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It’s happened to the best of us – we type up a document, create a presentation, download a program or file and suddenly it vanishes! So now you’ve lost it, and most likely want it back, but how would you do that?

There are better ways than combing though every folder on your hard drive. Simply search for it using a desktop search tool. But if you simply search for “desktop search” you’ll come up with dozens of different apps. These are some of the best.

Windows Search

Windows Vista actually has a decent desktop search software built in. Unlike previous built in search programs in Windows, Vista will automatically index your computer (XP can index, however you have to turn it on manually and it won’t remind you to start indexing until after your search, to turn it on simply open my computer, right click on your hard dive, usually C:, click properties and at the bottom, check the box that says Allow Indexing Service to…) and give you close to instant results.

However, it will not index what is inside the files like other desktop search programs but does consider folder names and other data.

You can also narrow it down by type of file, author, location, and date. From there, you can navigate the search results like a regular folder. To get to it, simply hit Start then start typing.

windows desktop search tools


MakeUseOf had mentioned some tips on how to make most of new Windows Search Utilizing Windows Search 4.0 (Part 1) Utilizing Windows Search 4.0 (Part 1) Read More in the past. Check them out.

Google Desktop Search (no longer available)

It’s probably a safe guess that most of you have heard of Google Desktop Search. It is a standard desktop search software with a few extra features. First, it has a side bar where you can put widgets (namely ones that connect with other Google services.) Second, it can integrate with Google’s standard web results, (i.e) you search for cheese and you wrote a report on cheese, both will show up when you Google “cheese”. And third, it can integrate with (and search) your other Google services (like GMail, Google Talk, etc).

The search interface is the exact same as Google’s web results, because you search inside your browser. The downside to this is that 1. it won’t give you real time results and 2. the preview “what’s inside the file” is limited.

However, Google Desktop Search’s biggest flaw (that I’ve found) is that it is not 64-bit compatible. To install it on a 64-bit system, you have to run a special command in the command line, and some features do not work.

google desktop search software

Yahoo! Desktop Search

This product is now defunct and not provided by Yahoo! any more. So then why is it here? Because Yahoo! licensed X1‘s search program to do this (X1 is an enterprise level desktop search developer and because from my experience, YDS indexes and searches the fastest. It indexes relatively quickly and also what’s inside of the files. The interface is excellent, you can search email, files, documents, music, etc. via tabs at the top of the screen.

When you start searching, it will instantly start showing results with your search phrase highlighted. Click on a file and you will see (to the side or at the bottom) a preview of the file, be a picture or document, with your search phrase highlighted in the document. And all of this is almost real time.

Though the last update was way back in 2005, Yahoo! Desktop Search is still a solid desktop search tool. How can one get a hold it since Yahoo doesn’t support it? Softpedia still has a link to it on their servers and at Yahoo!’s.

yahoo desktop search


The next two programs have a different approach to searching. Instead of taking 45 minutes to index what’s inside of all of your files, they take usually less than a few minutes indexing the names. Locate32 looks like the search app in Windows 95-2000, only it is much faster. Once you install it and run the database updater, the interface is fairly basic.

You can search by name, extension, or location. Clicking on one of the other two tabs will get you more advanced options such as minimum and maximum sizes, date modified (this is good for finding stuff that you’ve made or edited recently), match whole phrase, etc.

Locate32 might not be the best choice for the average user, but is great for the power searcher.

locate 32 review

You can read more about it and check out additional screenshots in MakeUseOf’s Locate 32 review Locate32 - Lightning Fast Desktop Search Tool for Your PC Locate32 - Lightning Fast Desktop Search Tool for Your PC Read More .


The name says it all – it searches everything. The indexing is fast, and I mean you blink and it’s done. Instead of the the GUI options that Locate has, things must be done with tags like a search engine, but for the most part works exactly like Locate. Except Everything will give you real time results as you type, like Yahoo! Desktop Search tool.

I’ve used Everything several times, not for full blown desktop search, but in a crisis where I need that file and I need it now!

Everything also has a portable version, for searching on the go.

everything desktop search tool

That is how I find my missing files, how do you? Is there one that blows all of these away?

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