A few simple tricks will let you find files faster on Windows. All you need to know is how the Windows file finding system works so that you can optimize your searches.
Find Files Faster Using The Advanced Search Box
Windows includes several ways to find files, including tools to let you find files within a single folder. In this article, we’ll cover how to find files faster no matter where they are on your disk drive.
In Windows XP, you want to click Find Files in the Start menu. In Vista and Windows 7, you can use the search bar built into the Start menu, but you can also open the Advanced Search box which we’ll use for the rest of this article.
Windows XP doesn’t pre-index any files for you, so every search will take a long time. Windows Vista and Windows 7 do pre-index files by default, so finding files based on simple criteria should go quickly. Advanced searches may take longer if they look for information outside the basic search table. For example, if you search for a file and use the Containing Text option, you’ll have to wait a long time.
Find Files Faster By Avoiding Slow Criteria
The difference between searching by file name and searching by file text can be up to fifteen minutes or more or a large drive, yet Windows won’t tell you that until you start searching. You can avoid delays and find files faster by memorizing a few simple rules:
- File Names and Dates are always the fastest because Windows keeps all of this information in a single database. It’s in that single database even if you don’t use indexing.
- Tags and Authors are almost as fast on computers that use indexing, but they’ll take a long time on computers that don’t use indexing.
- A Full Text search will take the longest. For this kind of search, Windows needs to open each file and scan it for the text you typed. Windows will try to make this go faster by looking first in your Documents, Music, and Pictures folders, but if you have a lot of documents or your file is in another folder, you can expect this type of search to take a long time.
Find Files Faster By Restricting Your Search
If you need to perform a full-text search, which is quite common when you can’t locate a file normally, you can find files faster by entering multiple criteria. For example, searching for “sales proposal” might take 15 minutes or more on a large disk full of files, but searching for “sales proposal after:2011–01–01” will only search documents saved this year—which could save you a lot of time.
You can specify criteria using the menu in advanced search, or you can find files faster by quickly entering them into any search box using the following syntax:
after:datetells Windows to search for files saved on or after a particular date. You can enter the date in any format supported by your locale, so 2/1/2011 in the U.S. locale and 1/2/2011 in most European locales both refer to the first of February 2011. To avoid locale problems, I usually enter dates in ISO 8601 format: 2011–02–01.
before:dateworks the same way as
after:datebut only finds files saved on or before the particular date.
date:start..endlets you find files saved between two dates. For example, to find a file saved in 2010, you could type:
size:>sizelets you search for files smaller or bigger than a particular size. Although I’ve never found a good opportunity to use this, you might find it useful to find large PowerPoint slides or research papers.
ext:file_extensionis a great way to find files faster by searching only files with a specific extension. For example, if you know your file ends in .rtf, you can search for
type:file_typeis like extension, but Windows uses it to find all files of a particular type. For example,
type:imagewill find all images no matter whether they end in .png, .jpg, .JPEG, .bmp, or any of a dozen other file extensions. The different file types are,
- contact for Outlook contacts
- communications for email messages
- calendar for calendar appointments
- documents for all documents
- tv for recorded television
- video for all videos, including television
Find Files Faster By Optimizing Ahead Of Time
Although you can use advanced criteria to speed up searching for your file, the easiest and best way to find files faster is still by knowing the file’s name—or at least part of the file’s name.
There are two ways to make it easier to find files by names. First, you can use longer descriptive names. For example, I could call this article,
article--tips4pc--find-files-faster.rtf. Then I could search for “find files” or “find faster” or even “article” or “tips4pc” to get a listing of this article and all related articles.
The other way to find files by names is to put them in appropriate folders. For example, I could put this article in
Documentsarticlestips4pcfind-files-faster.rtf. Then I could run the same search above and get folders containing my articles and tips4pc articles plus files matching the name. Either way, it’s easy to find files faster after renaming them.