1. Brian said…


    I totally agree, winXP and Vista had very good search options. Windows7 is totally usless at searching. Why oh why, did they remove it…. Its madness like this thats driving me away from M$ all together. Am going to uninstall Win7 and go back to XP, before Win7 pisses me off any more!


    • said…

      Some things have been fixed with the Release Candidate of Windows 7 but it is still horrible. If you add any custom directories to it they end up slowing down all searches regardless of where you are in the file system. When it comes to Windows 7 search Microsoft really screwed up and somehow left Vista the winner. XP still has it’s issues with searching but at least it is not so confined as to REQUIRE a third-party search engine.

      If you are looking for a good search utility the best one I have found for Windows is called “Everything”. http://www.voidtools.com/ It is incredibly fast and beats XP/Vista/7 when it comes to searching.

  2. Joker said…

    I completely agree. My case is MUCH worse! I’m using the Win7 RC Build 7100. I copied over a failed PC’s Docs and Settings folder to my PC. I tried to right click the folder on my desktop, but there was no “search” option. Once i figured out HOW to do the search, the evidence was right there.

    I did a search for “*.jpg”, which started searching the entire PC. I scrolled to the bottom of my results, and AHHH, there is the “Custom” feature I was looking for. Sure enough, i was able to ask the PC to search the Docs and Settings folder I had copied over. But it only returned about 50 results, all from a temp internet folder. Waited a long time, but the hundreds of JPGs in the user’s folder never showed up. Total data size was less than 4GB. if I searched the folders individually the pictures would show up. I seriously hope that gets fixed, or why even have a search feature if it can’t find your files by itself?

    • said…


      Did you ever use the search feature in Windows Vista? It was awesome and always worked! I thought that by build 7100 of Windows 7 they would have fixed it but so far I am still finding that third-party tools do a much better job with a lot less hassle. Microsoft really screwed up on this one. One of the coolest features with Vista was that if you changed a text file or document it would almost instantly index the change and you could find it in the search results. Windows 7 is completely crippled compared to Vista’s search capabilities.

      I have found that if I manually rebuild the search indexes it works ok for a while but it slows down very quickly.

  3. said…

    Old thread I know, but I just couldn’t believe MS would remove such a powerful feature, like searching files internally. So after some searches I found this thread and my fear is confirmed. :( As a developer, the ability to find a string in a set of files is just priceless. Windows 7 RC is a beta and overall, I do like it over Vista with the less overhead and improved speed. But please… please… bring back the proper search abilities.

  4. rederikus said…

    I agree completely. What’s needed is the speed of the Windows 7 search with the function and the UI of the old Advanced search in XP.

    Windows 7 search turns up all sorts of rubbish that has nothing to do with the filename and you can’t search within files. Two steps backwards and none forwards.

  5. said…

    Nigel you are right this is an old thread but it is for sure one of the most visited posts on OS Attack. Microsoft has really let everyone down on this feature. They really did nail it with Windows Vista but screwed it up beyond belief with Windows 7.

    Once Windows 7 gets released to manufactures I will do some testing and then post my findings. I strongly suspect that we will not see any improvement at all. There is no hope at all for better Advanced settings either. Maybe this is good news for third-party search tools.

  6. said…

    Hi Paul. You might be right, but Microsoft is not known for opening doors to other development houses, but hopefully their vapor-ware days are over.

    I just got an email from MS asking for input on Windows 7. I’m sure most of you received it, but if not… go to http://input.microsoft.com (not sure if links are allow here, sorry) and let them know exactly what you think. Is it ready to ship on Oct. 20th? HELL NO!

    Have a good one guys and thanks for the feedback.

  7. said…

    I am on my way out the door right now but I will take the link you submitted and give it its own post. I will specifically call out the search issue and hopefully we can get Microsoft to resolve this problem before it gets released.

    Thanks for the input it is very welcome!

  8. JJJ said…

    Looks like the functionality is still there to do advanced searches but there’s no GUI for it. You have to be familiar with Advanced Query Syntax (AQS) in order to get more granular searches. Here’s some info about it:



    Thanks MS for taking something that was simple and used to work just fine and making it more of a pain in the @$$ for everyone. MS seems to ignore input from the community these days. They thank everyone for their input for Windows 7 and then just do whatever they think is right. Take multi-monitor taskbar support…oh, wait, Windows 7 still doesn’t have that. OK, done griping for now. 😉

  9. clearlyle said…

    Correction: another review.

