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Windows 8 has gotten some flack for being caught between a desktop interface and a modern interface, and the search function is no different. Fortunately, the search functions are actually quite robust once you get used to them. Let’s take a look at both the modern and desktop ways of searching your computer and the Internet on Windows 8.

Modern Searching

You can improve Windows 8 speed and efficiency 5 Ways To Improve Speed & Efficiency In Windows 8 5 Ways To Improve Speed & Efficiency In Windows 8 Has Windows 8 slowed you down? We'll get you back to speed! From boot to shutdown and everything in between - let us show you the best tweaks and shortcuts to efficiently use Windows 8. Read More  in many different ways, and learning to search quickly on your new operating system will help. First step, finding the search function.

On a tablet or touchscreen device, the easiest way is to swipe in from the right side to access your Charms Menu, and then tap the search icon at the top of that.

Charms-Menu

On a desktop or non-touchscreen device, you can either move your mouse to the upper right corner and then move down to access the Charms Menu, from which you can then select Search, or you can simply press Windows + S on your keyboard.

Another option is to press the Windows Key to go back to the Start Screen and then just start typing. Typing on the Start Screen will automatically open the Search dialogue and begin to fill it out.

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Modern-Search

Either way, once in the Modern Search interface, it will by default search Everywhere, which means Settings, Files, Apps, and the Internet, but you can select to search in just one place if you want.

Netflix-Search

As you type, the sidebar will populate with possible solutions, and pressing enter will automatically open the first option, making it an incredibly quick way to access anything on your computer.

If you can’t find what you want in this sidebar, you can click the magnifying glass and it will open the Search app, powered by Bing, for a full search.

Computer-Search

As you can see above, searching for “computer” will return respective apps and settings, documents that contain the word “computer”, as well as an image and Web search.

Search-Settings

To customize this experience, you can open the Charms Menu again, go to Settings (or just press Windows Key + I), and then Change PC Settings. Click on Search And Apps and you’ll be presented with the screen above, where you can clear your search history or toggle Bing, location tracking, and SafeSearch.

Desktop Searching

Microsoft got rid of a lot of features in Windows 8 8 Features Missing in Windows 8 and How To Get Them Back 8 Features Missing in Windows 8 and How To Get Them Back Microsoft removed a variety of features from Windows 8. Many of them aren't great losses to most people, but they are if you depended on them. Luckily, Windows 8 isn't yet a locked-down mobile operating... Read More , but they decided to keep the trusty old File Explorer on the desktop. From here, you can search just like you did before, but with a host of options for better finding what you need. Once you click on the search box, the Search tab will appear at the top with all your options.

Search-Tab

When you begin typing in the search bar, options will appear for whichever folder you have selected. You can adjust where you search either by choosing a different folder or by navigating with the Location section of the Search tab. From here, you can choose to look in just the current folder or all the included subfolders, on This PC (which could take a while, as it scans everything), or search again in a different location or on the Internet (which will open Internet Explorer).

Search-Article

Under the Options section at the far right, you can choose to open the file location instead of opening the file directly, save your search for later (most helpful if saved to the desktop, but also viewable under Favorites in the File Explorer), view your research searches, or (under Advanced options) you can choose if it searches through file contents, system files, or zipped files, as well as choosing exactly which files are indexed.

The Refine section allows for much more customization to weed through the hundreds of options you may find for any search. Under Kind, you can sort by documents, pictures, music, etc.; under Size, you can sort by size in KB or MB; and  under Other properties, you can find options for tags, date taken, type, name, folder path, and rating.

Search-Modify

When selecting these options, you can edit them by clicking just to the right of the search term that appears in the box. Above, I clicked just right of the word “month” to get this view of a calendar, so that I could adjust what date modified I was searching for. Plus, if you manage to memorize the search terms, you can type them yourself and completely bypass clicking in the Search tab.

Completed your search? Click the Close Search button at the far right of the Options section, and you’re done.

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Do you have any other tips for searching Windows 8 better? Let us know in the comments.

  1. St
    March 21, 2015 at 12:12 am

    I think the best way to improve the search efficiency is still third party software. I prefer Lookeen. It's easy and fast to operate...

  2. Abhi
    April 24, 2014 at 11:20 am

    For searching everything, you just need "Everything"
    http://www.voidtools.com/

    • Justin D
      May 9, 2014 at 12:14 am

      Thanks for the recommendation! :)

  3. Ed
    April 24, 2014 at 12:36 am

    You missed a few options here for 8.1 desktop searching.

    Windows + Q operates identically to the Windows + S shortcut detailed above. Also if you are on the desktop you can just start typing and hit enter to search everywhere.

    • Justin D
      May 9, 2014 at 12:13 am

      Windows + Q is quite useful, thanks! :) However, typing on the desktop doesn't seem to activate any searching for me (unless I've got a setting tweaked wrong somewhere). I think you can type and hit enter from the Start Screen to search, but not the desktop.

  4. Tony M
    April 23, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    You know, maybe I've been missing something, but once I got introduced to "X1 Desktop Search" about ten years ago, that's been my total solution for all my search needs.

    I've tried other desktop search tools before, but when it comes to the Microsoft utility included with Windows, although it seems their search tool has seen some improvements, I will steadfastly continue my recommendation for trying X1 Desktop Search. X1 is exceedingly flexible, fast as lightning, and can easily display the contents of HUNDREDS of file types without having to open the file/document.

    X1 might not be able to make your breakfast or shine your shoes, but if anyone's got serious search needs, and they need answers fast, do yourself a favor and download a trial version of X1.

    • Justin D
      May 9, 2014 at 12:11 am

      Awesome! Thanks for the recommendation. :)

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