Use Windows Search

While Windows Vista and 7 already have Windows Search 4.0, a powerful indexing and searching software, Windows XP has quite lame search capabilities by default. The somewhat functional search is still there, but well hidden behind a cute yellow puppy (called Search Companion) looking for milk... err, files. Still the default search in Windows XP is not good enough - you should download and install Windows Search 4.0.
In Windows XP, you can use the Windows Search Deskbar (press Windows Key+Shift+F to activate it), Search button in Windows Explorer or open a Search Folder using keyboard shortcut Windows Key+F.
Windows XP, Windows Search Deskbar on Taskbar Windows XP, Search button in Windows Explorer Windows XP, Search folder
If the Deskbar is hidden in Windows XP, right-click an empty area of Taskbar, open Toolbars and click Windows Search Deskbar.
Windows XP, to show or hide Windows Search Deskbar, right-click an empty area of Taskbar. Open Toolbars and click Windows Search Deskbar.
In Windows Vista and 7, you can search using Start menu's Search box, Search box in Windows Explorer or Search Folder, accessible via keyboard shortcut Windows Key+F. There is not much difference between the latter two, Search Folder is just a clean search window and Start menu search displays fewer results with no previews and helpful tips due to space restrictions of Start menu itself.
In Windows Vista, Start menu search does not allow usage of kinds, such as "kind:picture".
Windows 7, Search box in Start menu Windows 7, Search box in right top part of folder window. Windows 7, Search Folder. To open Search Folder, press Windows Key+F on your keyboard.

Basic searches with Windows Search

Search results are based on both full and partial names. You could find Minesweeper by typing in minesweeper or mine. Typing in picture displays both My Pictures folder, picture files, programs containing word "picture" in their name, etc.
The very important exception is that if you type in just letters, they will be matched against beginnings of words - so typing in sol finds Solitaire, but typing in taire finds nothing. To find by any letters in a word, use asterisk mark (*). Typing in *taire will find Solitaire and Spider Solitaire.

Searching via Windows Search Deskbar or Start menu

After you type in something to Start menu Search box, most of Start menu contents will be replaced by search results. You can search for items on Start menu or in Control Panel here, too - to find a place to change screen saver, type in screensaver and you will see a list of items related to screen saver. To launch Solitaire (the game everyone is playing, but nobody ever admits playing it Laughing), type in solitaire and click on the relevant search result. Actually, you do not have to type in the whole name, just sol will do just as good. All results will be grouped by type - for example, Programs, Control Panel, Pictures, Files, etc. This makes it easier to distinguish between results.
Windows XP, Windows Search Deskbar results. Click on a relevant search result to open the file or folder, or launch the program. Windows Vista, Start menu Search results replace left part of Start menu contents. Click on a relevant search result to open the file or folder, or launch the program.
If there are too many search results, click the link in the lower part of search results. In Windows XP, it's called more...; in Windows Vista, it's Search Everywhere; and in Windows 7, it's named See more results link above Search box. This will open a Search Folder window with all search results.
Windows XP, Windows Search Deskbar results. To see more results in Search Folder window, click the link named more... Windows Vista, Start menu Search box. To see more results in Search Folder window, click the Search Everywhere link above Search box. To close search results and see Start menu contents again, click the X mark in the right corner of Search box.Windows 7, Start menu Search box. To see more results in Search Folder window, click See more results link above Search box. To close search results and see Start menu contents again, click the grey X mark in the right corner of Search box.
To clear search results and see Start menu contents again in Windows Vista or 7, click the X mark in the right corner of Search box.