  10. Glen said…

    Are some of the people here on crack or trolling for M$?

    Windows Vista and Windows 7 search function totally blows.

    How is it that XP is vastly superior when it comes to the search function? It boggles my mind.

  11. Scott said…

    Awww – it;s not that bad. Try this:

    Open explorer and Click in the search field – note that a number of options appear at the bottom – like Kind: date modified: Type: Name:

    WoooooAAAAhhhh – if you start clicking on thsoe you will find there are a gazillion different ways to search. It’s just DIFFERENT. We need to get used to the DIFFERENCES.

    I think it’s pretty cool. There is only one thing I would change though – I would add contextual help back when you right click on an explorer pane.

    That’s my three cents !

  12. Farfle said…


    Bullcrap. I had a very specific failure of Windows 7 search capabilities, and it’s frustrated me to no no end trying to get it to work properly (shouldn’t have to work this goddamned hard to try and get something that emulates Windows XP’s capabilities).

    I needed to search for all files that had a specific string in them. I browsed to the folder in Explorer, pressed CTRL-F, typed in my string and hit enter. After nothing came up, I clicked the little button below the search results called “File Contents”. Sure enough, some text files showed up. However, not ALL of the files showed up. Specifically, it did not return any ZIP files or EXE files that had those strings in them, which was exactly what I was looking for. (I realize the ZIP and EXE are in binary, but XP still had the ability to search for ASCII characters in them).

    In Windows XP, in order to search unknown filetypes you had to go into the Indexing Options and check the appropriate box, even if you weren’t using Indexing. I can’t seem to find a similiar checkbox in Windows 7, let alone anything resembling XP’s and Vista’s advanced search interface. This is just ridiculous that Windows 7 doesn’t have the advanced search window that was included ever since Windows 2000 (and maybe even NT 4.0? I can’t remember). Seriously Microsoft, WHY would you get rid of this tool?

  13. Farfle said…

    Oh, and BTW, I turned around and searched the EXACT same folder with Windows XP and it returned the .ZIP and .EXE files I was looking for. That’s how I know Windows 7’s search failed me.

    Is there a specific option somewhere (like WinXP’s indexing option I mentioned above) in order to enable Windows 7 to search within ANY filetype? It seems like it only returned text files with my string in them, nothing else. I confirmed this by created a test file called “searchtest.test” opened it with Notepad, typed a string, then tried the above method to search for that file with the string I put inside it. It didn’t return it.

  14. said…


    I agree. It is one of those things that drives me crazy! How can a legacy operating system have a better search engine??????? When XP came out the search functions were not revolutionary but they worked and no one complained. Then you have Vista that everyone hated but was completely in love with the way it searched their files. WHY WOULD THEY CRIPPLE THIS FEATURE!?!?!!?!?!?

    I honestly wish that it was that easy. There are things a lot more important than the date and size of a file when searching. And JJJ is correct there are ways to still be able to use it but that requires more than the average user knows how to do.

    Why did Microsoft do this? What was the logic or reasoning behind it?

  15. Micah Steed said…

    @Farfle – “Specifically, it did not return any ZIP files or EXE files that had those strings in them, which was exactly what I was looking for.”

    To get Windows 7 to search .zip files you need to go into the Search Tab under Folder Options and check the box next to Include compressed files.

    I agree that the search feature in Win7 doesn’t appear to be as friendly as the previous versions.

  16. Micah Steed said…

    Also, changing from to the second option under What to Search in that search tab might yield better results.

  17. Rudolfo said…

    “If you are looking for a good search utility the best one I have found for Windows is called “Everything”. http://www.voidtools.com/ It is incredibly fast and beats XP/Vista/7 when it comes to searching.”
    I completely agree with Paul Foty. Try it and you’ll love it. In Windows7 Search I was trying to search for files just with “~” in the name, it was a nightmare-without result! In “Everything” just hit Enter and you’ll see instantly…everything with “~”.

