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alternatives to windows searchHave you ever searched for a program, file or folder on your computer only to discover that the default search application takes longer to display your search than it does for you to go find it manually yourself? I have. And I’d imagine that most Windows users face this same dilemma.

Although there are some things you can do to improve searching using the Windows Search Top 7 Windows Search Tricks Used by Pro Users Top 7 Windows Search Tricks Used by Pro Users Read More  – and the search application seems to be much more improved in Windows 7 – there are some excellent alternatives to the default Windows Search that you should consider.

These applications are all free and allow you to get your results quicker and more efficiently. And some even display more accurate results.


alternatives to windows search

UltraSearch is a creation of JAM Software. They are also the creators of the popular hard drive space program, TreeSize Recover Hard Drive Space with TreeSize [Windows] Recover Hard Drive Space with TreeSize [Windows] Read More . UltraSearch offers the essential features and a few extras while still keeping it simple and remaining fast – giving you search results in seconds.

It works by directly searching the Master File Table (MFT). Within the search window, all of the important file information is displayed. It also displays all of your computer’s partitions and their total size and free space. Additional options include showing folders and/or files in a search, exclude filters and printing the search results.

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windows search alternatives

Snowbird has been mentioned previously on MakeUseOf as a Windows Explorer alternative The 5 Good Free Windows File Managers The 5 Good Free Windows File Managers Read More , which it excels at. But it also does a great job at searching for files and quickly displaying them. If you’re using an operating system older than Windows 7, this is a great solution for both Windows Explorer and Windows Search. However, the Windows 7 Search is quite comparable to Snowbird and there isn’t much of a reason to have both. The developer makes a similar statement on the website:

These are relatively recent software, however they have largely been made obsolete by the shift to Windows 7, which provides most of the functionality of the applications below.

With that said, I still noticed a much better performance in the speed and quality in the search results that Snowbird presented, compared to the Windows 7 search.

windows search alternatives

Pictured above is the Advanced Search option. As you can see, there is no browse feature at all in the “Look in:” field. In my opinion, this renders the Advanced Search option completely counter productive. You’d be better off performing a regular search and narrowing down the folder by opening the C:/ drive (or whichever drive you’re searching), like you would in a Windows Search and then using the search box at the top right corner. This is where I got the most success in the speed of receiving results. Don’t get me wrong, Snowbird is a good program. But in my experience, it has some flaws.


If you love Windows 7, but prefer the style of the Windows XP search, this is the program for you. It has portable capability and a familiar search interface. It also uses minimal system resources. However, there is one drawback. The free version is a trial. Not in the sense that the program itself will expire, but the search window will timeout. If you choose to use this program, just be aware of that. Open the window, complete your search and close it. If you do this in a timely manner you should be fine. Overall the performance was ok. It wasn’t nearly as fast as the other programs that I tested, but I still noticed it was quicker than the default Windows Search and is a good alternative.

Super Finder XT

Super Finder XT has a very nice interface and performs at a good speed in displaying your search results. It’s interface mimics the Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 versions. It’s not overly complicated, but offers a decent amount of features. Below is an example of what an advanced search looks like.

windows search alternatives

windows search service

The non-supporter has quite a few features on it’s own. However, the site states that you can use the supporters version, also free, if you become a supporter – obviously. Any amount paid through PayPal will qualify you to be a supporter – which is quite nice. The perks of having this version means you can use it portably, easily exclude folders from the search, use hotkeys, enable Most Recent Used management, and select multiple files.

windows search service


windows search service

Locate32 has been previously covered on MakeUseOf Locate32 - Lightning Fast Desktop Search Tool for Your PC Locate32 - Lightning Fast Desktop Search Tool for Your PC Read More . Despite the age of the article that was linked to, the program itself has changed very little since then. It is a free, simple, yet a full featured search program. And it’s good at it. I don’t feel I need to say much more about it. The article featuring it does a good job of explaining all it’s features, but it’s a great alternative to the Windows Search and this article wouldn’t be the same without it.

Search Everything

With a name like that, your expectations are automatically high, but this program doesn’t disappoint. Search Everything, by Voidtools, is probably the most renowned search application. It’s portable Portable Everything Makes File Searching Instant On Your PC Portable Everything Makes File Searching Instant On Your PC Read More , free and just an all around great program. Upon starting it for the first time  with your computer, it will build a database of all your files, but it does this fairly quickly and updates all of the displayed files and folders as you type, narrowing down your search in a “live” sort of way. There isn’t really an “advanced search” option, but it doesn’t really need it because it is it’s own advanced search.