Finding items with Search box or button in any folder window or Search Folder

Search button (in Windows XP) or box (in Windows Vista and 7) in a folder window and Search Folder are a more convenient way of searching for items.
The most important difference between those is that search results are limited to the active folder while using the Search button or Search box - if you are in My Pictures folder, the results will be only from that folder, not from anywhere else. Search Folder looks for items in all indexed locations.
If you did not find the needed item in a current folder, Windows Search can still look for the file or folder in all locations without opening a separate Search Folder:
  • in Windows XP, click the current folder name and select All Locations;
  • in Windows Vista, click Advanced Search in Did you find what you were searching for section. Then select Computer from the Location combo box (to search for absolutely all files, enable the Include non-indexed, hidden, and system files option);
  • in Windows 7, click Computer under Search again in: section.
Windows XP, search results in current folder. To find an item elsewhere, select All Locations.
Windows Vista, search results in current folder. To find an item elsewhere, click Advanced Search.. Windows Vista, Advanced Search results in current folder. To find an item elsewhere, select Computer for Location.
Windows 7, search results in current folder. To find an item elsewhere, click Computer icon under Search again in: section.
In Windows XP, you can select the type of file to search for by clicking Other in results window and selecting an appropriate item.
Windows XP, Windows Search. You can limit the file type to search for. All possibilities are available after clicking Other. Windows Vista, Windows Search. You can limit the file type to search for. All possibilities are available after clicking Other.
In Windows 7, Search box in folder windows is helpful with syntax and criteria - it will display calendar for selecting date criteria, suggestions for sizes, kinds, etc.
You can also use natural language filters, such as earlier this week, large, last year, etc.
Windows 7, Search box in folder windows gives suggestions for different criteria. Here are some types of kind criterion.
Windows 7, Search box in folder windows gives suggestions for different criteria. Here is a calendar for selecting date filter. Windows 7, Search box in folder windows gives suggestions for different criteria. Here are some size filters. Windows 7, Search box in folder windows gives suggestions for different criteria. Here are some artist suggestions from indexed music files.
As you can use multiple criteria for searches, Search box offers additional criteria after specifying the first filter. Click on a filter to add.
Windows 7, Search box in folder windows also suggests other filters after adding one. To add a filter to search criterion, click the filter.
In Windows XP and 7, Preview Pane is active for larger previews of pictures or videos, or file details. Windows Vista and 7 are also able to display contents of text documents in Preview Pane. Use keyboard shortcut Alt+P to show or hide Preview Pane in Windows 7.
In Windows Vista, the Preview Pane is hidden by default, but you can open it clicking Organize on Toolbar and selecting Preview Pane from Layout menu.
Windows 7, Search box in folder windows. To see larger previews of photos or play videos in search results window, open Preview Pane by pressing Alt+P on your keyboard.
Windows Vista, Search results. To see larger previews of photos or play videos in search results window, click Organize and select Preview Pane from Layout menu.
In Windows Vista and 7, when you feel that search is taking too long or you started a search in wrong folder, you can always stop it by clicking the red X mark to the right of Address Bar.
Windows 7, Search box in folder windows. To stop a search in progress, click the red X mark to the right of Address Bar.

