How to find a file on a computer

Updated: 05/05/2017 by Computer Hope

To run the Windows Find utility, click Start and then click Find or Search (varies depending on version of Windows). Finally, click the option to Find Files or Folders. This should open a folder similar to the below illustrated example.

Find box

Note: In Windows 8, start typing the name of a file on the Start screen to search for the file on the computer.

Note: In Windows 10, type the name of a file in the Windows Search Box on the taskbar to search for the file on the computer.

The "named" or "Search for files or folders named" field is where you would type the name of the file you are looking for on the computer. This field allows the user to use any numbers or letters on the keyboard and also support wild characters such as * or %.

Containing Text
The "containing text" field enables you to search for files that contains text you are trying to find. For example, you may be looking for a file that contains the phrase "computer help", typing computer help in this field will find any file that contains these words. Keep in mind that some files (e.g. Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel files) encrypt data when saved and therefore cannot be found using plain text searches.

Look in
The "Look in" field allows you to specify where you want to look on the hard drive for the files. If you do not know where the file is located, point look in to search the whole drive instead of just a folder. For example, specify the C:\ drive.

Find Now
Once all the required text has been entered you can click the Find Now button to start the search.

Tip: For additional search options, you can click on the Advanced tab or click on Search Options (depending on your version of Windows) and get more specific searches. For example, you can search by date, type, size, etc.


Below are a few examples and tips of how users can find files on their computer.

Find all GIF picture files on the computer
In the Named field, type *.gif and specify the C:\ drive in the Look in 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 = Microsoft Word documents.
*.xls = Microsoft Excel documents
*.mov = Apple Quicktime Movie files
*.jpg = Another image extension. (JPEG pictures)
*.htm and *.html = HTML web pages.

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

Find any files that contain help in the name
In the Named field, type *help*.* and specify the C:\ drive in the Look in field. The *help* indicates anything containing name and the .* indicates that the file can end with any extension.

Additional information, examples, and help with wildcards as seen in both of the above examples can also be found on our wildcard definition page.

Additional information