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Originally published in July 2012. Updated by Joel Lee in October 2017.

Have you ever searched for a program, file, or folder only to discover that the system search takes longer to find results than it does to just go find them manually yourself? I’d imagine most Windows users face this dilemma.

Although there are things you can do to improve Windows Search results 7 Search Tips to Find What You're Looking for in Windows 10 7 Search Tips to Find What You're Looking for in Windows 10 Are you using Windows 10 search to its full extent? We will show you how to customize where Windows searches, handy search parameters, and other shortcuts. Our search tips will turn you into a search... Read More , there are some excellent alternatives to the default Windows Search that you should consider using.

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

1. UltraSearch

6 Awesome Alternatives to Windows Search windows search alternative ultrasearch

UltraSearch is a creation of JAM Software. They are also the creators of the popular hard drive space recovery program, TreeSize (but you’re better off using these disk space cleaner tools 6 Ways to Free Up Space on Your Windows Computer 6 Ways to Free Up Space on Your Windows Computer Clutter can be a big downer on productivity. Over time, files get lost, programs go unused, and suddenly, your once spacious hard drive is packed with useless things and you have to clean it up.... Read More  and the Compact OS feature in Windows 10 How to Save More Disk Space with Compact OS on Windows 10 How to Save More Disk Space with Compact OS on Windows 10 What if you could easily and permanently save up to 6.6 GB of disk space on any Windows 10 device? You can with Compact OS and we show you how. Read More ). UltraSearch offers essential search features plus a few extras, all while keeping it simple and fast.

It works by directly searching the Master File Table (MFT). Within the search window, all 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.

2. FileSearchEX

6 Awesome Alternatives to Windows Search windows search alternative filesearchex

If you prefer the style of search from Windows XP, FileSearchEX is the program for you. Not only is the search interface familiar and comfortable, the app itself is portable and uses minimal system resources.

However, there is one drawback: the free version is a trial — not in the sense that the program will expire and become unusable, but the search window will timeout. Open the window, complete your search, then close it. If you do this in a timely manner, you should be fine.

Overall the search performance is OK. It isn’t nearly as fast as the other programs I tested, but I still noticed it was quicker than the default Windows Search and remains a good alternative.

3. Super Finder XT

6 Awesome Alternatives to Windows Search windows search alternative superfinderxt

Super Finder XT has a very nice interface and displays search results quickly. Its interface mimics the interface found in Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010. And while it’s not overly complicated, it does offer a decent amount of features.

The non-supporter version has quite a few features available, but the supporter version has even more. To use the supporter version, donate any amount to the developer through PayPal. The perks of this version include are receiving a portable app, excluding folders from search results, using special hotkeys, enabling Most Recent Used management, and selecting multiple files.

4. Locate32

6 Awesome Alternatives to Windows Search windows search alternative locate32

As of this writing, Locate32 hasn’t been updated since 2012. Yet despite the app’s age, it still works and it’s still good. It’s free, simple, yet full-featured enough to provide an excellent search experience. If you want to learn more, check out our overview of Locate32 Locate32 - Lightning Fast Desktop Search Tool for Your PC Locate32 - Lightning Fast Desktop Search Tool for Your PC Read More . Again, not much has changed since then, so you’ll find everything you need to know in that article.

5. Everything

6 Awesome Alternatives to Windows Search windows search alternative everything

Everything by Voidtools is the most renowned search alternative to Windows Search. It’s portable so it doesn’t require installation, it’s free, and it’s just an all-around great program.

Upon launching it for the first time, it will scan and build a database of all the files on your computer, but this indexing process is actually quite fast. When typing into the Everything search box, results are shown in real-time with every key you press — only possible because of the smart initial indexing.

There isn’t really an “advanced search” option, but it’s not really needed because the main search is advanced enough as it is. Without a doubt, Everything is one of the best free search tools for Windows 10 10 Best Free Search Tools for Windows 10 10 Best Free Search Tools for Windows 10 Do you find yourself constantly searching for files and folders? Windows Search is only good for basic and casual use. You may be better off with one of these awesome third-party search tool. Read More .

6. Launchy

6 Awesome Alternatives to Windows Search windows search alternative launchy

Launchy is a nifty app that’s meant to replace the Start Menu, the Taskbar, the File Explorer, and desktop shortcuts. If you’ve ever used a Mac, then it’s a bit like Spotlight. Launchy indexes your entire system, then lets you launch files, apps, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes.

Most people think Launchy can only launch apps, but it can search files and folders if you enable the setting. Open Launchy with the Alt + Space shortcut, click the gear icon at the top right, go to the Catalog tab, find File Types in the right panel, then click “+” to add file types and directories that you want to include in the search.

Which Search Tool Is Right for You?

Which one’s right for you? Only you can decide. They’re all solid options, so my best advice is to try them all out and go with the one that feels best to use on a day-to-day basis. If you find yourself reverting to Windows Search How to Search the Content of Your Files on Windows How to Search the Content of Your Files on Windows Ever had trouble finding a file you knew was stored on your computer? Per default, Windows won't search the contents of every single file. This can easily be changed and here is how! Read More , then maybe that particular search tool doesn’t mesh well with your workflow. For it to be a good fit, it should feel natural and convenient to use.

But bottom line? You can’t go wrong with any of these options. They’re all great and all fast at displaying your search results, although some are faster than others. A few of them have unique features or interface designs that may appeal. It’s up to you!

If speed is your most pressing concern, check out our roundup of the fastest search tools for Windows What Are the Fastest Tools for Windows Desktop Search? What Are the Fastest Tools for Windows Desktop Search? Search is one of the digital tools we take for granted and heavily rely on. Fortunately, Windows comes with a handy search feature. Could third-party tools be better and faster? We made the test. Read More .

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 like (or dislike) the native search in Windows 10?

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  1. Ray Exley
    April 7, 2017 at 2:07 am

    what about search everything, it will search network drives, which most of these will not. And, after it has indexed files, which can take over an hour on our system, which is LARGE, it is very very fast.

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

    I use Search Everything, I think its best.

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

    Search Everything is best & faster

  4. 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.

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

    what about neoindex ??

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

    Lexprompt WRITE (https://www.lexprompt.com/) 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.

  7. 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

      F3

  8. Anonymous
    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'.

  9. Anonymous
    August 15, 2015 at 5:40 pm

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

  10. 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!

  11. 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?

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

    Hey Aaron, I use Lookeen (www.lookeen.com) 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: http://free.lookeen.com

      Best Regards,
      Regis

    • Anonymous
      August 4, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      hey is this Damian Degoede?

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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

      Shine,

      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.

  26. 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

      Antonio,

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

  27. 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

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

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

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

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

  29. 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: http://www.wisecleaner.com/wisejetsearchfree.html

    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

  30. 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.

  31. 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 :)

  32. 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.
    http://www2.think-less-do-more.com/avafind/

    • 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. :(

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

    Some good ones there, but the best for me is FileLocator:
    http://www.mythicsoft.com/Page.aspx?type=filelocatorpro&page=home

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

      David,

      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 .
        http://www.ultrafilesearch.com/screenshots.html

      • 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.

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

    Seriously, No mention of Agent Ransack! [http://www.mythicsoft.com/page.aspx?type=agentransack&page=home]

    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.
    Etc...

    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!

  35. 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

      David,

      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.

  36. 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.