How to find a file on a computer

Updated: 05/04/2019 by Computer Hope

All major operating systems running on computers can find files on the hard drive or other drives connected to the computer. Click one of the links below for help with finding files and apps on your computer or mobile device.

Windows 10

The Microsoft Windows logo.

Microsoft Windows provides an easy-to-use search feature that can help you find any file on your computer, even if you don't know its full name. Whether you need to find a document, spreadsheet, picture, or video, the Windows search feature can help you find it. Choose the version of Windows on your computer in the list below and follow the steps to search for a file. Search examples and tips are also available by clicking the search tips link below.

  1. Press the Windows key, then type part or all the file name you want to find. See the search tips section for tips on searching for files.
  2. In the search results, click the Documents, Music, Photos, or Videos section header to view a list of files that meet the search criteria.
  3. Click the file name you want to open.
Tip

You can use the arrow keys to arrow up or down to the app, file, document, or setting you want to view and press Enter to open it.

Windows 8

  1. Press the Windows key to access the Windows Start screen.
  2. Start typing part of the file name you want to find. As you type results for your search will be shown. See the search tips section for tips on searching for files.
  3. Click on the drop-down list above the Search text field and select the Files option.
  4. The search results are shown below the Search text field. Scroll down through the list of search results to find the file you are looking for, then click the file name to open it.

Windows Vista and Windows 7

  1. Click Start to open the Start menu.
  2. In the Search text field at the bottom of the Start menu, type part or all the file name you want to find. See the search tips section for tips on searching for files.
  3. In the search results, click the Documents or Files section header to view a list of files that meet the search criteria. You can also click the See more results link at the bottom of the search results to see a full list of files that meet the search criteria.
  4. Double-click the file you want to open.

Windows XP

  1. Click Start to open the Start menu.
  2. In the Start menu, click the Search option.
  3. In the Search Results window, in the Search Companion section, fill out All or part of the file name field. See the search tips section for tips on searching for files.
  4. If your computer has more than one hard drive, or you want to search a USB flash drive or a CD/DVD for the file, click the Look in from the drop-down list and select the appropriate drive.
  5. Click the Search button to execute the search.
  6. Files meeting the search criteria are shown in the Search Results window. Double-click the file you want to open.

How to find a file using Windows Explorer

  1. Open Windows Explorer.
  2. In the left navigation pane, click on Computer or This PC.
  3. Near the top-right of Windows Explorer, click in the Search field and enter part or all the name of the file you want to find.
Tip

To search for a file in a specific drive instead of the entire computer, click on the drive letter or name under Computer or This PC in the left navigation pane. Then enter the file name you want to search for in the Search field.

Search for a file in Windows Explorer

iPad and iPhone

  1. Go to the home screen.
  2. Swipe from the left edge of the screen to the right edge of the screen.
  3. Type the file into the search bar at the top of the screen.
  4. Tap the Search button.

Android tablets and phones

  1. Open the Settings menu.
  2. Tap Storage.
  3. Tap Files or File manager.
  4. Navigate through the folders to find your desired file.

Search Tips

Below are a few tips to help users find files on their computer.

Find all GIF picture files on the computer

Type *.gif In the search text field. The *.gif indicates any file that ends with a file extension of .gif. The .gif can be replaced with any file extension. Below are a few examples of the common extensions you may use.

  • *.doc or *.docx = Microsoft Word documents
  • *.xls or *.xlsx = Microsoft Excel documents
  • *.jpg = Another image extension (JPEG pictures)
  • *.htm and *.html = HTML web pages
  • *.mp3 = MP3 music files
  • *.mp4 = MPEG-4 movie files

See the file extension page for a complete listing of extensions.

Find any files that contain help in the name

Type *help*.* in the search text field. The *help* indicates any file containing the word "help" in the file name and the ".*" indicates that the file can end with any extension.

Additional information, examples, and help with wildcards, as seen in the above examples, is available on our wildcard page.