Using advanced search filters in Windows Search

Let's dig deeper - Windows Search syntax has myriad of possibilities. You can always combine multiple search criteria by separating with spaces, for example type:jpg datetaken:lastweek cameramake:canon.
Using date and size ranges
First, you can always use relative dates such as todaytomorrowyesterday as well as  combinations of thislastpastcoming plus weekmonthyear - thisweeknextmonthpastmonthcomingyear.
To specify ranges, use operators "<" (less than), "<=" (less than or equal to), ">" (greater than), "=>" (equal to or greater than) and "..".
For example, to find a file with size over 100 kilobytes (KB) and containing a word "horse", use: horse size:>100KB.
To find a file created between 31/01/2009 and 26/02/2009, use: created:>31/01/09 <26/02/09. Please note that this excludes files that were created on 31/01/2009 or 26/02/2009. To find those files, use: created:=>31/01/09 <=26/02/09 or created:31/01/09..26/02/09.
Rules for search criteria
Just like searching with and without quotes produces different results, there are rules for combining search criteria. Suppose you want to use the same keyword - horse.
  • horse author:bill - finds everything that contains "horse" and has "bill" for author.
  • horse author:linus torvalds - finds everything that contains "horse" and "torvalds" plus has "linus" for author. This is a common mistake made by people - search criterias must be kept together with quotation marks or parenthesis (no space!), everything after space will be treated as a keyword again.
  • horse author:"linus torvalds" - finds everything that contains "horse" and has exactly "linus torvalds" for author.
  • horse author:(linus torvalds) - finds everything that contains "horse" plus has "linus" and "torvalds" somewhere in author field (could be "linus benedict torvalds" or "linus torvalds" or "benedict torvalds, linus")
  • horse author:(linus OR bill) - finds everything that contains "horse" and has "linus" or "bill" as an author. Note that OR is a boolean operator and it must be in capital letters, otherwise it will be treated as a keyword.
  • horse author:(linus NOT bill) - finds everything that contains "horse" and has "linus" for author, but not "bill".
You can always combine several keywords and criteria: horse author:"linus benedict" size:>10MB NOT kind:(video OR picture).
Searching by kind
Suppose you want to find all photos with name containing "horse", but you have some documents and e-mails containing "horse", too. Simply typing in horse is not very useful then. Use kind: to narrow down your search results - "horse kind:pictures" finds only pictures that include "horse" somewhere. "horse kind:photo" does exactly the same.
Here is a list of possible kinds:
  • communications (e-mails and appointments)
  • contacts (also person)
  • docs (also documents)
  • email
  • folders
  • im (for Instant Messenger conversations, for example Windows Live Messenger)
  • journal
  • link
  • meetings
  • music (also song)
  • notes
  • pictures (also pics or photo)
  • programs
  • tasks
  • tv (for Windows 7 Media Center Recorded TV shows)
  • videos
So kind:music finds all your mp3-s, wma-s, wav-s etc. Please note that "email", "journal", "meetings", "notes" and "tasks" work only if you have Microsoft Outlook or Windows Live Mail installed and configured with at least one e-mail account.
You can also type in just pictures to see a list of photos or just video to see a list of videos.
Searching by type
If you have a large music collection and you want to find only mp3-s, not wma-s, use type: instead. For example, mozart type:mp3. If you have many photos and you want to find only files with .jpg extension, use type:jpg. You get it, right? Smile
Searching by file properties
All files that Windows Search indexes have several properties that you can use in your searches: Suppose you want to find a tune named "Canon in D" by "Johann Pachelbel" and you know you had it both in mp3 and wma formats with wma sounding better. But the file has some pretty cryptic file name, something like "00jpcid.wma". Use artist:pachelbel title:canon type:wma to find that file.
You can find Word documents created by you by searching for type:doc author:<your name> or all e-mails sent to bill@ubuntu.com by searching type:eml to:bill@ubuntu.com.
Here's a selection of properties that you might find useful:
  • album
  • artist
  • author
  • bitrate
  • cameramake
  • cameramodel
  • cc
  • created
  • date
  • datetaken
  • genre
  • firstname
  • lastname
  • modified
  • size
  • subject
  • title
  • to
  • track
  • year
This is not so easy at first sight, but it enables finding exactly the right file. You'll learn it very quickly really. Smile

Saving and managing searches in Windows Vista and 7

If you repeatedly use one or more searches often, it is best to save the search with its filters for easy loading. First create a search filter in Search box and after the results meets your need, click Save search button in toolbar.
Sadly, Windows Search in Windows XP does not offer such functionality.
Windows Vista, Search box in folder windows. To save a search for easy loading in the future, click Save search button on toolbar.
In Save As dialog box specify file name if you want to and click Save button. As you can see, the file will be saved in Searches folder of your profile.
Windows Vista, saving a search. In Save As dialog specify a file name for the saved search and click Save.
In Windows 7, the saved search also appears under Favorites in Navigation Pane.
To load a saved search, just click on its name in Navigation Pane, or open Searches folder and double-click the necessary item.
Windows 7, saved searches appear under Favorites in Navigation Pane. To load a saved search, click on its name.
To rename a saved search, click on its name, press F2 key on your keyboard, type a new name and press Enter key to confirm.
Windows 7, to rename a saved search, click on it. Press F2 key, type in a new name and press Enter key.
To remove a saved search from Favorites in Windows 7, click on its name and press Del (Delete) key on your keyboard. Please note that this action will not be confirmed and that deleting a saved search from Favorites will not delete the saved search file!
You can manage saved searches from your Searches folder. To do that, open Start menu by pressing Windows Key and click on your personal folder (your user name).
Windows 7, to manage search files (saved searches), open Start menu and click on your personal folders (your user name).
Next, open Searches folder and delete the files you no longer need. Please remember that if you delete a saved search that still exists under Favorites, you will still have to delete that saved search from Favorites, too!
Windows 7, files for saved searches are stored in Searches folder under your personal folder.
Windows Vista and 7 display a somewhat misleading then. Because saved searches are treated as folders, you may safely click Yes here - you are not deleting the whole Searches folder! Smile
Windows Vista, Saved Search deletion confirmation. Click Yes to delete the search.

