How to find a file on a computer

Updated: 10/19/2017 by Computer Hope

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 the full name of the file. Whether you need to find a document, spreadsheet, picture, or video, the Windows Search feature can help you find the file.

Search Windows

Choose the version of Windows on your computer in the list below and follow the steps to search for a file. Search examples are also available by clicking the "Search Examples" link below.

Windows 10

To search for files in Windows 10, follow the steps below.

  1. Locate the Search Windows text field on the taskbar, next to the Start menu. It may have the words "Type here to search" in the search field.

Note: If the Windows 10 Creators Update has been installed, find and click the magnifying glass icon on the taskbar, next to the Start menu. The Search Windows text field will then be displayed.

  1. In the Search Windows text field, type part or all of the file name you want to find. See the Search Examples section for examples of ways to search 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 wanted to find to open that file.

Windows 8

To search for files in Windows 8, follow the steps below.

  1. Press the Windows key to access the Windows Start screen.
  2. Start typing part of the file name you want to find. The Search text field will be displayed with your search criteria typed in it. See the Search Examples section for examples of ways to search for files.
  3. Click on the drop-down list above the Search text field and select the Files option.
  4. The search results will be displayed 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 that file.

Windows Vista and Windows 7

To search for files in Windows Vista and Windows 7, follow the steps below.

  1. Click on the Start button to open the Start menu.
  2. In the Search text field at the bottom of the Start menu, type part or all of the file name you want to find. See the Search Examples section for examples of ways to search 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. Click or double-click the file you wanted to find to open that file.

Windows XP

To search for files in Windows XP, follow the steps below.

  1. Click on the Start button 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, type part or all of the file name you want to find in the All or part of the file name field. See the Search Examples section for examples of ways to search 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 drop-down list and select the appropriate drive to search.
  5. Click the Search button to execute the search.
  6. Files meeting the search criteria will be displayed in the Search Results window. Double-click the file you wanted to find to open that file.

Search Examples

Below are a few examples and tips of how users can 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, can be found on our wildcard page.

Additional information