Productivity Windows

The 13 Best Free Search Tools for Windows 10

Joel Lee Updated 13-06-2018

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.


Windows 10 isn’t all bad. For example, it introduced a number of helpful File Explorer tricks and lots of new features in the Task Manager, making it one of the most productive versions of Windows so far.

But some aspects still aren’t as good as they can be—like Windows Search. While there have always been some neat Windows Search tips and tricks, it has never been on par with the search features of Mac or 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 tools instead. Windows Search is only good for basic and casual use.

1. Everything


Everything is consistently lauded as one of the fastest search tools for Windows 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 . 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 5MB of RAM and 1MB of disk space. This is the absolute best tool to use for old and slow computers.

2. Lookeen

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 a free version does exist! This is not the same thing as the free 14-day trial for the business version.

3. Listary

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. Listary can also execute commands like “Open Folder” and “Copy Folder Path”, and you can even use Listary to quickly hop into a different folder just by typing that folder’s 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, which is one of the many reasons it makes it on to this list of the best Windows File Explorer extensions for file management.


4. grepWin


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 (one of the essential Linux commands to know An A-Z of Linux - 40 Essential Commands You Should Know Linux is the oft-ignored third wheel to Windows and Mac. Yes, over the past decade, the open source operating system has gained a lot of traction, but it’s still a far cry from being considered... Read More ) but designed for Windows and comes with a nifty interface. 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. Seriously!

5. AstroGrep



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.

6. SearchMyFiles


SearchMyFiles may seem helplessly 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 The Best Portable Apps That Require No Installation Portable apps don't need installation. You can run them from even a flash drive. Here are the best portable apps around. Read More . NirSoft also maintains hundreds of other useful utilities that are all clean, portable, and available free of charge.

7. Copernic Desktop Search


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.

8. Exselo Desktop


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 is support for multiple users.

9. Duplicate & Same Files Searcher


Duplicate & Same Files Searcher is a tiny portable program—less than 1MB 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.

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 5 Ways to Find Duplicate Image Files on Windows PC Duplicate image files are unnecessary and a waste of space. These tools will help you find and eradicate the image duplicates that are wasting space on your data drives. Read More .

10. Registry Finder


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).

Despite the improved search features 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 How to Fix Windows Registry Errors (And When Not to Bother) Fiddling with the Windows Registry can be harmful to your PC. Here's how to fix registry problems and when to not bother at all. Read More or make a few tweaks for usability 5 Windows 10 Registry Tweaks to Improve & Unlock Features The registry editor is the only way to enable some of Windows 10's hidden features. Here we'll show you easy tweaks like enabling the dark theme or hiding folders. Read More , the process of finding keys can be slow and tedious—and that’s why Registry Finder really shines.

11. UltraSearch

The 13 Best Free Search Tools for Windows 10 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 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 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.

12. FileSearchEX

The 13 Best Free Search Tools for Windows 10 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.

13. Launchy

The 13 Best Free Search Tools for Windows 10 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.

What’s Your Preferred Windows Search Tool?

For better and faster search results, go ahead and pick one of the above tools. The built-in Windows 10 search is getting better, but there’s still a long way to go before you can rely solely on it.

There might be a lot of things that annoy and frustrate you in Windows 10 7 Things That Really Annoy Us About Windows 10 It's not a secret that Windows 10 isn't perfect. Cortana borders on being intrusive, mandatory updates can cause issues, and much appears half-baked. We present our top 7 of most glaring Windows 10 annoyances. Read More , but the user base is so large that you’ll always be able to find a third-party software that improves upon Microsoft’s shortcomings. These nifty Windows search utilities are proof of that!

Related topics: Productivity, Windows 10, Windows Registry, Windows Search.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Terry
    March 13, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    I am looking for the Holy Grail.
    Find string y in files with extension *.cfm, *.jps etc.
    WHERE the string is on line 25!
    optionally close to string x or z?
    I use Ultrafinder but it does not have the feature and the devs tell me they have no plan to implement.
    I will happily pay for it.

    • Spyboy
      March 21, 2020 at 7:33 pm

      Try Effective File Search, it let's you search strings inside files (not sure about lines)

  2. Oliver
    February 5, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    Writing "Windows Search is only good for basic and casual use" is wrong. Windows Search can index your files and you get instant results even for huge amounts of files (BTDT with 200000 files, 500GiB). The search syntax is powerful enough for the experienced user.

  3. George Taylor
    November 26, 2019 at 7:23 am

    Seeing as others have posted urls here, I'll do the same for my own product:

    With my desktop search app, you can enter multiple keywords, as well as multiple file types to search for in the same command e.g. vacation budget .doc .docx will retrieve all the file names that contain both "vacation" and "budget" in either .doc or .docx format.