Managing folders in Windows Search index (Indexing Options)

By default, Windows Search indexes all files in users' personal folders and libraries (Documents, Pictures, Videos, etc) and items in default e-mail programs. If you happen to have some important folder outside your personal folders, you can manually add it to Windows Search for indexing. If you do not use any e-mail programs, you can exclude them from index, too.
In Windows XP, right-click on Windows Search Deskbar and select Windows Search Options... from the menu.
Windows XP, Windows Search. To modify indexed locations, right-click the Windows Search Deskbar and click Windows Search Options.
In Windows Vista and 7, open Indexing Options from Control Panel. To do that, open Start menu by pressing Ctrl+Esc on your keyboard and type indexing into Start menu Search box. Click Indexing Options.
Windows 7, to open Indexing Options from Start menu, type "indexing" in Start menu Search box. Then click Indexing Options.
Indexing Options window opens. Click Modify.
Windows 7, Windows Search Indexing Options. Click Modify to add a folder to index.
In Windows XP,  select or deselect the items you want. Never deselect Documents and Settings or Users folder on Local Disk (C:). Never select whole hard drives (Local Disks), select just the folders you need instead.
Click OK to close Indexed Locations. Windows Search will start updating its index right away.
In Windows Vista and 7, click Show all locations to see all folders. Windows Vista users might have to click Continue in User Account Control window.
Windows 7, Windows Search Indexed Locations. To access all folders, click Show all locations.
In Indexed Locations window select or deselect the items you want. Never deselect Users folder on Local Disk (C:). Never select whole hard drives (Local Disks), select just the folders you need instead.
Click OK to close Indexed Locations. Windows Search will start updating its index right away.
Windows Vista, Windows Search Indexed Locations. Select or deselect the locations you want to index or not. Then click OK.
Click Close in the Indexing Options window.

Clearing Windows Search history

Windows Search remembers previously used searches and automatically offers these later. To delete a few items, stop your mouse pointer on a previous search and then press the Delete (Del) key on keyboard to remove the item from the list.
If you want to clear the whole search history in Windows XP, activate Windows Search Deskbar box by pressing WINDOWS KEY+SHIFT+F on your keyboard (or click on the Deskbar). Click the down arrow button of Windows logo and select Clear Search History from the menu.
Windows XP, Windows Search. To remove search history, click in the Windows Search Deskbar box. Click the down arrow button of Windows logo and click Clear Search History.
In Windows Vista and 7, emptying the whole history is not that easy. The safest way is to install a free program called CCleaner and make sure the Other Explorer MRUs item is selected in the Windows Explorer section before clicking the Run Cleaner button.

Pausing Windows Search indexing in Windows XP

If you add many files (videos, for example) to Windows Search at once in Windows XP, Windows Search indexing might slow down older computers temporarily while it indexes the new files. Windows Vista and 7 are not affected by such behaviour, probably Windows Search is integrated deep into kernel.
You can pause indexing by right-clicking on Windows Search icon (magnifier) in Taskbar Notification area. Then click Indexing Status.
Windows XP, Windows Search. To pause (snooze) indexing, right-click on Windows Search icon (magnifier) in Taskbar Notification area and click Indexing Status.
You can also select Snooze Indexing from Windows Search icon right-click menu. This disables indexing until next computer restart or until you click the command again.
Select time to snooze indexing for, click the Snooze button and then click Close.
Windows XP, Windows Search. To pause (snooze) indexing, select a time to pause indexing for. Click Snooze button and then click Close button.
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