  18. said…

    Windows 7 search is really disappointing. As a programmer looking over code, I like to be able to search a directory full of source files for a string or a segment of code. Searching for “Show button input” in Windows XP produced quick results for all the source files I needed to work on. With Windows 7, this simply isn’t possible and yields no results. Very frustrating.

  19. TimR said…

    Yes, it’s unbelievable that they screwed up one of the most important features a PC can have. Like some others here, I also installed and used Windows 7 for a few days. I thought it was OK until I tried to locate a file that I had misplaced using a text string that I knew was in the file. It took me several times the effort and time that it would have in XP. It pissed me off so bad that I switched back to XP. (also switched back because Windows 7 does not include Netware drivers, which caused me all kinds of problems with other PCs on the network).

    I don’t know if anyone here remembers the file search in Windows 98, but in my opinion, it was better and faster than any of the search functionality in subsequent versions of Windows .

    I can see how these things happen, though. I used to work as a software engineer in a large corporation where moronic decisions regarding software design was the norm. Change for the sake of change and redesigning and “breaking” software that once worked happened all the time. Oh yeah, and the outsourcing of software programming jobs to India really lowered the quality of the software. Microsoft also does this on a very large scale to save money on labor. They employ thousands of programmers in India and China. They have also applied for over 20,000 H1-B visas since 2001 to bring in cheap labor from other countries to write software for them. And the excuse for the need to import people….Bill Gates says there aren’t enough qualified Americans to do the job. Bull***t. It’s all about the cheap labor and making old Bill a little richer.

  20. said…

    being new is the problem ???

    If Zip, .cab, etc needed go to folder option and on “Search” tab select “index .zip, .cab)…

    good luck

  21. terrivo said…

    i absolutely hate the search option….. i wish there was a way to bring back the search companion they used through to windows xp. yes it could be a little slow some times, but i ALWAYS found what i was looking for. it was simple and user friendly. in general i like win 7 but things like this make me miss xp in a big way. just another case of improving something that didn’t really need improvement and mucking it up in the process….

  22. Crid [CridComment at gmail] said…

    I cannot believe, cannot believe, cannot believe how clumsy and irritating the Windows 7 search function is. I just don’t know what more they could have done to kneecap the power of their operating system. Let’s just try to imagine what was going on in the meetings where this functionality (and its reprehensible documentation) was approved.

    If Microsoft was a stock, I’d short it.

    (Hey, wait a minute….)

  23. glenncz said…

    I will add to it. XP search was good. 7 is completely RIDICULOUS! I consider myself somewhat of a power user, and I need to read 20 pages of a thick manual to make heads or tails of this. Even then, the box is so little and so stupid and clumsy, beyond belief. Like the STUPID PERSON who thinks the show desktop icon should be almost hidden way off to the right away from the main desktop area, and there isn’t even an option to put Show Desktop on the quick launch, these people are MORONS!

  24. dhinge said…

    A year after this post and I just discovered that Windows 7 search is just as horrible as this post describes. It ignores words in filenames that directly follow numbers, finds every file if a dash is in front of a word, and has inconsistent results if you use words separated by special characters. If they’re trying to make their operating system easier to use for the computer illiterate, the solution isn’t to make the computer more illiterate.

  25. said…

    Every single time I try to use the Windows 7 search feature I get more and more pissed off. Today I tried to use it to find some videos by a specified date and guess what? IT DIDN’T WORK!!!!! Big freaking surprise.

    Those Microsoft employees that read this blog I really hope you bring this back to your day jobs. Please fix this by reverting it back to the way it was in Vista.

  26. ziggzz said…

    If Windows 7 won’t search the file contents of a particular file extension, you can do the following:

    type search and select “Change how Windows searches”
    Click the advanced button
    click the files types tab
    Select the file extension you’re having an issue with and change “How should this file be indexed?” to “Index properties and file contents”
    Research the directory

    Seems like you have to do this whether the directory is in an indexed location or not.. Windows 7 will simply not search file contents of an extension unless you make the changes above.. it’s ridiculous, I know.

  27. said…

    Same here. I’m trying to find photos and I cna’t believe I have to read through a 20 page manual to find the right syntax. :-0 PLEASE being back the old search funtion: it just worked…..

  28. terrivo said…

    i found a program called “Search My Files” and it works great. Its Freeware and it has the feel and options of the old search companion and it seems to work very quickly. fairly user friendly. search for it and give it a try……i’ve given up on using win 7 search entirely now.