Honorable Mention


alternatives to windows search

If you haven’t heard of Launchy How To Be More Productive with Launchy Program Launcher How To Be More Productive with Launchy Program Launcher Read More already, you’re in for a real treat. Keep in mind that this has been given a honorable mention because it is an excellent program for searching programs. It doesn’t perform searches for files and folders – only executable files (programs), but it does an exceptional job. It’s very customization friendly. If you have a certain theme on your computer or just like the look of a certain skin, you can apply it to Launchy. It’s most useful by prompting it with a keyboard shortcut. This means that you probably want it running on your computer all the time so that it is quickly accessible whenever you want to find a program. It removes the need for excessive amounts of desktop icons that clutter your workspace and it is faster than the default Windows Search on the start menu used to find the program you are looking for.


Now that you have been bombarded with more search options than you know what to do with, it’s up to you to make the right decision. My best advice would be to try one out that you feel suits you and if you find yourself using it a lot than it’s probably a good fit. If not, either you need to change a habit or there’s something about the program that just turns you off. This isn’t a bad thing, just come back to this article and find another option that sounds good. Bottom line though, you really can’t go wrong with any of these options. They are all great and all fast at displaying your search results – although some are faster than others. Others may offer a few more features or an interface that you find more appealing. It’s up to you!

What current methods are you using to find your programs and files? Do you use an alternative to Windows Search that wasn’t mentioned here? How do you think Windows 7 Search compares to the search application in previous versions of Windows?

UPDATE: It’s been noted by one of our readers that Launchy can also search for documents (and any file extensions for that matter). You can do this by right clicking on it or the icon in your toolbar and then click “Options.” Make sure you’re on the “Catalog” tab. Then on the right side you’ll see “File Types.” Click the “+” to add additional file types. You can also add additional directories and include them in the search.

Image Credit: Magnifying Glass Over Folders via Shutterstock

  1. David
    July 24, 2016 at 3:19 am

    I use Search Everything, I think its best.

  2. Mukesh Khanna
    July 12, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Search Everything is best & faster

  3. vijer
    July 7, 2016 at 12:18 am

    You might consider revisiting this topic as it is still relevant and your review is four years old now.

  4. mvein
    May 9, 2016 at 8:12 am

    what about neoindex ??

  5. JJlaws
    March 18, 2016 at 2:20 am

    Lexprompt WRITE ( displays a list of sentences from inside your files. We use both the Word add-in and a traybar search interface.

    We use it at our law firm for quickly accessing legal documents relevant to the current document being written.

  6. John Skrabak
    January 6, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    I have been using Google Desktop for years. When I got my last laptop, I couldn't download it from anywhere. the Windows 7 search engine is fast enough for me...BUT, I can't find a faster way to get to it without opening Explorer and typing into the search window. Google Desktop allowed me to double-click the key to get a list of files and emails.

    Any ideas.

    • bob
      April 26, 2016 at 1:04 am


  7. Harmless Hamster
    September 16, 2015 at 11:51 am

    I really dislike it when people do not scan the files for themselves that they suggest to others.
    2 of these 7 applications has Trojans on them. One file link was dead. Please fix your links.
    FileSearchEX had a 'Trojan.Win32.Generic.133A0778!322570104[F1]' embedded in it and 'Locate32' had a 'Trojan.PWS.Gamania.44970'.
    Please remove these two links from the list as well as the dead link to 'Snowbird'.

  8. prof tester
    August 15, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    For searching, I've been using Agent Ransack since about a year now, to my full satisfaction.

  9. Abbie
    March 25, 2015 at 5:28 am

    Check out NirSoft ...
    Fast once index is loaded, lots of options!

    • Aaron Couch
      March 28, 2015 at 6:27 pm

      Yes! You're right, Abbie -- NirSoft is a great option!

  10. CES
    March 1, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Is there a tool that simply creates a friendly interface for the search options that already exist with Windows 7 search? Of course, I can look up the various search parameters available and how to use them, but rather than using an entirely different search, I'd like to have a user-friendly interface that reminds me that there is type: and tags: and length: and to help me construct ANDs and ORs using the native search. Is there such a tool?

  11. DamianD
    February 12, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Hey Aaron, I use Lookeen ( myself. Have you ever tried it? It is an Outlook tool but can be used as a Windows Search solution as well. Unfortunately it is a bit expensive.
    But there is a test demo I think.

    But thanks for that great review anyway. I'll definitely try my luck.

