7 Search Tips to Find What You’re Looking for in Windows 10

Joe Keeley 06-05-2016

The search within Windows 10 is incredibly powerful, but you might not be using it to its full extent. We’re here to show you all the tips and tricks surrounding search, meaning you can hunt down what you need much more efficiently.


Whether it’s adjusting where Windows scans when you search, using handy parameters to limit your search, or just typing as few letters as possible, the advice herein will turn you into a searching wizard.

If you’ve got your own search tip to share, please be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

1. Search Using First Letters

If you’re searching for a program or file with a long name, you probably already know you don’t need to type it in its entirety. Once a match has been found, the result will be displayed. But you can take this one step further to reduce your keystrokes to the bare minimum.

windows search letters

To find something that is made up of multiple words, just type the first letter of each word and put a space between each letter. For example, Google Chrome can be found by typing g c, Windows Media Player can be found with w m p, and so on.


2. Add Search to the Taskbar

You can open the Start menu and type straight away to begin searching. However, you can also add a dedicated search icon or bar to your Taskbar 7 Tips for Customizing the Windows 10 Taskbar The taskbar remains a staple feature in Windows 10. It's been given a fresh look and new features, including Cortana. We show you all the tweaks to make the taskbar your own. Read More . To do so, right click an empty space on the Taskbar, hover on Search and then select Show search icon or Show search box.

windows search

If you don’t see the ability to add the search box, it means your Taskbar isn’t tall enough to support it. To rectify this, right click an empty Taskbar space again and select Properties. In the new window, untick Use small taskbar buttons and then click OK.

3. Use Filters to Narrow Your Search

When searching in the Start menu or search box, you can use filters to quickly narrow down to the type of file that you’re seeking. You have many different filtering options. All you need to do is input the filter term, followed by a colon, directly before your search terms. The available filters are appssettingsfilesfoldersphotosvideosmusic, and web.


windows search filter web

For example, if you wanted to find a document about animals then you’d search files:animals. If you were more interested in websites on the topic then you’d search web:animals.

4. Quick Calculations

Sure, Windows has a built-in calculator 10 Neglected Windows Calculator Features That Are Super Useful The Calculator app for Windows 10 has lots of cool uses. Here are the best Windows calculator functions you should know. Read More , but did you know that you can use the search to perform some quick calculations? For this you’ll need to have searching the web enabled. Access the search, then go to Settings and turn Search online and include web results to On.

windows search calculator


Now you can type calculations into the search bar and it’ll display the sum right there. Of course, it’s not suitable if you’re trying to do advanced mathematics, but it’s incredibly handy for speedy working out of simple calculations.

5. Customize Where Windows Searches

By default, Windows will have a number of locations that it will scan when you perform a search. If you want to include or exclude particular locations from search, that’s simple. First, do a system search for indexing options and select the relevant result. Here you will see all locations that are indexed, meaning those which are searched.

To change these, click Modify. You can then navigate through the folder trees and tick those locations you wish to search. For example, you may wish to include an external hard drive. Once done, click OK.

windows indexing options


Back on the Indexing Options window, you can also include or exclude particular file types. For this, click Advanced and then switch to the File Types tab. Again, make your selections with a tick, then click OK.

Excluding large folder paths and limiting your file types may speed up the search function, but your mileage will depend on just how many items you’ve got indexed. Frankly, I’ve found Windows 10’s searching to be lightning fast.

6. Search Within File Explorer

You can also search from within File Explorer by using the search box that appears in the top right. You can navigate to This PC if you want to search your whole system, but you can search straight from whichever folder you like. Just input your search term and the results will display.

windows file explorer search

After searching, you’ll be able to make use of the Search tab on the ribbon. From here you can filter your results using the dropdowns like Date modified, Type, and Size. If you want to quickly filter in and out of indexed locations, use the Advanced options dropdown. You can use Save search to create a Smart Folder, which we cover in our guide to setting up Windows smart folders Set Up Windows Smart Folders by Saving Your Searches A smart folder isn't actually a folder at all. It's a saved search. A smart folder allows you to take a shortcut to file explorer searches you do over and over again. Read More .

To filter your searches within the search box itself, you’ll need to use parameters. You can discover these in our Windows search tricks guide Top 7 Windows Search Tricks Used by Pro Users Read More , but those most handy include type, modified, and size. Use these with a colon, followed by your search term. For example, type:music, modified:last year and size:large.

7. Use Third-party Applications

If Windows 10’s built-in search just isn’t cutting the mustard, you might want to explore third-party applications. Many of the countless alternatives are free. We’ve rounded up the best in the past, so check out our awesome alternatives to Windows search 6 Awesome Alternatives to Windows Search Does a Windows system search take you longer to find things than a manual search? You're not alone. Let us show you more efficient Windows search tools. Read More . Alternatively, see those search programs we recommend judged on speed 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 .

7 Search Tips to Find What You're Looking for in Windows 10 agent ransack

If you’re after some instant recommendations, Everything is a good choice due to how simple and lightweight it is. If you need something a bit more advanced, like one that will search the contents of your files How to Search File Contents in 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 rather than just the metadata, then check out Agent Ransack. This program will look inside your files, find the search term, and tell you where it appears within the file.

Search and Conquer

It’d be remiss not to mention Cortana, the personal assistant How to Set Up Cortana & Remove Her in Windows 10 Cortana is Microsoft's greatest productivity tool since Office. We'll show you how to get started with Windows 10's digital assistant or how to turn Cortana off for improved privacy. Read More within Windows 10. If you really want to limit how much you type to perform a search, you can ask Cortana to find stuff for you using your voice! Be sure to discover which apps support Cortana How to Find Which Windows 10 Apps Work With Cortana Cortana can be really useful, but how are you supposed to know which apps support her? Here's how to find out in the blink of an eye. Read More to get the ultimate use out of it.

Armed with all these tips, now you can go forth and conquer all your searches. Whether you adjust your indexing options, make use of parameters, or just use a third-party program, you’ll be able to find what you need in a bang.

What tips can you share to help us all perform better searches? Do you think Windows 10 is missing any vital search features?

Related topics: File Explorer, Start Menu, Windows 10, Windows Search, Windows Taskbar.

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  1. SOJ
    March 7, 2017 at 7:09 am

    Just another unfathomable reduction in quality from good ol' Microsoft.

    In XP, I could search for ".jpg". Or, I could search by the date a photo was taken. Now, I have to start in the Big Baby Playpen and choose brilliant things like, for a couple of years ago, instead of saying "3/1/14", I have to enter "a long time ago". Or for size, I can choose "Gigantic." For ".jpg," I can choose "pictures" then, after waiting around, going to make coffee, taking the dog outside and giving the bird a bath, receive every pic ever taken by any human on this planet, every icon, bizarro system files and all the image crud foisted on me by the Internet making it almost impossible to find the .jpg taken on 3/1/14.

    So, you ask if Windows 10 is missing any vital search features? The question might make more sense this way: "Does Windows 10 have any search features?"

    Were MS creative geniuses replaced by Kindergartners who like to say Pictures, A Long Time Ago and Gigantic a WHOLE BUNCH.

    Channeling the late, great Joan Rivers, Hey Microsoft, GROW UP!

  2. Angel
    August 30, 2016 at 12:43 am

    I just want to find all of my personal pics. Not all of the stupid newsfeed jpegs (that shouldn't be on my computer anyway), and no effin system files pics. JUST MY PICS!!!!!!
    Friggin impossible and stupid!

    May 9, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Use Third-party Applications? LoL Windows 0