  29. davestewart said…


    Windows Key + D = Show Desktop

  30. chrish said…

    terrivo, thank you for mentioning Search My Files. I downloaded it and it is all I will ever need when searching Windows 7.

  31. malik009 said…

    “windows 7 is great ” ” its stable” i heard it but , now when i have actually tested it. its poor. bad stability, even worst search options. i just wanted to find a single folder named songs. and what ? ok, how about you try to find some folder you know. and stability ? wow. i have latest antivirus, and still all my folders are hidden, and to access them i have to go to folder options to allow the access of hidden folders which they become by themself. without my authorization. and can’t be “unhide”. crappy windows. poor performance.

  32. Bellax2 said…

    Awful. I come back time and again. Awful.

    Just because a string is contained within one directory in the file path does not mean that every file and folder under that path is a valid result.

    When I search for “bean” I want my search to default to finding FILES with the string BEAN in their FILENAME.

    If that’s not how it starts, it’s wrong.

    That’s not how it starts.

  33. Yardnor said…

    I have a directory named C:TEMP.

    It contains 100 subdirectories and 9900 files.

    Using Windows 7 Search, within the C:TEMP directory, searching for the string TEMP, yields 10,000 results.


    Every folder and file within that hierarchy has “temp” within it’s path.

    That is just plain dumb.

    I want to find the 17 files and 2 subdirectories which contain the string TEMP within their NAMES. Instead, I get 10,000 results.

    I guess they;re trying to dumb it all down a few levels, but this is just plain stupid. I don’t know how anybody could find meaning in the results returned by this Search.

    What I find even more disconcerting is the occasional non-results. I’m not quite sure yet whether those are because it’s still indexing/searching. There’s no progress indicator, letting me know when it’s finished doing it’s dumb thing.

    Overall, a big disappointment.

  34. said…

    I can now recommend a replacement… Go to the website locate32.net. It’s some kind of freeware / shareware / open source project. If you want to play around with the settings, you can use it as a portable application. It finds everything you want.

    It indexes your files, but the interface is FAR, FAR superior to what Microsoft is doing… And because you have an explicit destination for your indexes, you need not worry that Microsoft is poking around in your personal stuff. It would be nice if it had a few more fields, and all of them on one tab, and maybe a “find within results” feature… But it’s both easy to use and professionally effective, and the native Windows 7 solution is neither.

    Let me gripe about this some more. EVEN, EVEN if you want to concede that the OS has to have an indexed search function, the clumsiness of the Windows 7 search interface is inexcusably bad. They seem to think that anyone who wants to find something is going to want to sit down and make a seven-minute typing chore out of it, rather than a ten-second distraction. They want us to have to learn how it works, and struggle through query options, as if it would be good for is.

    Understand: The biggest story in the industry in the last decade was Google, and their empty, white, simple SEARCH page. This would have been a great opportunity for Microsoft to show that they’ve got some insight about how normal people want to relate to complicated collections of data; and they’ve blown it, badly.

  35. obi said…

    Im on 7600 build and did the regedit trick to get the right mouse button search option back. now a couple updates (+50 orso) its gone again.
    perhaps indeed we need a third party tool for this.

  36. iusemac said…

    omg, how stupid are you people? i use a mac and i just tried windows7 and i myself know how to use the search function.. i think i read someone looking for a folder.. i clicked the search bar clicked some search filters, came up with kind:=folder name: ‘the string’ found all entries in a blink.. can you guys even read? im no windows power user but i think some people just ignored the fact that computers need skills of thinking from users too

  37. said…


    Oh great and powerful User Of Mac, you who know everything about Windows based upon your 10 minutes of using Windows 7! Forgive us for our ignorance, and may the blessed Steve Jobs continue to rule the world! One day, may we be as knowledgeable and skilled as thee!

  38. Black Batter said…


    “i think i read someone looking for a folder.. i clicked the search bar clicked some search filters, came up with kind:=folder name: ‘the string’ found all entries in a blink..”

    For some simple searches, it’s that simple.

    For others, it is not.

    What one wishes to do with the search results is more complicated.

    Open in a new window, for to copy the PATH?

