NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, January 2011
Discovering Windows 7 – Part 9
By Neil Stahfest, Vice President,
Tacoma Area PC User Group, Washington
October 2010 issue, the Data Line

NCStahfest (at) msn.com (click to email author)

Computers are designed to store and manipulate lots of information in a way that we can easily find and use it. To do this efficiently requires a little effort on the part of the user. When we transfer pictures from our digital cameras they often bare names like HPIM0468.JPG. This may mean something to your camera but what does it mean to you? In a week or a month from now will you remember HPIM0468.JPG was that great sunset picture you took in Hawaii? Probably not. How will you find that picture when you need it? That’s why it’s important for you to go through your digital pictures and give them meaningful names when you save them to your computer. The same is true of your spreadsheets and other files that you save. Take the time to give each file a meaning full name so that you can find it in the future.

Now that you’ve given names to each of your pictures, let’s talk about how we can use Windows 7 to find them. People new to Windows 7 continue to ask me questions about how to search for files Windows 7. To be honest, when Windows 7 changed the way the Search function works from previous versions of Windows it took me by surprise too. It also took me a while to figure it out. The following is a brief tutorial that may help you.

There is more than one way to search for a file but this is probably the easiest. Start by going to is the “Windows Start” button and left-click on it. In the Search Box that appears directly above the Start Button (see Figure 1), enter the file name you are searching for (ttools in our example). As you type in the file name, Windows 7 searches file indexes (explained below), files and file contents and Windows 7 will list various file names that appear to match your search. In, our example we found three files. You’re probably wondering why one of the files listed is named CollectAirports.exe . That’s because the search found a reference to ttools within the file CollectAirports.exe. But let’s assume that none of these was the file we’re looking for. The next step is to click on the magnifying glass next to “See more results” (circled in red). This will bring up the second search window (see Figure 2). This window offers a number of search options in the area which I’ve marked with a green box.

Unless you know that the file you are looking for is located in a Library or your Homegroup or one of the other options within the green box, you’ll want to click on “Computer” (circled in red). This will cause Windows 7 to search your entire computer for “ttools”. This will probably take a few minutes as it searches the thousands (millions?) of files on your computer. A green line will appear at the top of the window to show the progress of the search but it’s not too accurate. Don’t be surprised if it extends past the point which you expect would indicate 100%. This search may be slow but it should find the file you are looking for. Notice that near the top of the window it offers you an option to save a search. If the file you’ve found is not in the Windows 7 index, clicking on this will add it and speed future searches.

That’s twice(?) that I’ve mentioned file indexes in connection with searching for files. Windows maintains a file index of key words in or associated with files stored on your computer. This includes program names, file names and sometimes including the contents of documents, email, audio and video recordings and various data files. When you enter a name in the Windows 7 Search Box, the file index is the initial method used to locate your file(s). By using the Index instead of searching for file names it is very fast but it’s also limited in what it searches for. It does not check System file areas (which would create a huge index and slow the search process). You can change how and which files are indexed as well as completely rebuild the index but that’s a lengthy topic and we’ll leave it for another day.

Instead I’ll tell you how you can change file types and locations to customize your Windows 7 search settings. You can do this through “Folder Options”. Click on “Start” and in the “Search Box” type “Folder Options”. When the “Folder Options” box appears, click on the “Search” tab (see Figure 3).

By default “What to search” should have “In indexed locations, search file names and contents, in non-indexed locations, select file names only” as shown below. This is the most commonly used search option and is reasonably fast. The other option does not use the index and is slower.

Under “How to search”, both “Include subfolders…” and “Find partial matches” should be checked. These options will let you find almost any files and folders on your computer reasonably fast. “Natural language search” is a method of using verbs, phrases and clauses to search for files. You won’t find any explanation about how to use natural language searches in the Windows Help area or here. Unless you have some experience with it, leave this item unchecked. The last item, “Don’t use the index when searching…” is best left unchecked also.

Under “When searching non-indexed locations” make sure that you select Figure 3 “Include system directories”.

If you download and save lot of Zipped files you may want to check “Include compressed files” so you can search your computer for one at some future date. Otherwise, leave it unchecked.

Experiment with these folder options to find the combination that works best for the way you use your computer. Remember you can always restore the default settings by clicking on the “Restore Defaults” button.

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