    • Regis
      April 9, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      First: this is a really great article, Aaron.
      Second: I think they changed Looken a lot, because I am using it without Outlook. And I even found a free version of it on:

      Best Regards,

    • Mark Koonz
      August 4, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      hey is this Damian Degoede?

  12. Arvind Kumar Shukla
    January 26, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    For me the best search tool is Quick Search by glary utilities. Its a small and very handy application. Love it!

    • Aaron Couch
      January 28, 2015 at 3:21 am

      Thanks for sharing, Arvind! I'll take a look at that.

  13. TMGLost
    December 6, 2012 at 3:40 am

    Thanks for this overview.

    I'm looking for something that will allow me to search Win7 file system with the kind of flexibility I am used to from years of using Win2k and WinXP (search by file-type, especially).

    There seem to be a few possibilities here - my big question: once files are found, do any of these applications allow you to then operate on the files (move, copy, delete, rename)?

    • Aaron Couch
      December 12, 2012 at 1:48 am

      That's a great question! I didn't test this when trying out the programs, but I personally use Everything and know for a fact that it does.

  14. HLJonnalagadda
    September 25, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Was using Launchy before. Thanks for suggesting Snowbird!

    • Aaron Couch
      October 1, 2012 at 2:35 am

      You're welcome! Thanks for reading and let me know how it works for you.

  15. Neil Harrington
    September 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    I love MakeUseOf because of great articles like this.

    • Aaron Couch
      October 1, 2012 at 2:35 am

      Thanks Neil! We love our readers because of great comments like this! :P

  16. Kaashif Haja
    August 27, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Tried Super Finder XT, It's good!!!

    • Aaron Couch
      October 1, 2012 at 2:35 am

      Glad it worked well for you! Thanks for reading!

  17. Wadhah
    July 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    I use everything everyday, it's only problem that it's case sensitive. I don't know how to remove that :(.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 8:50 pm

      From the "Search" dropdown menu, uncheck "Match Case." Also, the keyboard shortcut to toggle this on and off is Ctrl + Q.

  18. Alex
    July 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Excellent list and review, thanks Aaron!

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 8:51 pm

      Thanks Alex! Glad that you found it helpful!

  19. Gian Singh
    July 17, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    i'll just stick with the native search for files

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm

      To each his own :) I always say that as long as it isn't hindering your workflow and productivity, why change it? Unless it can improve it. It all just depends on the user! Thanks for reading Gian.

  20. Chael Wyper
    July 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    thanks for this review. very informative

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm

      You're welcome! Thanks for reading.

  21. Neo Max
    July 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Search Everything, by Voidtools

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm

      Agreed :) It's my personal favorite as well.

  22. ferdinan Sitohang
    July 17, 2012 at 4:20 am

    very helpful, i will pick one of this

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm

      Glad to have helped!

  23. Ranjit Kumar
    July 13, 2012 at 9:06 am

    With various versions of Windows OS searched have gotten difficult. Even in XP, you need to start search, and from the search dialog you are required to launch file search. These options seem to fill the void. I wish the author had his/her own ranking for these options, its not easy trying out all of these 7.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      Thanks for reading! I usually take the approach to give readers a somewhat unbiased opinion of all of them. This is because each of our needs and preferences are different. What one person may like, another may not. Personally, I like Search Everything by Voidtools, but it's not the only excellent alternative out there. That's why I included six more with it that I felt were at the same level or had unique characteristics that set them apart from the rest.

  24. Shine Somanath
    July 13, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Do we have an alternative which could search inside MS outlook, like emails and attachments within. Windows Desktop search does this but it takes up lot of memory during indexing and slows down your system.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 2:08 am


      Sorry for overlooking this comment! I didn't mean to. Have your tried Search Everything by Voidtools? I don't personally use Outlook, nor have I found a viable solution to your question in my research prior to answering, but I would think Everything would do it since those emails are on your computer.

      Let me know if that helps.

  25. Antonio
    July 13, 2012 at 6:35 am

    I cannot believe that Agent Ransack is not cited.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm


      Yeah I found out about it after writing this article. It seems like a really great program. Thanks for reading!

  26. Ben
    July 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Super Finder XT does it for me. I particularly like the user interface.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 12, 2012 at 11:11 pm

      Yeah I was really impressed by that interface. It was really a toss up between Super Finder XT and Everything. I'm sticking with Everything as my primary search tool, but we'll see :P

  27. Ales Mole
    July 12, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    It's a shame that Google stopped with Google Desktop could search anything :(

    • Aaron Couch
      July 12, 2012 at 11:10 pm

      It really is. Thanks for reading Ales! Hope you found this helpful.