    Good luck. The path displayed may be something as useful as:

    That’s pretty useless for somebody looking to get to C:Windowswinsxs

    I’m finding it is simple to click on search filters after I have used them once. But, until I have used them the first time, they are not apparent.

    It’s entirely counterintuitive.

    When I’m using Windows Search, I’m more often looking for stuff I am not even aware of than stuff I misplaced. I know where I keep my personal files. (Libraries be damned. I have never even used My Documents.)

  39. Black Batter said…

    AstroGrep is decent, if I want to use Grep in Windows.

    But it doesn’t replace old Windows Search.

    Case in point. I’m tooling around my new OS, Windows 7, this morning. I am not quite familiar with all the paths.

    This morning, I wish to remove a program shortcut from the main Start Menu and place it into my own Start Menu. (When installing the program, there was no option to install program or shortcut for only current user.)

    (I realize there’s likely a more elegant solution available for this task, but I haven’t found it yet.)

    I know shortcuts have been placed in this Start Menu:
    C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuPrograms

    Now, where is my own start menu?

    I am accustomed to being able to search for unique strings in file/folder NAMES to find the files/folders I am looking for.

    In Windows 2000 and Windows XP, I could go to
    C:Documents and SettingsMyName and then hit F3 to open Search. (If in XP, I’d then elect to search files and folders.) I’d use START as my string, start the search, and soon see my own Start Menu among the search results. Very simple.

    Using AstroGrep to search for the string START within C:UsersMyName, I get a bajillion results. (They are not counted.) The results seem to include every document within that tree which contains the string START. But not the DIRECTORY I am looking for. Not unexpected. It’s grep, after all. That’s what it does. If you’re looking for a directory in Unix, you use FIND or LOCATE, iirc. Cannot find any option to set AstroGrep to search ONLY file/folder names.

    Using Windows 7 Search to search for the string START within C:UsersMyName, I get 1409 results. The results seem to include every FILE within that tree which contains the string START. But not the FOLDER I am looking for. (There ARE folders within the results set, as well. Just not the one I am looking for.) Completely unacceptable. Were I not certain the directory was contained within the tree, I might incorrectly assume it is not there, due to its being missing from my results.

    I wish to use the shell search to search for FILES and FOLDERS by NAME.

    Why is that so alien a concept to the developers?

    Searching WITHIN files should be an AVAILABLE OPTION, but not the default.

    C:UsersMyNameAppDataRoamingMicrosoftWindowsStart Menu

  40. Black Batter said…

    Okay, I’ve figured out part of my problem, at least.

    The folder I was looking for was:
    C:UsersMyNameAppDataRoamingMicrosoftWindowsStart Menu

    Apparently, this is considered a Protected Operating System File, and not just a hidden file. Setting my Folder Options to not hide Protected Operating System Files allowed it to appear in Search Results.

    Very odd, that.

    After all, I was able to view and manipulate that directory in Windows Explorer, without issue at all. As such, it seemed to be the case that it should appear in Search Results. At least, that is what I am accustomed to.

    I had my Folder Options set to show Hidden Files, Folders, or Drives.
    I had my Folder Options set to Hide Protected Operating System Files.

    I was able to see:
    C:UsersMyNameAppDataRoamingMicrosoftWindowsStart Menu

    Thus, I (apparently incorrectly) concluded that this location was not considered “Protected Operating System Files”.

    This location was not returned in Search results.

    In Folder Options, I then elected not to hide Protected Operating System Files.

    This location can now be found in Search results.

  41. Black Batter said…

    Interesting. Still not working correctly.

    Searching for all files modified today.

    A search of the following path (no search string, datemodified:‎1/‎28/‎2010) reveals just two results (both files in the root folder of the search), and search has apparently completed searching.

    Yet, when I search the following path (no search string, datemodified:‎1/‎28/‎2010), I get hundreds of results (files/folders distributed throughout that tree):

  42. said…

    One of the other huge problems with the search feature in Windows 7 is the complete lack of help documentation on it. So pretty much all of us has needed to find something and needed to refine our search. There are many ways to do it but no interface for doing it. What we really need is an application that uses the Windows search API’s and has a decent GUI.