    One feature that sets it apart from everything else is the structure of the results; the files found are listed under the folders they belong to, without the need to list redundant path information that can easily hurt your eyes from looking at it. My approach is much cleaner and simpler than most.

    Best regards,
    George Taylor

  4. George Taylor
    November 26, 2019 at 7:13 am

    I've designed and built one of the most user friendly desktop search tools you'll ever use. It may not be as zippy as the top ones listed here, but it's stupidly simple and it gets the job done.
    Google "anyfile desktop search george taylor" and try the trial out and see for yourself.

  5. Susan
    November 10, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I was looking for a suitable search tool and at last landed in this page. Highly appreciate your efforts to write a detailed report on various search tools.
    Peace and God bless,

  6. Zeo Cook
    October 3, 2018 at 4:22 am

    The list is too old since 2017, and the top 10 desktop search tools list should be updated. Such as TextSeek, X1 Search, etc. new software should be included, those new ones imposes many new features.

    TextSeek can perform search character-by-character with no omission, which is quite different from common indexing technology.

    X1 Search can perform email content search for many formats and support common Mail System like Outlook.

  7. Robin
    August 7, 2018 at 8:07 am

    I use X1Search Desktop, probably one of the oldest tools around. Unfortunately it's getting a bit expensive for home use now - maybe better fit for SOHO. However it will preview virtually any file available, it will index all of your emails and reply or forward from the interface, it can search external and network drives, you can open or move or rename files directly from the search page, it is blazingly fast, and it has extremely flexible search parameters.
    In addition the user can specify what depth of indexing is wanted on any folder or subfolder in the system(e.g. name and size only, content of specified file types only, all content, etc.).
    Above all it has a very small learning curve, so I like it. :-)

  8. Aniel
    July 12, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    Bring back Google Desktop Search!

    • Paul
      July 20, 2018 at 1:03 am

      Why? Don't they know too much about us already? I'm doing everything I can to get rid of Google. Don't use Chrome, don't use google search. Need to have a life. Can't have a life unless you live... which is the reverse of Google as live > evil

    • Chen
      May 17, 2019 at 8:50 am

      There is an alternative tool, AnyTXT Searcher, which is a simple and practical text search tool as Everything. If you like Everything, you will like it.

  9. Petran79
    July 5, 2018 at 9:40 am

    Which are the most lightweight in system and memory? Eg after indexing all files, Everything took almost 300 MB RAM, while Listary around 15 MB

  10. Erich
    June 21, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    You should also have mentioned "Agent Ransack", it's quite fast and can search inside files, too.

    • Aniel
      July 12, 2018 at 5:49 pm

      Agent Ransack has always been a great choice for patient in-depth search.

  11. Gary Mugford
    June 20, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    I'm an enthusiastic and happy user of Everything for file-name based searches, but I'm also a paying user of DeskRule from, the maker of my favourite file manager, xplorer². DeskRule is a pretty thorough content searcher, including being able to search through e-book file formats. No limitations on where to search for what you are looking for. The licence for both xplorer² and DeskRule are moderate in price and massively effective in performance.

  12. Ron
    June 20, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    I've been using Everything for several years. I use it several dozen times a day. I like it's effectively instant filtering of its results as you type, . I have actually adapted my browsing technique to use it. When I find an article I like I create an IE Favorite to it. That has become harder since my favorite FireFox addon was killed off. Now I manually drag the web link into File Explorer to create a Windows Shortcut. Both for my files and favorites/shortcuts I've adopted a system of tag words/abbreviations I add as a prefix or suffix AND article dates I add to the file name. This allows my name search to group similar articles and automatically sort them by date (for relevance).

    Some people mention Everything's "indexing". It doesn't actually do indexing. It hooks directly into the Windows File System file index. What it does do is apply folder and drive filters you have defined. That typically takes several seconds, only when you start the application.

    Some people have mentioned Regex as an advantage in other tools. Everything also has the option to enable Regex type searches.

    Since you mentioned a registry search tool I recommend RegScanner from Nirsoft . It is quite fast with lots of filter and control options. Actually Nirsoft has over a dozen small utilities that are quite useful.

  13. Aristide
    June 19, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    Nothing can beat Everything if you're only looking for a file search tool. You can give parts of the filename you're searching for, the parts don't have to be in the right order...
    I've discovered this nifty little app many years ago and use it ever since. Nothing else comes even close to this small app...

  14. Raja Nagendra Kumar
    June 3, 2018 at 12:44 am

    Agent Ransak is very good one too.. however not put in this list.

