightly less advanced and easier to use.
You can designate which file types to search, view file contents within AstroGrep itself, and save or print results for later. Potential future features include searching through PDFs, MP3s, ZIPs, RARs, and more.
AstroGrep has been around since 2006 and continues to receive regular updates.
SearchMyFiles seems helplessy primitive at first glance, but it’s deceptively flexible. Once you get over the slight learning curve, you’ll be able to put together complex search queries using filters and wildcards.
For example, search all files created in the last 15 minutes, between 300 and 600 bytes in size, and containing the word “error”. The application is lightweight and portable (no installation required), so you can carry it around on an USB stick.
NirSoft also maintains hundreds of other small tools, such as utilities for decluttering your right-click menu. All of them are clean, portable, and available free of charge.
Copernic has been in the search industry since 1996, starting first as a web search engine, but eventually becoming known for its spectacular desktop search application. In fact, it’s considered by many as the #1 desktop search tool in the world.
It comes in a free version and a commercial version. Unfortunately, the free version can’t search network drives, external drives, cloud storages, Outlook emails, Lotus notes, and has an index limit of 75,000 files. But for basic home usage, it’s more than enough.
Exselo Desktop isn’t as well-known as other desktop search options, which is a shame because it’s actually quite good. It supports powerful search queries, has a simple interface, securely share data, and even integrates with Outlook.
Not only can it search local drives, but Exselo can also comb through network and cloud stores. And best of all, the Free edition is feature complete. The only difference between Free and Enterprise: support for multiple users.
Can you guess how much of your hard drive space is wasted by duplicate files? The answer might surprise you. Duplicate files are more common than we tend to think, and if those duplicates are image, audio, or video files, they can take up a LOT of unnecessary space.
Duplicate & Same Files Searcher is a tiny portable program — less than 1 MB in size — that finds all files that are identical by content (not by file name). As such, the scanning process can be a bit slow, but you can filter and set parameters to speed things up.
And not only can the program delete said duplicates, but it can replace them with “hard links” that are basically shortcuts to one single file, thus saving you space without breaking anything in the meanwhile.
10. Registry Finder
Despite the extra searchability in Windows 10, the registry is still a bit crude and could use a lot of love. Whether you want to fix errors in the registry or just make a few tweaks for usability, the process of finding keys can be slow and tedious.
Registry Finder is a free tool that makes registry navigation easy. It also has the ability to search keys according to when they were last modified, meaning this tool comes in handy when you want to see all recent changes that were made (e.g. for troubleshooting).
What’s Your Preferred Search Tool?
After you’ve learned all of the tricks to File Explorer, if you still feel like Windows file navigation and searching just isn’t good enough, then you owe it to yourself to start using one or more of the tools listed above.
That’s one of the nice things about Windows. Sure, there might be a lot of things that annoy and frustrate you, but the user base is so large that you’ll always be able to find a third-party tool that improves upon Microsoft’s shortcomings.
So tell us: which desktop search tool do you like the best? Which features are the most important to you? Or are you totally fine with Windows Search? Share with us in the comments below!