    To help with the recording process of some of the search strings everyone should post what they currently have found.

    ext: (.jpg, .doc, .avi, etc.)
    kind: (document, music, email, im, meeting, docs, notes, tasks, videos, programs, link, etc.)
    before: (date)
    after: (date)
    lastsavedby: (username)

    Music specific search keywords

    Picture specific search keywords

  43. Hugo said…

    What were they thinking!

    In the previous versions of windows, I used to right click on a folder to be able to search it. Now it’s gone, wtf!! It’s was so simple and logical.

    now its a pain

  44. Apollo Gize said…

    Look, they can’t even get the name right. Counting MAJOR versions: win2.0 win3.0/3.1 win95 win98 winNT win2k winMistakeEdition winXP winFista win”7″ – It’s Windoze 10 you MICROIDIOTS. Get used to a hardcoded interface (IE7/8) and inflexibility, inability to put UI elements where YOU want them and micro$$$oft “changing” the UI for no reason and breaking years of user familiarity with NO OPTION for a classic view or interface (ie. “Office” 2007, Windoze 7/10/9 et al.) — thanx microcrap.

  45. thorr18 said…

    I was so fed up with Windows 7 search until I hit F1(help) and viewed the article on “Windows Search: Advanced Query Syntax”

    All I wanted to do was search for .log files without dropping to a command line and typing “dir *.log /s”
    How hard could they have made this for me?!

    In the help was a link to the site that finally gave the answers:


    So, I used “ext:log” in the search box and finally got what I want….

  46. Kevin Stone O'Brien said…

    I found this article because I was flabbergasted too. But I do not like to let the computer win, so I kept digging.

    The trick appears to be to either wait for the indexing to complete entirely or to not index at all.

    My testing: I wanted to find a backed up Firefox bookmark file, a .json extension. I knew which backup it was in, a backup of ~44K objects and ~39GB. Search did not find it. Unreal, I had just moved from Vista, which had allowed me to leave Google Desktop behind three years ago. [Side note: Unless you have magic, XP search is the one that is broken. Once I had Vista, search was a non-issue.]

    I found the file manually to confirm that search should have found it. I checked indexing; it was not nearly done. I decided to test an idea. I paused indexing, deleted the volume on which I had been searching from the indexing list, and searched again.

    Search returned quickly with what I had originally expected. It even returned it when I went to the top of the TB drive containing many backups of the size in which I had been searching. I pursued the thread. I indexed a small folder hierarchy, so that it would complete quickly, down the tree from where I was searching and that contained the file for which I had been looking. Search again, and more quickly, found the item.

    I added one more twist. I created an unknown extension and found it both with and without an index present.

    Conclusions: Windows 7 search works fine. Either index, and wait for it to complete (and it is not speedy for some reason), or do not index at all. Windows 7 (power of four, right?) and decent drives will come back soon enough without an index. Apparently, registering file types with the indexing service is not that big of a deal.

    I want to find the hack that let’s me populate all of the “meta:” searches in the drop down in the search frame. I only see “Date Modified:” and “Size:” Thanks to Paul Foty for the list of the tags and the links from others.

    Hopefully this detour from what I should really be doing will help somebody.

  47. J'onn J'onzz said…

    That there Advanced Query Syntax page is a good link.

    Still, it’s a graphical operating system. The search options ought to be presented in the gui, rather than hidden on a web page.

    On top of that, MS seems to want to eat my cake and eat theirs, too. By that, I mean that they want to make search this all powerful, intuitive engine, better at finding what you’re looking for.

    To that end, they’ve abandoned the notion that the string is what the user is looking for. Okay, I’ll buy that. (I don’t like it, but I can understand.)

    So, they have an indexing service. They have indexed and non-indexed locations. They give you the option of turning Windows 7 Search ON or OFF, for cripes sake.

    Okay, whatever.

    So, if it’s all smarter than the end user, if it’s such a powerful tool, why is the interface nothing more than an obscure text box?

    If it’s so great, where’s the on-line (within the OS) documentation to help a user out?

    It’s about as user friendly as searching from the command line in UNIX. It’s almost as thought they were going for that, to prove they had something for power users.

    But I don’t know how that helps my grandma find her Backstreet Boys mp3s.

  48. Cridland said…

    J’onn J’onzz’ comment is brilliant in all respects. Couldn’t have put it better myself… And I’ve tried, twice!

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