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It’s a bit of a shame that the Windows Search experience has been lackluster in recent OS releases like XP, Vista, 7, and even (in my opinion) 8. Luckily, for the savvy user, there are a whole mess of third-party solutions that make searching the Windows file system what it ought to be: simple and effective.
Picking at your brain on this subject, the first alternative that should come to many minds is Everything. This piece of software is to searching your Windows PC as Dropbox is to file synchronization. There are others though, and neglecting those options could mean you’re missing out on something you find to be even better!
Another of our writers, Aaron, recently pulled through with an article that introduces users to seven pieces of software in this class. In the comments, I stumbled across a recommendation by one of our great readers: UltraFileSearch. After checking out the software, I thought it’d be right to feature a full article on it and introduce everyone else to the extensive round of features.
First, be advised that UltraFileSearch is available in two versions: Standard (shareware) and Lite (freeware). In this article, I’ll be covering the Lite edition. If you’d like to check out the differences between both versions, check out the Features page of their page.
UltraFileSearch is advertised as being compatible with the following versions of Windows:
- Windows® NT 4.0
- Windows® 2000
- Windows® XP
- Windows® Server 2003
- Windows® Server 2003 R2
- Windows Vista®
- Windows® Server 2008
- Windows® 7
- Windows® Server 2008 R2
However, I tested it out on Windows 8 Pro (64-bit) and it worked just fine.
Both versions are available in hard installation and portable forms. As always, I go for the portable version. The download is only 1.90 MB in size and will take you a quick second. Afterwards, simply extract the archive to a folder of your choice.
Getting comfortable with the interface isn’t difficult. While there are other search applications that are more stylish and glossy, UltraFileSearch Lite is aesthetically plain.
Just looking at the above screenshot, you can see many of the features available to you in UltraFileSearch Lite:
- Search by Mode, either Simple or Wildcards for more efficient searching.
- Support to search external and flash drives.
- Recursive scanning of subfolders.
- Search specifically for files or folder names.
While many Windows Search ninjas may know how to utilize aforementioned features with what comes with Windows, UltraFileSearch Lite really puts it out there for you. Across the top, you should also see the Containing Text and Date and Size tabs. These are further ways to narrow your results.
Searches for containing text are really great for TXT, PDF, DOCX, and other text-based file formats. UltraFileSearch Lite supports matching words or phrases, case sensitivity, and allows you to include or exclude certain file types.
Searching by date and size can be a great substitute for wildcard searches. If you’re searching for one specific file that you know was modified, created, or last accessed in the past hour, UltraFileSearch Lite is great for pinpointing that. You can also search for files of large sizes if you’re interested in saving disk space, for example.
It should be known that UltraFileSearch Lite installs no services or anything in the background. That being said, no indexing is possible. For users who don’t want a resource-intensive search, this is great. Unlike Everything though, UltraFileSearch Lite also does not create a database of your files per search. Either way, it is just as its name suggests and very light. You’ll find search speeds to be generally slower than another application that supports these features, but any other assumptions about speed are completely dependent on the specifications of your system.
Additional features include the ability to export your search results in multiple different formats. I find the HTML format to be the most pleasing to read and scan over.
You can also export to comma-delimited or plain text formats. You can also change the view of how your search results are displayed.
Above you can see results displayed as large icons rather than a list. It’s little features like that which make UltraFileSearch Lite a pleasant experience. Another big deal about UltraFileSearch Lite is that it can search any NTFS or FAT systems. Many others don’t support FAT32. You’re also able to search by environment variables and network path names, which are two features that advanced users may find very useful.
Overall, UltraFileSearch may seem to pale in comparison to your trusty Everything, but it will get the job done better than Windows Search. It’s a free and portable application that I think is worth a try. Let me know what you think of UltraFileSearch Lite in the comments!
If you’re pleased with what Windows Search has to offer you, maybe you’d be also interested in MUO’s guide on Windows 7 search tips!