    • Andre
      June 20, 2018 at 7:59 am

      As far as I'm concerned Agent Ransak is the go to tool, and as it is an offshoot of a commercial product with (almost) the same features, its functions reflect the requirements of the commercial market...

  15. Raja Nagendra Kumar
    June 3, 2018 at 12:43 am

    Everything is stupid.. it does not seem to have Directory in which we need to search in

    • Paul
      July 20, 2018 at 1:07 am

      Yes but, there is the search box where you can put in your parameters and it does that. If you are only using search and not advanced search then of course it won't search in only 1 directory.

  16. Meg
    February 12, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    I have always used MS 'File Explorer' to search though my photography on an external disk. It has suddenly become very unreliable and gives me a message "No items match your search" now. Which of the above programs would you recommend to search through several tera-bytes of photos. I have tried contacting MS, and that is a total joke. Thank you for any advice you may have.

    • Geez Louis
      May 17, 2018 at 9:47 am

      I personally use Everything and Wox. Everything amazing. Wox is just a front end for it, if you will. The UI is tons better than Everything and it has a keyboard shortcut. Those two work hand in hand. Wox doesn't work without Everything FYI. Cortana is complete shit for me.

  17. Rudi
    January 9, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    You should have included locate32, which is a highly impressive program to search files and folders based on their names stored in a database. It is available for Windows 98/ME/NT4/2000/XP/Vista/7, and much faster than Windows Search. You can choose to include or not include folder names in the search, and can search for text strings within files. Both 32 bit and 64 bit versions available. A con might be that it uses databases to store information about directory structures and uses these databases in searches. And it's not as full-featured as Copernic or Google.

  18. Tim
    April 12, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    Agent Ransack is the one I use. I highly recommend it.

    • Ray
      November 30, 2017 at 3:51 am

      Ditto. Very fast, lightweight and fast. Did I say it was fast? It's also fast!

    • Herb
      January 8, 2018 at 6:01 pm

      I'm surprised Agent Ransack was excluded from this list. There must be a good reason for it being overlooked.

  19. Utomo
    March 26, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    Does Copernic desktop still developed ? I hope they keep developing it. but it look like no good progress

  20. FH
    February 6, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Lookeen Free will not index network drives. Only the C drive. Bummer.

    • Utomo
      March 26, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      How about Drive D, E or other (but Local) and what is other limitation ?
      how many file limit ?

      • FH
        March 27, 2017 at 1:16 am

        Yes, local drives. Not network or mapped drives.

  21. rob
    August 28, 2016 at 12:30 am

    Which search tool has the ability to search for an email in Windows Outlook 2016 Desktop application?

  22. Morten
    June 6, 2016 at 9:03 am

    Many great tools on this list. They do however cover different scenarios within Windows 10. As Eric says, if you need something that provides more in-depth capabilities and support for indexing data from inside the different files, my experience is that there are only 3 of the tools that can do that:

    Exselo Desktop
    Copernic (with restrictions)

    They also come with capabilities to index your email items and other locations as well. All in all, these products seems more geared towards a professional user, even though they offer free versions.

    • Joel Lee
      June 9, 2016 at 12:38 am

      Yeah, you're absolutely right, Morten. Not all of the programs on the list are equal, nor do they intend to be. The key, like you said, is to find the ones that will work best for what you need. Those three are definitely more towards the "power user" end of the spectrum, I agree.

  23. miaousse
    May 20, 2016 at 11:14 am

    my vote goes to listary wich is great for my use

  24. Eric Ebert
    May 19, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    I aslo think everything is great. It's light on resources and usually completes the initial index in a few hours. If you need to search the content of documents or files though, everything can't do that. In this situation, you'd want to use Lookeen which takes a bit longer in building the initial index, but will search content, as well as file names. #2 on the the list.

    Please let me know if you try it out and have any feedback for me.

    (Full disclosure: I work for the developers of Lookeen)

  25. julien
    May 14, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    docfetcher is the best

    • Clancolin
      June 18, 2018 at 9:01 am

      I second that. It has a small footprint and iss also one of the very few search engines that can search Epub files.

  26. Simon
    May 14, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Used "Everything" for a while, then changed over to

    It's similar to "Everything", but i just prefer MasterSeeker (also available in portable), which has some benefits over "Everything".

    See this link for a comparison discussion:

  27. Mr.Know-It-All
    May 14, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Hello, all.
    IMO, I think Everything is great!
    It works well, plus you may get the occasional funny error message;
    On my Win 7 box, I've seen "Everything has stopped working", which is a hoot.

    Have a GREAT day, Neighbors!