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Find files with search functions

May 9, 2023

Losing computer files can be frustrating, but they can usually be found using search functions. 

Let’s look at both Windows and Mac.

To search for files on Windows, open File Explorer by clicking the File Explorer icon on your taskbar (or shortcut Windows+E). A search box will be in the upper right of the Explorer window. Type in the file name you’re looking for. The location will default to “This PC”, so it will look in all the folders and sub-folders in your PC.

If you can’t remember the exact file name of a document file, you can refine your search by typing in a word or phrase you know is in the file. 

You can also further refine it by sorting the list by “Date Modified” to find the most recent files.

Another useful function is to look for everything with a file extension such as docx or jpg, because you can type in *.docx, *.jpg etc, which will give you all the files with those extensions.

On Mac computers, the default search function is Spotlight, which is the magnifying glass at the top right of the home screen. It allows you to search for any apps, files, and folders on your Mac. 

However, since it scans all the files in your external hard drives, Time Machine backups, and more, Spotlight can slow your Mac down.

For most file searches, many Mac users just use Finder (Command+F or the icon in the dock). Options allow you to look for the kind of file (name, content, last opened etc) and whether it’s a document, image, folder, app etc.

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