  28. Paul Girardin
    July 12, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Nice article!

    My engine of choice is Search Everything (it simply is excellent!)

    But I recently found out about a new one called wise jet search from the folks behind Wise Cleaner.

    It is free and can be found here:

    I just started using it for searches and find it good but Search Everything is still faster.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 12, 2012 at 11:10 pm

      Thanks for reading Paul.

      Everything is my choice as well. Thanks for sharing about Wise Jet Search!

    • deepforest
      July 13, 2012 at 8:51 am

      I"m not very impressed about wise cleaner

  29. Vipul Jain
    July 12, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Everything patron here :D

    • deepforest
      July 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm

      Evrything no FAT 32 search so my vote goes to Ultra File Search .

      • Vipul Jain
        July 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm

        yeah i guess some people are still with FAT32drives. but why dont you format it to NTFS.. :o

    • Aaron Couch
      July 12, 2012 at 11:08 pm

      Thanks Vipul! I hope you found the information very useful. Thanks for reading.

  30. Terafall
    July 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Launchy is great but it hasn't been updated for awhile

    • Aaron Couch
      July 13, 2012 at 3:15 pm

      Your right. I wonder why that is. Get with it Launchy team! :P Thanks for reading Terafall :)

  31. Saiwal
    July 12, 2012 at 9:25 am

    My favourite is ava find. It is not in development since 2004 but the 'search scout' and 'favourite picks' feature is very handy.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 13, 2012 at 3:04 pm

      Thanks for sharing about AVA Find, Saiwal. I will have to check it out. 2004 is a long time ago to not have updated software though... how does it work with Windows 7?

      • Saiwal
        July 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm

        it still works great in windows 7

        • Aaron Couch
          July 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm

          Good to know! Thanks!

        • Paruhang Chamling
          November 5, 2012 at 9:35 am

          I had been using Ava Find for 7 years now... I started using it with XP, I used it with Vista and 7 andI recently installed it for Windows 8. Now it doesn't work very well anymore. It crashes every once in a while. :(

  32. David
    July 12, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Some good ones there, but the best for me is FileLocator:

    • Aaron Couch
      July 12, 2012 at 11:19 am


      That looks like a good program, but is there only a free trial version? That could be a deal killer for a lot of people.

      • DeepForest
        July 12, 2012 at 11:38 am

        My choice goes to Ultra File Search , listing hiden files , atributes , all info about a file , the choice to manage search options to everywhere including USB and FAT32 , cons is not having a database , so is slower . 1T +4USB full of data checking took 20-30 sec . I tried Everything but no FAT32 option .

      • Nikro000
        July 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm

        The free version of it is called Agent Ransack and it is unlimited. The good thing is that it searches inside many file formats

        • Aaron Couch
          July 12, 2012 at 11:04 pm

          Interesting. Thanks for the info! I wonder why I've never heard of it. Hope you found the article helpful. Thanks for reading.

  33. David R.
    July 12, 2012 at 3:51 am

    Seriously, No mention of Agent Ransack! []

    Fastest, Most Powerful, Free search tool that I have ever used and have been using for years.
    Supports filtering by RegEx, Wildcards, Dates, and Size.
    See instant context results for containing text searches. (Supports PDF and Office text searching.)
    Detailed print results dialog.

    I personally feel that it deserves consideration above all others listed here. You do not have to take my word for it; just try it out.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 23, 2012 at 9:03 pm

      Another reader also commented about Agent Ransack, and I must say, it looks good! I honestly just didn't know about it. Thank you for sharing this in the comments though for readers to consider that one as well!

  34. David
    July 12, 2012 at 3:34 am

    Launchy can search files and folders in addition to executables. You just have to add/change the file type to "*.xls" or "*.*" in the catalog. I think by default Launchy only catalogs .ink files, because most people use it to run programs.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 12, 2012 at 11:17 am


      Thanks for pointing that out! I never realized that, but after looking at the settings I do see where you can change it. I'll see what I can do about changing that in the article.

      Thanks for your feedback and for reading.

  35. musicphann
    July 12, 2012 at 2:57 am

    Everything is fast! Definitely my go to choice.

    • Aaron Couch
      July 12, 2012 at 3:13 am

      Yes it is! It's my choice too, but I was quite surprised to see how many other alternatives there are available when I researched them.

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